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Try these simple, effective practices from yoga to help you relax, sleep better, and ultimately, live better.
We are a becoming sleep starved nation. Scientists are confirming what yogis and ayurvedic physicians have reported for centuries: deep sleep rests the body and the mind. Our daily dose of shut eye regulates our weight, strengthens our immunity, protects our cardiovascular health, repairs our tissues and cells, and restores our energy. Sleep also allows us to process, consolidate, and retain new memories; it balances our emotions, makes us better problem solvers, and feeds our creativity.
Happiness and misery, obesity and leanness, strength and weakness, consciousness and loss of sensory acuity, even life and death, depend on the quality of sleep.
To help you sleep better wind down with this 10 to 20 minute sequence. Set an intention to do the poses gently and quietly and let your breath be complete, smooth and even. End with the soothing pranayama practice of Chandra bhedana.
Prasarita padottanasana (wide angle standing forward bend). Stand with your feet wide apart, toes facing front. Fold at the hips, placing the crown of the head on the floor or on a few pillows, with elbows bent and palms on the floor. Visualise all your burdens rolling off your shoulders. Hold for up to two minutes (about 15 relaxed breaths).
Supta baddha konasana (reclining bound angle pose). Sitting on the floor, draw the soles of the feet together, knees apart. Place a rolled blanket across the feet and tuck the ends underneath the thighs to support the lift of the knees. Recline with a long spine over three or four pillows, allowing the shoulders and chest to broaden and release to gravity. Soften the belly. Release into the support of the pillows and floor for up to five minutes.
Adho mukha jathara parvrittasana (downward facing twist). Sit with your hips to the right of your feet and cradle your left ankle in the arch of the right foot. With a long spine and open ribs, turn the sternum and drape yourself over a stack of pillows. Place your right cheek on the top pillow, snuggling your belly into the support of the pillow pile. Repeat on the left side. Stay for one minute on each side.
Salamba balasana (supported child's pose). Sit with a small rolled blanket between the heels and the sitting bones, knees apart. Tuck your stack of pillows between the thighs and fold forward. Turn your head to one side. Let the rib cage melt into the pillows and the arms drape to the floor. Relax for up to five minutes, turning the head to the other side halfway through.
Chandra Bhedana. This pranayama activates the left nostril and the ida nadi, the lunar energy channel. Activating this pranic channel has a quieting effect on the brain and nervous system and helps facilitates sleep.
With your right hand, assume the Vishnu Mudra by curling your index and middle fingers into the pad of your thumb. Your thumb and your ring and little fingers are extended. Sit tall and tuck your chin slightly. Bend the elbow and close off the right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through the left nostril with the ring and little fingers, exhaling through the right nostril for five counts. Continue inhaling left, exhaling right for 15 breaths or more.
Bats and opossums sleep for 18 to 20 hours a day, while elephants and giraffes sleep only three to four hours a day. In general, herbivores sleep less than omnivores, who sleep less than carnivores.
The average Indian spends nearly 20 years of his or her life sleeping.
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