Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we are doing at the moment-free from any distraction or judgement and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. We can train our mind for this moment-to-moment awareness by paying attention to our breath and thoughts, while we stretch and twist our bodies into different postures. Mindfulness, as an important component of yoga, improves sleep hindrance by increasing melatonin levels, reducing hyperarousal, and addressing stress-related cardiac and respiratory abnormalities. Mindfulness is able to provide such benefits because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is one of the two systems of the autonomous nervous systems, that helps our body rest and repair our cells and organs. Therefore, it is also known as the rest and repair mode. The autonomous nervous system is a control system that acts voluntarily, without any input from the brain and regulates bodily functions such as heartbeat, digestion, respiratory rate, and a wide range of organ functions. The other half is the sympathetic nervous system which is also called the fight or flight mode. The body switches from parasympathetic to sympathetic, when we feel emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger stress and so on. The competitive work environment or a difficult relationship can often trigger these emotions and it can be difficult to sleep when a person goes through an influx of these emotions.
Going through a session of gentle restorative yoga before going to bed, can switch us back to the rest and repair mode and help a person fall asleep faster. Yoga helps to detach the mind from all the disturbing thoughts and fills the heart with love and gratitude. The combination of Hatha Yoga and Restorative Yoga has been proven to be an effective approach to improving sleep. Sticking to a light dinner consumed 2-3 hours prior to bed, and staying away from your mobile phone and computer screens helps to get better sleep. The Supta Baddha Konasana is a restorative posture. It instils a sense of calm and relaxation. The asana also helps you open up your hips and thighs, which in turn, makes other postures a walk in the park. The Supta Baddha Konasana is also called the Reclined Cobbler’s Pose or the Reclined Goddess Pose.
Viparita Karani or the Legs Up, the Wall posture is a rejuvenating inverted pose that can offer a range of health benefits. It is an easy, approachable yoga pose that does not require a lot of strength or flexibility. You can do this yoga pose every morning and evening. Just ensure that you practice this asana on an empty stomach. Balasana is an easy yoga asana that can even be performed by beginners. In Sanskrit, ‘bala’ means child and ‘asana’ refers to one’s posture is a ‘counter’ asana for many asanas and is performed preceding and following Sirsasana as it is a resting pose. This is often the first pose taught to beginners. It is easy to follow and highly beneficial. It is also called Garbhasana and Shashankasana.
Savasana is an important pose to help ‘remodel’ your body. When you rest in Savasana, the body relaxes and it helps to get better sleep at night.
The key to yoga is in regulated breathing. If you get that part right, the rest just flows. T. Krishnamacharya, in his paper ‘Salutation to the Teacher and the Eternal One,’ says, “One important thing to be constantly kept in mind when doing asanas is the regulation of the breath. It should be slow, thin, long, and steady: breathing through both nostrils with a rubbing sensation at the throat and through the oesophagus, inhaling when coming to the straight posture, and exhaling when bending the body.