By Joanne Thompson, RYT
One of my students had been having trouble sleeping and asked me if yoga could help her. The short answer is "yes". Yoga is wonderful for relaxing the body and quieting the mind particularly when a calming breathing pattern is utilized.
There are four parts to the breath - (1) inhalation (2) pause after inhalation (3) exhalation (4) pause after exhalation. The first two are more energizing and stimulating and the second two are more relaxing and calming. In yoga terms, brmhana is used to describe an expansive/invigorating breath and langhana is used to describe a more reducing/relaxing breath. So, the breathing pattern used will determine whether the effect on a person is brmhana or langhana.
For encouraging sleep, a langhana pattern would be emphasized. An example of this pattern would be inhale for a count of 4; pause for 1; exhale for a count of 8; pause for 1. Starting with a count of 4 for inhalation might be too intense, so you could drop that down to inhale for a count of 2; pause 1; exhale for a count of 4; pause 1 and work up to the 4/1/8/1 count. It is important to use a pattern that is easy to accomplish and doesn't create more strain. Also, an important rule to remember when creating any breathing pattern is to never let the inhalation count be longer than the exhalation count - even when doing a brmhana breathing pattern.
Easy movement can be added to this breathing pattern. While lying in bed with eyes closed, inhale in place with head center; exhale and gently turn the head to one side; inhale and turn the head back to center; exhale and gently turn the head to the opposite side. Repeat this movement several times with the appropriate breathing pattern.
Viniyoga is a breath centered tradition and every movement originates with the breath. Through proper attention to breath, the mind becomes more focused, the body more relaxed and energy levels changed.
For more information, take one of Joanne's Viniyoga classes.