Research shows that practicing yoga can help
insomnia. A small Harvard study showed that just 30-45 minutes of yoga helped
people fall asleep 30% faster and reduced their nighttime waking by 35%.
Kundalini is an ancient form of yoga founded on the concept that there
is “coiled energy” in the spine which connects to the “subtle body’s” energy centers
and channels (chakras and nadis). The scientific community is
studying Kundalini techniques, such as alternate nostril breathing, that are currently
being practiced to help people manage anxiety, insomnia, and other sleep disorders.
Alternate nostril breathing. People under stress tend
to breathe mostly out of their right nostrils, which is connected to the left brain.
This activates the sympathetic nervous system, the channel responsible
for the classic stress response: dilated pupils, increased core temperature, sweating,
and increased heart rate and blood pressure. Check throughout the day to see what’s
true for you — are you left- or right-nostril dominant, or is your breath alternating
When you want to calm yourself to get to sleep, either before you go to bed, or
when you wake up in the night, try gently holding the right nostril closed with
your finger, and breathe deeply and slowly through your left nostril for at least
3 minutes. Then release your fingers and breathe normally.
This type of breathing is easy to do, but it may take some practice before you are
able to do it for several minutes at a time. (If you have nasal congestion, try
again later.) This technique can be very effective and calming.
Meditation. While some forms of meditation can increase
alertness, many techniques are calming and relaxing. Try this method used to prepare
for meditation: Focus on your breathing. Don’t try to change it — at all — but rather
just notice the inhalation and the exhalation, returning to your breath whenever
you realize you have become distracted by other thoughts. Over the course of a few
minutes, this technique can help clear away worries before bedtime. You can also
use it if you wake up and need help getting back to sleep. Though this is a simple
exercise, like most breathing methods, it takes a little practice before it feels
natural. But you can be rewarded with a sense of calm well-being that can carry
you gently into sleep.
1 Khalsa, S. 2004. Treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga: A preliminary
study with sleep-wake diaries. Appl. Psychophysiol. Biofeedback, 29 (4),
269–278. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15707256 (accessed 09.03.2009).
2 Wikipedia. 2009. Kundalini. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini
3 Khalsa, S. 2004.
4 Riordan, A. 2008. Kundalini yoga tips for insomnia. URL: http://croneishome.livejournal.com/13089.html
5 Science Daily. 2008. Parasympathetic nervous system. URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/p/parasympathetic_nervous_system.htm
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