The importance of sleep is evident to many busy people. This Arianna Huffington interview with Marie Forleo speaks to "why you should sleep your way to the top". And it just fits perfectly with Week 82's topic post! Enjoy the postscript!
A colleague commented to me this week that a friend of hers, who is a busy working professional, has been having lots of trouble with sleep. The only thing that allows him to sleep like a baby is yoga!
Surprised? Not really.
Over the past couple weeks, insomnia has become the norm so I'm trying to get as much shut eye as possible before the baby arrives. And as much as I like warm milk at 3 am, my preference is to be milking in Zzzzs at that hour.
It made me wonder what is available on the topic of sleep and yoga in the research world but also just on the internet.
With my Google Scholar search, many, many hits came back. So, I combed through the most recent and applicable ones I could find, particularly review articles (for good summaries) and ones that related to pregnancy and picked two to review.
The first review article from the International Journal of Yoga, related that the more relaxing and restorative poses practiced, the more likely to experience improved sleep. It stated:
"Restorative postures, savasana, pranayama, and meditation encourage pratyahara, a turning inward of the senses which enables downtime for the nervous system, the byproduct often being improved sleep."
Various research studies reviewed found that regular practice resulted in a significant decrease in the time taken to fall asleep, an increase in the total number of hours slept, and in the feeling of being rested in the morning. No who doesn't want that!
The second article was a pilot study in Biological Research for Nursing, where women in their second or third trimester attended weekly mindfulness meditation and prenatal Hatha yoga classes in the community for 7 weeks. They found that:
"[m]indful yoga shows promise for women in their second trimester of pregnancy to diminish total number of awakenings at night and improve sleep efficiency and merits further exploration."
Interestingly, starting a yoga practice in the third trimester did not find significant benefit to quality of sleep. Good thing I've been practicing the whole pregnancy!
I scoped out what I could find on the internet and the Yoga Journal never fails to have an article. It is clear that meditation, light asana practice and breath work are key to helping with sleep and insomnia during the night.
And as a guinea pig this week, after my weekly practice, I slept through the night. Calmed nervous system? Quite likely.
Maybe a yoga night cap is just what I need to start doing,
One of the exciting things about yoga, at least I think, is that it has so many options and not one practice is the same as another. This week's practice was slightly out of the ordinary such that it was on a different day of the week and time of day than "the usual".
Flexibility, in many senses of the word, was the theme of my week!
So when I started my "out of the ordinary" practice this week, I was delighted to enjoy this pose so much. Revolved Standing Wide Leg Forward Bend (Parivrrta Prasarita Padottanasana) was a welcomed addition to my day. Being that my body is moving differently it was nice that this pose just felt like home or in a better sense, normal. Just what I needed!
Revolved Standing Wide Leg Forward Bend, as you can deduct, is a forward bend that helps release the back, neck and groin. It is known to calm the mind and relieve stress, anxiety and mild depression. With the addition of a twist, this pose allows for all the benefits of "wringing out the spine" such as stretching and strengthening the upper back and shoulders.
Since the position is a wide stance, my belly was sure to fit! Most sources have indicated that major spinal twists (i.e., lumbar spine and above) are not recommended in pregnancy, but since the twist is generated from the thoracic spine, it isn't necessarily contraindicated. The twist is what delineates this pose from its' sister pose, wide leg forward bend.
My only major hang up during this week's practice was the pose is not recommended when having sinus congestion (makes sense, with the head below the hips!). And this has been part of my week...Kleenex, anyone? However, the pressure was minimal but I could expect if I hung out in only the forward bend position for too long, it would have been uncomfortable.
Yoga brings such calm and regularity to my week and life. And it always seems to just find its way in with the most needed pose!
In my early days of yoga practice, I have to admit that I was a bit of a props snob. Maybe because of my age or maybe because my body let me do pretty much whatever I wanted, I thought props were for the weak. But within the last five or more years of practice I have gained great respect for all yoga props.
As my body morphs into the curvy, anterior ball shape of pregnancy, the use of blocks has been essential to my practice. The two most common types of blocks available are unique and each have there own purpose. Harder wood or foam blocks act more like support as opposed to the softer rectangular foam variety that provide cushion and give.
These are my modifications to practice this week using my foam rectangular blocks (still needing to buy wooden blocks for home!):
Easy Pose (Sukhasana) & Revolved Head to Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsana)
As I've stated before, I love sitting on the ground. Yet, to give some relief to my low back, I do like to sit on my block(s). By raising the hips slightly, it causes less tension in the hamstrings and low back. These two poses were much easier with ease in my back!
Triangle Pose (Trikonasan) & Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
Since my body isn't able to twist as easily these days nor bend over as far, I used my block to give some height to the pose. Placing my hand on the flat block, allowed the asana to be less strained than if I tried to reach for the ground. Not here to make leaps in my yoga practice, just wanting to maintain!
Deep Squat/Garland Pose (Malasana)
Interestingly, it is a day to day variation as to whether or not I can place my feet flat on the floor in deep squat. So on those days I can't, my best option is to place the blocks under each foot so that my heels have something to rest on. The blocks allow me to feel more grounded in a position that can be very tricky to hold and balance!
Hero Pose (Virasana)
It is nice to have variations for sitting poses. In about 1/8 of my practice do I actually sit in a kneeling position so it is a welcomed change of position. In this pose, I sat on two blocks to minimize the strain on my legs and quite frankly, allow space for the baby!
So, who knew that I'd love my yoga blocks so much. When I bought them for home, I was thinking they'd just gather dust. Now, they are a mainstay of my prenatal yoga!
Blessed to have my blocks,
34 weeks pregnant!
Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.