Updated: Jan 12
Getting a full night’s sleep - that's between 7 and 9 hours - is one of the most, if not the most important, yet underrated healing tools available. Not just because we may feel cranky the next day, but because the body needs time to heal, cleanse, and rejuvenate from the day’s activities. Sleep is also linked to balanced hormone levels (including the stress hormone cortisol), weight management, and clear thinking.
But the more anxious you make yourself about not sleeping, the more sleep will elude you. The key to sound sleep is in surrendering, not in trying harder. Once you’re in bed, focus on your breath, clear your mind, and try one of these proven effective exercises.
1. Clear your head by relaxing the facial muscles. When the face is relaxed (that means no facial expression whatsoever), the muscles release their grip on the organs of perception - the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin, reducing the tension in the brain.
2. 3 Part Exhaling. Change your thinking pattern by consciously altering your breathing pattern. The three-part exhale breath is useful if you have trouble falling asleep, releasing anxiety, or for times when you have a buildup of tension.
How To Do It:
a. Inhale, 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 holding your breath.
Take a couple of normal breaths then repeat the 3 part exhalation. Visualize walking up a tall staircase, exhaling as you step up, pausing at each step before ascending further.
Try 10 breath cycles, then relax.
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, 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 the right nostril and breathe out of both nostrils for 3 complete breaths. Repeat the practice for 3 to 5 rounds.
4. 2 to 1 breath
Invite a long sigh of relaxation into your pre-slumber time by breathing out twice as long as you inhale. Inhale for a count of three, then exhale for a count of six. If the count is too short or long, feel free to change the count such as 4 to 2, or 6 to 3.
5. Brahmari “Bumble Bee” Breath
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 relaxation vibes through the heart, throat, and third eye. Next, if you have a mantra, let your mind rest in it. If you don’t, try this: “Breathe, release, sleep.”