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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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

Why & How to Practice Tree Pose

Video

“One of the loveliest yoga poses is Tree Pose (Vrksasana). It’s a beautiful balancing act with a multitude of variations for all levels.

Tree pose can help improve your balance, and it strengthens your thighs, calves, ankles and spine. It’s also good for stretching the inner thighs, chest and shoulders. Plus it can relieve sciatica, as well as reduce negative effects of flat feet.

While there are a number of physical benefits, Tree Pose also improves concentration. As a student, you can immediately notice how your balance improves when you focus your eyes on a single point (Drishti). If your eyes or your mind are wandering, chances are you won’t be able to balance.

Yet falling is how we learn and grow. Truthfully, it’s inevitable that as you try harder variations, you may wobble or lose balance. The good news is that trees are made to sway in the wind. So if you fall, you just try again. You learn how to observe your balance without judging your performance. Falling is part of the experience.
Here are 5 Steps to Finding Your Tree Pose:

1. Start in Mountain Pose, or Tadasana, with your feet hip distance apart. Spread your toes like roots into the earth and gently shift the weight side to side.

2. Bend your right knee and bring the sole of the right foot onto the left thigh, the heel in the inner left groin. Engage your left quad and resist the foot with the thigh.

3. Place your hands on your hips and lengthen your tailbone to the floor.

4. Set your gaze on a Drishti a few feet in front of you, either on the floor for easier balance or straight ahead.

5. Feel free to bring your hands together in Anjali Mudra (palms together in front of your heart), or raise them overhead.

If this variation is too challenging, try placing your foot on the calf instead of the thigh. Or keep your toes on the floor and just place the heel above your ankle. When you’re ready, lower your foot back down with control. Try the other side without judgment. It might be different than the first side, and that’s OK. Remember, don’t judge yourself. Just be willing to try and try again.” – Gigi Yogini