Sleep is essential. It is the special time for our bodies and our minds to rest and renew. A good night's sleep of 7-8 hours will benefit your overall health. Sleeping allows our hearts to rejuvenate. Having trouble sleeping can be very frustrating and can lead to low energy levels or total burn out!
Sleep deprivation can be caused by a busy mind. If we allow thoughts and worries to take over, we can cause our minds to be frantic and our bodies to be super-tense. When we are anxious and tense, we take short, shallow breaths, so instead we want to breathe slowly and deeply to induce a beautiful, relaxing sleep.
Deep breathing will relax the body, slow the heart rate and calm the mind. We are activating the parasympathetic nervous system which will have a relaxing effect on the body and you won't need to lie awake counting sheep all night.
Make sure you have your phone off, lights dimmed, and then practice any of these pranayamas you can do before bed for several minutes.
1. Left Nostril Breath
The easiest breathing technique to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is to inhale and exhale through the left nostril. This will create a calming and soothing effect for the whole body.
Simply close the right nostril off with the right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril and exhale through the left. Try to practice as slowly as possible with your eyes closed.
Continue for as long as you can. Stay focused on your breath.
2. Brahmari -- Humming Bee Breath
Brahmari is the Sanskrit word for "bee" and this is similar to the sound created when we practice this breath. It is totally calming and will help to cure sleeplessness. It is great for anyone suffering from anxiety, as it will create focus from distracting thoughts. In India, it is recommended for women in labor.
Take a long inhalation through the nose, and on the exhalation create a humming sound from the throat. The inhalation and exhalation should be steady and slow. On the inhale, close your eyes and breathe through the nose; on the exhale close off the ears with the index fingers, keeping the eyes closed and make a humming sound with the voice.
It will completely soothe the mind and the nervous system. It becomes easier as you practice.
3. Belly Breathing
This breathing technique is particularly good for when you are feeling a little tense or anxious.
Lie on your back, either on your yoga mat or your bed. Breathe deeply from your abdomen, getting as much air as you can into your lungs. As you inhale, your belly should rise, and as you exhale your belly should fall.
If you find it difficult to manage, place a yoga block or book on top of your belly. As you inhale you should be pushing it up with your belly, and as you exhale it will come back down.
Taking deep breaths from the belly, rather than short breaths from your upper chest will allow you to inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you take in, the deeper your breath and the more relaxed you will feel.
4. 7-2-11 Relaxing Breath
The 7-2-11 might sound like a grocery shop, but this is actually the timing of your breath.
On the inhale, we inhale quietly through the nose for the count of 7, retaining or holding the breath for the count of 2 and then releasing on the exhale to the count of 11 with a "whooooosh" sound out of the mouth.
This exercise is like a natural sleeping tablet, it will completely relax the nervous system. It might take a couple of times to figure out the timing but the more you practice, the more power you will gain. Practice it everyday for 4-8 rounds.
This breathing technique will be your go-to calming device whenever you need it. It is a powerful, effective tool to have, and more useful than your favorite app on your phone!
It only takes a few moments of your time to practice these breathing techniques. Find one that you love and begin to introduce it when you're driving, when you're at work... you can literally take it anywhere with you!
This is the first and best step to looking after yourself and loving yourself a little more. Breathe! It is so simple, yet why do we not pay more attention to our breath? We are too busy, too distracted. or too stressed to remember. Our breath is our energy. Breathe better, think better, sleep better, and feel better.
What's your favorite pranayama to practice before you go to sleep? Share with us in the comments below!