Yoga can help you sleep better (video and article)

Video

There are several benefits of yoga. One of these benefits is directly linked to helping those with insomnia, or being able to stay asleep.

Article by Dr. Michael J. Breus:

“Looking for a low-impact exercise routine with high returns for health and sleep? Try yoga.

The pleasures and benefits of yoga are widely understood: Yoga can improve physical strength and flexibility, improve breathing, reduce stress and enhance mental focus. What may be less well known are the positive effects that yoga can have on sleep.

A new study indicates that yoga can help improve sleep among people suffering from chronic insomnia. Researchers at Harvard Medical School investigated how a daily yoga practice might affect sleep for people with insomnia and found broad improvements to measurements of sleep quality and quantity.

In this study, researchers included people with different types of insomnia, evaluating people with both primary and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is sleeplessness that develops on its own, independent of any other health problem or sleep disorder. Secondary insomnia develops as a symptom or consequence of another medical condition. Many illnesses and health problems are associated with insomnia, including cancer, chronic pain conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, and depression. Medications taken for chronic or acute health conditions can also trigger insomnia, as can the use (and abuse) of substances such as alcohol.

Researchers in this study provided their subjects with basic yoga training, then asked them to maintain a daily yoga practice for eight weeks. The study participants kept sleep diaries for two weeks before the yoga regimen began and for the duration of the eight-week study period. In the sleep diaries, they kept a record of the amount of time spent asleep, number of times they awakened during the night, and the duration of time spent sleeping between periods of waking, in addition to other details about nightly sleep amounts and sleep quality. Twenty people completed the eight-week evaluation, and researchers analyzed the information in their sleep diaries to evaluate the influence of yoga on the disrupted sleep of chronic insomnia. They found improvements to several aspects of sleep, including:

• Sleep efficiency
• Total sleep time
• Total wake time
• Sleep onset latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep)
• Wake time after sleep onset

There isn’t a great deal of research into the effects of yoga on sleep and its potential value as a treatment for sleep problems and disorders. But we have seen other scientific evidence in recent years of yoga’s effectiveness in improving sleep:

• This study of 410 cancer survivors found that yoga was linked to improved sleep quality, reduced feelings of fatigue, reduced frequency of use of sleep medication, and an improved sense of quality of life among patients who practiced yoga twice a week for 75-minute sessions.

• This research looked at the effects of yoga among post-menopausal women with insomnia and found that yoga was linked to a reduction in symptoms and the severity of the sleep disorder. This study also found yoga linked to lower stress levels and an enhanced sense of quality of life.

• In this study of women with osteo-arthritis and sleep problems, an evening yoga practice was linked to significant improvements in sleep efficiency and a decrease in the frequency of individual nights of insomnia.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder among American adults, with 10-15 percent of the population suffering from chronic insomnia. As many as 40 percent of adults in the U.S. experience some type of insomnia every year. Older people, women, and those with other health problems are at higher risk for insomnia. Despite its prevalence, insomnia, like many other sleep disorders, remains significantly under-diagnosed, according to recent research. This study showed that while 1 percent of the population surveyed had a clinical diagnosis of insomnia, 37 percent of those surveyed showed symptoms of insomnia.

Insomnia may be common, but if left untreated its health consequences can be anything but benign. Chronic insomnia is associated with a number of serious medical conditions:

Insomnia is associated with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. This large-scale study found that people with insomnia had significantly elevated risk of heart attack. Insomnia is also associated with inflammation in the body, which is itself a risk factor for heart problems and other serious illnesses.

Research indicates that lack of sleep can have negative effects on cognition, and the brain. This study linked insomnia with destruction of gray matter in the brain. This group of four studies, conducted independently of one another, found evidence that poor and fragmented sleep may contribute to impaired cognition as we age.

Insomnia has been found linked to both anxiety and depression. The relationship between sleeplessness and these mental health disorders is still being understood, including whether one condition precipitates the other. But insomnia, depression and anxiety share a deep and difficult connection.

Lack of sleep, and disrupted sleep, is also associated with obesity. We’ve seen extensive research that shows under-sleeping is linked to weight gain and the diseases associated with obesity.

With so much at stake, finding effective treatment for insomnia is an important endeavor. Sometimes medication can be an appropriate choice, but any treatment is best to begin with basic lifestyle changes. Yoga and other regular forms of exercise can help to form the basis of a long-term, sustainable lifestyle that helps you sleep more, and better.

Sweet Dreams,
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™ ”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/yoga-insomnia_b_1939696.html

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Aside

“Let’s say you’re in a cardiologist’s office with your elderly aunt who’s just been released from the hospital for heart issues. You carefully take notes, writing down the prescription medications that she’s supposed to take each day. You record the recommendations to avoid smoking, to walk daily, and to eat a Mediterranean-style diet.

And you’re taken aback when the doctor recommends that your aunt meditate for 20 minutes, twice a day. Is the doc serious? Should you write this down? Your aunt receives a handout explaining two methods of meditation that have been “scientifically proven” to reduce the chances of heart attack, stroke and add years to her life.

Could this be true?

OK, so maybe this scenario isn’t happening all over the country, but it should be.

The idea that a meditation practice has measurable effects on heart and general health is not well known in the halls of most hospitals and clinics, but in the past year, there have been several exciting pieces of information that have led me to practice and teach the benefits of meditation to my patients.

Much of the research on the medical benefits of meditation has come from Dr. Robert Schneider and his team at the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention. The researchers completed a study last year on 201 people with heart disease. The group was taught either to practice Transcendental Meditation 20 minutes twice a day or received instructions to spend at least 20 minutes learning about health. During a follow up just over five years, the group that meditated saw a 48% reduction in the combined occurrence of death, heart attack and stroke!

A second style of meditation is the kirtan kriya, which comes from the Kundalini tradition and is taught by Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa. I had previously read Dr. Khalsa’s books on food and meditation as medicine, but recent publications from his research unit are impressive. He teaches a 12-minute kirtan kriya meditation (KKM) consisting of repeating the mantra sa-ta-na-ma aloud in a song, in a whisper, and silently, while using repeating finger movements or mudras. This is easily explained from a handout that can be printed off his website.

Dr. Khalsa and a group out of UCLA have shown that KKM resulted in different patterns of brain metabolism compared to other general relaxation methods. Using PET scanning, they saw that KKM resulted in 19 genes being up-regulated and 49 genes being down-regulated, resulting in the production of fewer inflammatory mediators, and increased telomerase activity by almost 50%. Why do we care about telomeres? Well, for starters, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was recently awarded to another research group, which found a connection between increased telomerase activity and greater longevity. Finally, the group taught KKM also had higher scores of mental health and lower depression.

Although more research is needed due to the small number of research subjects in these studies, why wait to begin these practices?

With the potential benefits of health and longevity, the time has come to teach meditation more widely in medical and other settings. How wonderful would it be if a meditation break replaced the smoking breaks given to employees in the past?

What if meditation were taught in doctor’s waiting rooms on the cable TV? Imagine if meditation classes were beamed into patient rooms on a health channel while they were healing in their beds? Meditation is a medication of a powerful nature with no apparent side effects.

Let’s spread the word.”- Dr. Joel Khan

 

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11612/why-meditation-is-powerful-medication-a-cardiologist-explains.html

Yoga for your core (video and article)

Video

Many yoga classes will talk about engaging your core and strengthening your core. This is very important because your core is used in all aspects of your yoga practice, as well as through out your life. It is not about having a “six pack”, and it is not about doing a bunch of “crunches”. Having a strong core will benefit your yoga practice by being able to engage in poses in different ways, and even challenge yourself with different modifications of poses. Through out your life, a stronger core will help you in other aspects of physical fitness, and your overall health.

This video is short and sweet and is guided by the lovely Tara Stiles.

 

Article on more core information :

Core of Support

When your core is strong, you’ll feel easier in your poses and more capable in your life.

By Andrea Ferretti

This sequence by Harvey Deutch and Sarana Miller, a student of Ana Forrest, taps into your core, the literal and symbolic center of power. But this isn’t a “Get a six-pack in six weeks” deal. Instead of focusing on the rectus abdominus (the six-pack), you’ll work the deeper layers of the abdominal area, such as the transversus abdominus.

Switching from the six-pack to the deeper layers takes subtle awareness, so be patient even if you can’t access the muscles right away. (When all else fails, try laughing, says Miller, since you use the transversus to laugh or cough.)

It’s important to persevere, but don’t work to exhaustion or you’ll end up using your lower back and hip flexors. Plan on doing just a few repetitions each day, and your body will respond quickly. The result of all your hard work? A stronger core, more ease in your poses, and a more powerful you.

Before You Begin

Engaging Mula Bandha, or the perineum, contains your energy and strengthens the pelvic floor. Sitting in Virasana (Hero Pose), roll your sitting bones back and engage Ashvini Mudra (the anal sphincter muscles). Bring your pelvis back to neutral. Now try to feel the perineum, the area right in front of the anus. Engage Mula Bandha by lifting the perineum (the action is very similar to Kegels). Do 30 lifts 3 times, breathing naturally.

Finding Your TA: The transversus abdominus (TA) is the deepest of the four layers of abdominal muscles. It runs from your lower ribs to your pubis and acts like a girdle, wrapping around your body. Lie back with your feet on the floor. Place your first two fingers on your frontal hipbones and move them an inch toward your navel. Exhale and engage the TA by drawing your belly back toward the ground. Take 5 breaths, keeping it engaged.

Please click on the images below to see them in more detail

1. Happy Baby Pose, variation

Lie on your back, engage your TA, and reach your arms up. Lift your legs off the floor, with your knees over your hips and your shins parallel to the floor. Keep your TA drawing in as you move your arms and legs back and forth a few inches, like a baby reaching up to play with a mobile. Continue for 30 seconds and then rest. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

2. Toe Taps

With your TA engaged, breathe normally as you slowly tap your right toe to the ground and return to neutral. Do the same with the left foot. Repeat 4 times. A sore lower back or hip flexors means you’re relying on them instead of your TA to do the work. Reduce the number of repetitions and try it again tomorrow.

3. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Bring both feet to the floor. Place a block between your thighs. Reach your tailbone toward your heels and lift your hips into Bridge Pose. This doesn’t have to be your highest version of Bridge; focus on keeping the TA engaged. Stay for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat 2 to 5 times.

4. Dolphin Pose

Come onto your hands and knees. Place your elbows under your shoulders and press your palms together firmly. Come into Dolphin, feeling the abdominal area hollow out and the perineum lift. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths.

5. Dolphin Plank Pose

Walk your feet back until your body is parallel to the floor. Keep pressing your hands together and hug your inner legs toward the midline. Hold for at least 3 full breaths, using your TA for stability.

6. Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Lie on your belly and bring your arms to your sides, palms facing up. Draw your lower belly toward your spine and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels to engage your TA. Lift your chest off the floor, drawing your heart forward and spreading your collarbones wide. Now lift your legs off the floor. Keep your neck completely relaxed. Stay for 5 breaths.

7. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Come into Downward Dog. To feel Mula Bandha and the transversus, roll your sitting bones toward the ceiling. Then draw your tailbone toward your heels and hug your thighs as if you’re holding a block between them. Exhale, then draw your lower belly toward your spine. Stay for 5 breaths.

8. Low Lunge

Step your right foot forward between your hands into a low lunge. Bring your hips over your back knee. Press the top of your back foot into the ground and tuck your tailbone. Place your right hand on a block and reach your left arm up. Bend to the right to create a stretch in the left side of the belly. When you’re ready, inhale back to center, then step back to Downward Dog. Repeat on the other side.

9. Adho Mukha Vrksasana preparation (Handstand preparation)

Stand in Tadasana with your back to a wall. Place your feet a few inches from the wall and hug a block between your thighs. To feel Mula Bandha, roll your pelvis forward and take your thighs back. Then draw your tailbone toward your heels and squeeze the block. Bring the lower ribs toward your spine as you reach your arms up, palms facing the ceiling. Come onto your tiptoes, using the wall for support.

10. Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

Now it’s time to put it all together-upside down. Place your hands a few inches from the wall. Come into Downward Dog. Inhale as you kick up. Use your core muscles to help you reach your heels higher up the wall. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, then come into a forward bend.” – Yoga Journal

 

http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2037