Insomnia, or the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, can happen to anyone at any time for any reason. Most people can shake off bouts of insomnia when the causes for their sleeplessness disappear, but others suffer this condition chronically. Unless you've been diagnosed by your doctor with a sleep disorder, there's a good chance that practicing certain types of yoga on a regular basis will manage or eradicate your insomnia.
Hatha yoga was created five millennia ago by men who meditated for long periods of time and who wanted to keep their bodies strong and flexible by practicing poses or asanas. You can use these same poses, and their hundreds of variations, to lessen the effects of stress, anxiety and mild depression, all of which can be considered causes of insomnia. Not only will the physical workout release brain chemicals that make you feel good, it will loosen muscles that may have become tight and constricted due to stress and anxiety. Practice 30 to 60 minutes of Hatha yoga at least six hours before bedtime to help manage your insomnia.
This type of yoga is not as hyped as some of the more flashy styles such as Ashtanga or Bikram, but for managing your insomnia, it would be worth your while to check it out. Kundalini yoga is all about raising the energy that lies coiled at the base of your spine through the practice of kriyas -- movement-based yoga poses -- chanting, meditation and breathing techniques. It's advisable to practice the kriyas earlier in the day, as they can be physically demanding, but sitting quietly before you lie down to sleep and indulging in one of the many Kundalini meditations, which involve specific hand or arm placements, and perhaps some chanting and certain breathing techniques will send you off to la la land in record time.
Insomniacs can benefit from a Restorative yoga session right before bedtime. This type of yoga encourages the use of props such as blankets and cushions to help you settle into a physically and mentally restful state while in a pose. Part of the allure of a Restorative yoga practice is the ritual of placing the props just so, for your body and psyche to feel supported and comforted. Restorative yoga can calm you and restore your sense of equanimity, both of which are imperative to falling and staying asleep.
For any type of yoga to be effective in managing your insomnia, you have to give it a chance. You can't go into it with a sense of urgency or desperation and will it to work. You have to give in to it, just like you give in to sleep. In addition to performing yoga poses or certain methods, it would be worth your while to develop a pranayama practice for managing insomnia. Some of these yogic breathing techniques, like Alternate Nostril Breath, slow your heart rate and ease you into a state of calm. No set-up is required; just sit in your jammies on the bed and breathe.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.