No matter who you are, there are times when you don’t get enough sleep or cannot fall asleep. It happens to all of us and yoga is here to help! In fact, it’s actually thanks to sleep problems that we’re familiar with mainstream yoga in America today. Here’s a quick yoga history lesson. Krishnamacharya (commonly known as the ‘father of modern yoga’) had a son named T.K.V. Desikachar who wanted to write his own path and wanted nothing to do with yoga. He studied engineering in college and went home for a visit after graduating. While at his parents home in India, a woman drove up, jumped out of her car and ran to hug Desikachar’s father. Desikachar was stunned because a woman (who was a ‘westerner,’ no less) was driving and hugging a man out in the open for all to see and this very scandalous behavior (for the time and the location) caught his attention and he found out that the woman had slept through the night for the first time in years, thanks to the yoga she learned from his dad, Krishnamacharya. Desikachar gave up engineering on the spot, decided to study yoga and he was one of the first to begin the mainstream movement of yoga in the United States in the 1970s.
What is so special about yoga? Yoga can help with both mental and physical problems with sleep and it is one of the few exercises that can both help move a sedentary body and help calm a body that gets too much exercise or wear. There are so many reasons why we cannot sleep but the most common mental reason I’ve heard is not being able to ‘turn off’ the mind at night. Something that many people may not realize is that sleep problems can also be physical. If you get too much or too little physical activity, that can also interrupt sleep. A body that hasn’t had a chance to move might not be ready for rest at the end of the day and a body that’s been worked too hard might be over-stimulated and need some calming exercises before it’s ready for bed. Now, moms, I feel for you! Your practicing yoga might not get your baby, toddler or child to sleep but it might help you fall more quickly to sleep when you get the opportunity! The worst is when you know you’ll have to get up in a few hours but you can’t fall back to sleep yourself! I’ve been there. I’ve also over-worked my body, not exercised enough and had the racing mind. There is no magic pill for sleep (of course there are pills for sleep but even the most ‘natural’ come with potential side effects) but a little yoga might go a long way.
Let me know what keeps you up and what has worked for you to help with sleep!
Here are a few yoga poses I often practice before (or even in) bed:
Knees to Chest
(Same pose but with movement: inhale as you press knees away and exhale as you pull knees in, toward you)
Thread the Needle