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Yoga Bliss Gambia: Yoga for better sleep

My Magazine 2022/10
5 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the Doctor’s book” says an Irish proverb. Without a good night’s sleep our functionality reduces, our mood is easily affected, and maybe you just don’t feel the best. Sleep should be an important priority just as you would emphasize on exercise and healthy eating. Lack of sleep over time can cause weaker immunity, leading to various health issues in the long run. There are many reasons for experiencing lack of sleep or bad quality sleep, these can include sleep apnea, stress, anxiety, and snoring. If your issue is caused by psychological reasons, most likely this can be resolved with better lifestyle choices and bed time routine that includes relaxation, yoga asana or mediation.

Scientific research has shown that yoga can help people with sleep disorders.  Performing certain yoga asana at bedtime can help you tune inwards, becoming more conscious of your breath.  Deep breathing can help relax your body, sooth the nervous system, and reduce hyperactivity of the mind.  Yoga (particularly hatha, restorative, and yin style yoga) as well as mindfulness meditation has also shown to increase melatonin levels, thereby improving the quality of your sleep.  Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland that controls the sleep-wake cycle, and low levels of melatonin is linked to insomnia.

Before you begin your bedtime yoga, create an environment in your room which is comfortable for you.  You can choose to practice these on a mat or on your bed.  You can use pillows and rolled towels throughout the practice to enable you to reach a deeper relaxed state.  Dim the lights, and reduce any other external stimulation as much as possible.

Start in a comfortable sitting position with your spine drawn up, shoulders relaxed, and your eyes closed.  Bring your focus to your breath, feeling the inhalation and exhalation as you breath though your nose.   Notice the sensation of air passing in and out of the nostrils.  Notice the air passing the back of your throat and filling the lungs.  Notice your chest expand.  Similarly, as you exhale notice your chest relaxing, the air releasing from the lungs and the air passing through the back of your throat and out the nostrils.  Stay with the path of your breath until you feel centered and relaxed. 

Once you feel more connected with your breath begin to deepen your breathing.  With each inhalation fill your lungs by expanding the stomach and then expanding the chest.  You are creating maximum space in the chest cavity, for your lungs to expand fully.  Taking fuller, longer breaths, we naturally slow down our breath pace and heart rate, leading to a calmer state of mind. 

As simple as it may seem.  The ability to connect to your breath is the most effective in creating calmness in your physical and mental state.  So do not feel rushed, and do not cut short the process of mindful breathing.

 

Balasana – Child pose

Starting in a table top position, on your knees and palms.  Keeping the knees hips width or wider, lower your bottom down towards your heels.  Lower your forehead toward the ground, and place your arms either forward or down along the side your body. You may also like to rest your head on a pillow.   If you feel discomfort in the knees or hip joint in this position, allow your bottom to lift up, raise the hips high enough to alleviate any discomfort.  Bring your awareness back to your breath and maintain for 2 to 5 minutes.

 

Pascchimottanasana – Seated forward fold

Starting in a seated position with your legs forward.  Keep the spine extended, inhale and draw your arms up, stretching the arms and spine upward.  Exhale, and as you bend at your hips lower your arms, stomach and chest towards your legs.  If the fell leg extension is uncomfortable, you may like to keep your knees slightly bent, or place a pillow under your knees.   You may also like to place a pillow or two across over your legs and rest your forehead down.  Bring your awareness back to your breath and maintain for 2 to 5 minutes.

 

Supta baddhakonasana – Reclining bound angle pose

Starting by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Lower your knees outwards and draw the sole of your feet together. Allow your hips to open as wide as they can. You may like to place a pillow under each knee for support if your hip opening is constricted. Allow your body to rest down. Bring your awareness back to your breath and maintain for 2 to 5 minutes.

 

Vipalita karani – Legs up the wall

Starting in a sitting position along the wall or near the head of your bed.  Slide your legs up the wall and bring your bottom as close as you can to the wall or the bed head. You may like to prop a rolled towel or a pillow under your hip/lower back.   Rest your upper body down the mat.  Spread the arms away from your body and keep the palms faced up.  Close your eyes and bring your awareness back to your breath and maintain for 2 to 5 minutes.

 

Savasana – Corpse pose

Lying on your back, allow some space between your legs and space between your arms and body.  Allow your feet to tilt slightly outwards, and your palms to face up.  You may like to prop a rolled towel or pillows under your knees, neck, or your back.  Once you settle yourself in this position, close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath.  Relax your shoulders, arms, hips and legs.  Soften your face, releasing any tension that you maybe keeping in your jaw, the eye brows or the forehead.  Let your eyes rest down deeper into their sockets.  Bring your focus to your breath, feeling the inhalation and exhalation as you breath though your nose.   Notice the sensation of air passing in and out of the nostrils.  Notice the air passing the back of your throat and filling the lungs.  Notice your chest expand.  Similarly as you exhale notice your chest relaxing, the air releasing from the lungs and the air passing  through the back of your throat and out the nostrils.  Stay with the path of your breath until you feel centered and relaxed.  If any thoughts pop up, let it pass without much consideration.  Let the thoughts pass through with out contemplation to the thoughts, then bring  your self back to your breath once again.  Maintain this for 5 minutes.

At this stage your body and mind should be much more relaxed then at the beginning of practice. 

Allow yourself not to be distracted by lights, mobiles, or TV and have a restful sleep!  Good night, and sweet dreams.

*Featured photo source: alignedmodernhealth.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date.
Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga.
In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual.
Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels.
She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing.
It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life.
Whether you reside in the Gambia or a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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