I am an insomniac. For the 60 million insomniacs out there in America, this isn’t an alumnus to be proud of. A poor night’s sleep is followed by a day feeling depleted, unfocused, and unproductive. Who wants that type of day?
My insomnia began as a young child and I remember wandering the house hours after my parents fell asleep, totally exhausted, yet unable to fall asleep. As I got older, I discovered ways to fall asleep soon after my head hit the pillow; unfortunately they all contained the use of alcohol, which, like sleeping pills, reduced the quality of sleep I received. So, when I cut out alcohol from my resting repertoire, I was left to the mercy of my insomniatic mind. After a prompt reminder what a week’s worth of bad sleep felt like, I turned to yoga.
Sure, yoga has allowed me to correct my sciatica, increase my focus and overall sense of happiness, and has shored up stiffness in my joints. But my insomnia… could yoga cure my oldest ailment?
After doing my research regarding both acute and chronic insomnia, I now avoid all stimulants after 5pm. Anything containing caffeine and sugar are off the table, as well as watching anything stressful, such as scary movies – and election coverage. Twenty minutes before bedtime I make myself a cup of chamomile tea, unroll my yoga mat and do my 10 MINUTES TO SLEEP SEQUENCE. Within 2-3 minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I am asleep!
I have found that, even if my body is exhausted, my mind refuses to turn off. Therefore, think of your mind as a radio. All day, it’s tuned into the frequency of getting everything done. Well, when it’s time to sleep, the insomniatic mind is still tuned into the stress station. So I simply found a way to tune into the sleep station and just like that, my insomnia went from a wall, to a small curb!
Enough already, here is my 10 minutes to sleep sequence created and tested for you by an insomniac yogi. You may time yourself, however if you focus on breathing, and count your breath in each pose, the meditative elements of each asana will quickly calm the mind and prepare it for sleep. For the purpose of instruction, one full inhalation and exhalation cycle is considered a breath or (B). Two cycles is (2-B)
Tadasana – Mountain pose
Use this pose to find your Ujjayi breath. Radiate here for (5-B)
Uttanasana – Standing Forward Fold
Fold as if dumping your day out of your head. Stay for (5-B)
Balasana – Child’s Pose
Stay here for a few while and practice the fine art of surrendering. (10-B)
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Dog
This is a great way to burn any remaining energy while flooding the brain with fresh blood. (5-B)
Salamba Sirsasana – Headstand, Supported Head Stand, Legs Up the Wall
Any one of these exercises is a sure fire way to calm the nervous system and tell the mind that it’s time to sleep. (10-B)
Halasana – Plow Pose
After a full day of sitting, standing and everything in between, this is your chance to let it all go. Hold for (5-B) rest and repeat.
Paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Fold
The key to this asana is pulling your navel toward your spine before folding. Find your bliss and hold for (5-B) rest and repeat.
Savasana – Corpse Pose
Now you have primed the body and mind for rest. Tuck your mind into bed with a 5-minute meditation. If you are following your breath, hold for (20-B)
Drink your tea and get your but into bed, post haste. Jump into bed before the mind tunes back into the stress station.
Pranayama bonus! Once you jump into bed, find the closest thing to Savasana in bed. With eyes open, inhale through your nose for the count of 10, hold your breath for the count of 4, then exhale through your mouth for the count of 8. Repeat as long as you can, but after the 10 Minutes to Sleep Sequence, you may only get to do 2-3 cycles before the mind tunes into the silent slumber station! Good night and Namaste!