Most people know that one of the benefits of an ongoing yoga practice is that you are supposed to sleep more soundly. But what if you still find your eyes popping open at 3 A.M.? Or lying in bed for an hour or two just trying to fall asleep?
We’ve all been there. Sometimes no amount of Downward-Facing Dogs or Shoulder Stands is enough to ensure a solid night of slumber. But a few yoga-inspired tricks to fall asleep can still help you get your beauty rest—without even waking up your partner!
These three tricks are based on mindfulness techniques that you might do during your regular asana or meditation practice, but easily adapt to help you get those much needed Zs. Try all three, and see which one or ones work best for you!
1. The Breath Pattern Trick
This is the foundation of any yoga practice, and it can work wonders under the covers as well. In fact, I recommend doing this exercise first, and then trying one of the others in addition to this breath awareness.
First, be sure you’re breathing in and out of your nose, and start to count how long your inhales and exhales are. See if you can make them equal lengths, and maintain this for several rounds of in and out breaths.
When this pattern feels natural, start adding one more count to your exhales. Gradually build up the length of your exhales, one count at a time every few breaths or so, until they’re twice as long as your inhales. Maintain this 1 to 2 ratio while continuing to count and focus on your breath.
This type of breathing pattern signals to your parasympathetic nervous system that you are in a safe place and that your nerves and body are allowed to relax. The controlled breathing slows your heart rate and blood pressure, and the rhythmic counting and focus gives your mind a place to settle and rest.
2. The Thought Sorting Trick
Jin Shin Jyutsu, or the art of releasing tensions that cause many different symptoms and illness in the body has its roots in Japanese antiquity, but had fallen into near obscurity until it was revived by Jiro Murai in the early 1900s.
A meditation technique anyone can do, it presupposes that each finger of your hands is connected to an emotion that you can tap into. The thumb is worry, the index finger is fear, the middle finger is anger, the ring finger is sadness and guilt, and the pinky finger is connected to dreams and desires.
To use this practice to fall asleep, take one hand and hold a finger of the other hand. For example, you might start by holding your left thumb with your right hand. You then mentally sort through the things in your life that fit the emotion that is represented by that finger.
When you feel that you have sorted through one emotion, move on to the next, working from your thumb to your pinky finger. This is a great technique if you have trouble turning your mind off because too many thoughts are racing around at once.
Use this practice to sort through your thoughts, not to let your imagination run wild or to try and come up with solutions. It is simply a way to bring awareness to your unconscious mind, and to create space for sorting out the jumble that accumulates throughout the day.
3. The Visualization Trick
Visualization can be a powerful tool for getting the body to follow the mind. Try to imagine your favorite place in the whole world, or invent your new favorite place in your imagination. Really focus on the details; what does it smell like, or what kind of items there are present?
Let’s say it’s a tropical beach. Is it a grass hut right on the water? What are the walls made of? Is there a hammock out front? Also be sure to focus on how the place makes you feel, the sense of ease it gives you.
You can return to your special place anytime you like, night after night, and build upon or change any details of your vision to match how you're feeling that day.
Another powerful visualization is to try and give your thoughts a presence. This is often done during guided meditation, but can work wonders for helping you relax into sleep. First, try and see if you can just observe your thoughts without judgment.
Each time a new thought pops into your head, imagine it being carried away on a cloud or off into the sky on a balloon. Observe it drifting further and further away, until you can no longer see it. Do this with each new thought arises.
You might find yourself with a whole sky of thoughts sometimes! That’s okay, just stick with it. Focus your attention on visualizing them getting smaller and smaller, and in no time you’ll find yourself falling off into restful bliss.
Not being able to fall or stay asleep can be a frustrating and stressful experience, especially if it’s a recurring problem. But you don’t need to spend your nights tossing and turning!
Besides maintaining a regular yoga practice, these yoga-inspired mindfulness moves just may be the ticket to your peaceful slumber. Try out these tricks to fall asleep, and see if one of them holds the key to rest for you!