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Sleep Exercises to Turn Off Your Brain


There are few things more comforting than the warm, fuzzy snuggle of sleep after a hard day's work. The mind and body need time to recover, cleanse, and rejuvenate from the day's non-stop activities. Sleep is linked to balanced hormone levels - including the stress hormone cortisol, weight management, and clear thinking. The health consequences of sleep deprivation are real, adding up in the form of forgetfulness, depression, irritability, bad judgment, and skin issues. Yeah, beauty sleep is real.

If you're not one of the lucky few who can fall asleep by simply getting in bed, and you've tried the warm milk, hot bath, turned off all your screens, and no caffeine after 3pm techniques to no avail, it’s time to move your approach to falling asleep to the next level:

to the time-tested yoga-based practices.

The key to falling sleep is in surrendering, not trying harder. Once you’re in bed, focus on your breath, clear your mind, and check out one of these credit worthy exercises. A word to my friends in the brain on overdrive category: the more anxious you are about falling asleep, the more sleep will elude you. Let it happen naturally.

1. Clear your head by relaxing the facial muscles. When the face is relaxed (that means no facial expression whatsoever, think RBF), the muscles release their grip on the organs of perception: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin, reducing the tension in the brain.

2. Three-part exhale breathing. Change your thinking thoughts by consciously altering your breathing pattern. Get in bed and lie on your back.

a. Take a deep breath in, then exhale one third of the breath out from the pelvic floor to the navel center. Pause.

b. Exhale the second third of the breath from the navel center to the heart center. Pause.

c. Finally, exhale the remaining breath from the heart center to the throat. Pause. Inhale again and repeat the process. Let each part of the exhalation be of equal length. The pauses between the sections of exhalation should feel like a calm moment of hesitation rather than of holding the breath.

Take a couple of normal breaths then repeat the three-part exhalation. Visualize walking up a tall staircase, exhaling as you step up, pausing at each step before ascending further. Try 10 breath cycles.

3. Left nostril breathing. When the breath is carried predominately through the left nostril, prana flows through the channel that keeps the body calm and the mind quiet but alert—the ideal setting to practice gentle asana, meditation, or sleep. For a simple go-to practice to alleviate anxiety arising in the body or mind, sit on your bed and close off the right nostril with the right thumb and breathe out of the left nostril, taking six complete breaths. Next, move your thumb away from right nostril and breathe out of both nostrils for 3 complete breaths. Repeat the practice on the left nostril for 3 to 5 rounds.

4. Brahmari “bumble bee” breath. From a seated position, inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale slowly, humming the breath out like the sound of the bumble bee. Practice 3 – 5 minutes feeling the relaxing vibes through the heart, throat, and third eye. Next, if you have a mantra, let your mind rest in it. If you don’t have a mantra, try this: “Breathe, release, sleep.”

What sleeping tips work for you? If you have other ideas and strategies for putting anxiety to rest, share them! Send me an email at Nancy@MotivationalYoga.Net

Here’s to pleasant dreams. Nighty-night.

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