For three straight nights, you’ve spent more time watching the clock instead of sleeping. Stress at work and home is overwhelming and you can’t seem to relax, turn off your mind or re-direct toward more soothing thoughts and images. Is there no solution other than to quit your job or leave home? Fear not. An answer is available if you are open to the possibility of practicing some simple yoga and breathing exercises.
Over the years, a number of studies have demonstrated the positive effect that yoga practice has on decreasing stress and anxiety. As a direct result, sleep patterns improve and inevitably you are back on track to getting a restful and complete night of sleep.
What exactly is it about yoga that helps decrease and even alleviate stress? Yoga practice happens to increase endorphins in your brain, reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and relax muscles. With a series of specific yoga poses and deep breathing, an individual can decrease stress and anxiety by refocusing on his/her body. Poses train yoga practitioners to concentrate on the moment and forget about the noise in their head that inevitably disrupts sleep.
The following are three simple poses that can help get you started on a path of stress relief:
1) Cat Pose or Marjaryasana: Pose is performed by placing wrists directly under your shoulders with knees positioned underneath the hips, and your back gently curved toward the ceiling. An added benefit of this pose is that your spine and stomach get a soothing massage.
2) Child’s Pose or Balasana: Pose is performed by sitting on your knees, bending forward with your arms gently at your side and forehead resting on the ground. If you rest your head fully on the ground, this pose is one of the most restful and beneficial to decreasing anxiety.
3) Corpse Pose or Savasana: Ah savasana, the best yoga pose for total relaxation. You simply lie on your back, close your eyes, with arms by your sides and palms facing up, and lastly allowing your ankles to fall to the outside. Permit your body to deeply melt into the carpet or mat with each inhalation and exhalation. Optimal practice for stress relief and relaxation is to stay in this pose for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Yoga and Sleep Apnea
Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea can also benefit from yoga, especially breathing practices. With sleep apnea, a person’s breathing is affected by obstruction, which causes the episodes to occur. With certain yoga exercises, the muscles of your throat and neck can be strengthened and help improve your breathing. Nevertheless, it is important to know and understand that yoga will not cure sleep apnea.
One such exercise that can help sleep apnea sufferers is the hissing breath or ujjayi pranayama, which assists in opening up the lungs to help oxygen flow to the brain. With this type of breathing, you inhale and exhale through your mouth to the point where you feel the air moving across your windpipe. When you exhale, your throat needs to contract as if you are actually whispering, or better still trying to fog a mirror or window.
Whether to decrease stress or lessen the effects of your sleep apnea, best practice for yoga starts with an accomplished and knowledgeable instructor who can teach you proper positioning and breathing techniques.
If you suspect you might have sleep apnea or been diagnosed and would like to find out what individualized treatment option might be available for you, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.