Relax and Go to Sleep

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I recently took Jill’s Breath and Bliss Immersion. It was amazing and I learned so  much for clients, for myself and notably tools to calm the savage beast of my anxiety disorder. I had no idea that the next week an individual would call with the complaint of “I’m not sleeping, I just can’t relax, thoughts keep spinning in my mind and I’m so stressed out!”  Ah ha! I knew yoga could help, and especially with the renewed understanding I gained from training.

The dude is quite a character, 70+ years’ old, thin, wiry, wired, constant deadlines as a high powered Bay Area artist, whose art is featured internationally and in museums. He moved to our small town, I believe, to relieve some of the energetic tension one gets bombarded with in a big city like San Francisco.

He was obviously in sympathetic dominance override. In consultation I asked about what he eats, drinks, and how he breathes. The other keys I routinely inquire about is how a client exercises, rests, and thinks.

I already know he can’t sleep or rest. His exercise routine is a typical Type A: the harder the better, weights, running, everything high intensity. His diet is relatively clean and organic. He drinks mostly herb teas, not a lot of coffee or stimulants.

I did a breathing diagnostic tuning into the pathway of his native breath and watching with awareness as he proceeds. Then I requested he grow his breath and expand into the three abodes: pelvis, ribcage, and upper chest. And I watch. Where is the restriction the fear the blind spot? A long time weight lifter back in the 70s & 80s his breath was not smooth and rhythmic, but forced and extremely vigorous as if preparation for a heavy bench press. It appeared as a big explosion into the belly then nothing into any thoracic or ribcage portion of his form.

Most importantly how he thinks. Wow. This man is responsible for all the woes of the earth, politics, and his family. He’s an activist and wants to save the bees and the planet. He is intense, passionate, and pissed off! Raging and angry at the current state of the environment and our government. He carries all of this energy with him in his mind constantly.

With this information about his anxiety-related sleep problems in mind, I felt it wise to focus my recommendation prescriptively for how he breathes, exercises, and thinks.

In Yoga Tune Up®, we have “the five P’s.” These are ways to turn on your off switch. And the more these are met, the more profound the relaxation response will be. Join me next week as I discuss and apply the five P’s, providing guidance for down-regulation, relaxation, and recovery.

Liked this article? Read Why Deep Breathing is Effective for Calming Down

Shari Williams

Shari is a Yogi and a Scientist. It's her passion for the practice of yoga which fuels her desire to teach. She has direct experience of healing and the significant transformation yoga offers & specifically the increase in strength and joint mobility Yoga Tune Up(R) provides. You will be presented with instruction firmly rooted through her education in kinesiology. The study of human movement. as well as her vast athletic, energetic and Yogic understanding. She has 30 years of teachng and practice experience, Shari knows yoga! She has a developed "eye" to see nd enlighten you to your body's blind spots. Being a lover of the human form and compassionate about the nuance of human condition you will find her warm and accessible. she is hands on (yet respectful if this is not your choice) assisting you develop healthful alignment, the foundation to build your postures. She loves life and enjoys being in nature, hiking in the woods, or biking through the forest. Yoga practice with Shari will enhance your life, give you more time in the day through enhanced energy, self esteem and well-being. She is available for private sessions, workshops, and teaches weekly classes at the Golden Mandala Collective in Nevada City, California.

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Wow, j’avais vraiment besoin de lire cela. Le “hamster” de mes pensées est toujours hyperactif et court à toute vitesse dans sa roue de pensées incessantes. Apprendre à ralentir, décrocher, et relaxer, pour améliorer la qualité de mon sommeil et pour cultiver le calme dans la vie quotidienne, est un élément que je souhaite développer de façon prioritaire. J’ai hâte de lire la suite dans le prochain article!

Ellen S.

Jill said this in class today and it really resonated! “Turn your “on” switch “off,” and your “off” switch “on.” While I think many people know about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, and actually would gain a lot if they hadn’t heard these terms before, I think it’s such a good way to teach the general population what we are trying to achieve in practices like Savasana or constructive rest. I will definitely be using it with my students!


Can’t wait to take the Breath and Bliss Immersion class! No doubt that it will give me a lot more tules to help myself and others! I work as a massage therapist and I can recognize many of the clients I help in the client that you describe. Don’t we live in a society of performance that causes a lot of stress!? Life itself is not always easy! So we need those tools to help us go through life. We need to create more space inside the body and the mind. Thank you for your share, I am going to… Read more »

John Watson

Type A people are fascinating to us non-Type A. Seems like there is a constant motivation to push forward and achieve with very little ability to let go and relax. A lot of people even approach relaxation techniques with an aggresive stance. I’ve seen people completely unable to slow down their breathing. It takes a willingness to surrender control and give up even the desire for a particular outcome of relaxation.

Erika Mills

Could you elaborate a little bit on the restriction, the fear and the blind spot in the native breath?


I want to take the breath and bliss immersion so bad. Thanks for the wonderful reminder that it helps not just to hone in on the obvious sleep inhibitors like caffeine, sugar and blue screens, but to look at the bigger picture. Thanks Shari!


What great advice you provided. I am anxious to read the entire series.

Carol Anderson

Love the article! It shows how important our breath is in everyday life and the importance of the connection between your mind and body. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Amber Green

I felt as though I was reading the story of my life! I have been experiencing an increase in anxiety symptoms as I get older. I have been trying to develop a arsenal of tools in order to combat the issue as I am a performer and need to be on stage as a job requirement. Breath and Bliss here I come!


I recently traveled to Europe and back and my jet lag was ridiculous upon arrival, but not so bad upon return. Part of that had to do with the direction of travel (travelling west-east is often harder than east-west) but I realized after that a lot had to do with what I had to do when I got to Europe (present work, deal with unfamiliar surroundings, find proper food) and what I had to do when I got home (recover). So, the questions you ask were pertinent to my insomnia and fuzziness – “what he eats, drinks, and how he… Read more »


Thank you for this great article, Shari. I absolutely love how you incorporated “how one thinks” into your assessment of your client. It’s a huge component that often gets left out, but it determines so much of the way we choose to live our lives. Beautiful.

Michelle W

Thank you for this, Shari. You remind us as teachers to look outside the box, and see how truly everything is connected. In many ways, I often feel one of our jobs as teachers is to help put a finger on the combined elements to discover the full picture, and then hold a mirror for our students. The way you approached your student was so lovely — and truly reminds to take a step back in order to be able to offer more to my students. Thank you for this.


Wow thanks Shari, that sticks with me, because being a busy fitness trainer can really become stressful and you can lose your sense of you in the everyday life mix.

Tessa Watson

Thank you Sheri, this makes me want to dive into the Breath and Bliss immersion soon. So many people have difficulties down regulating with the demands of daily life.


I look forward to learning more about assessing and altering breathing to down regulate. I think I need to take the Breath and Bliss immersion next!

isabelle deschenes

Never taught that breath can be so powerfull to relaxe and fall assleep! I realise it with the yoga tune up level 1 formation, and I just can’t wait to be in the breath and bliss immersion!

Dejia B.

This man sounds a lot like me a few years ago (minus the male and successful artist part, haha). I too have a had a long standing hard time of “turning off” my brain so that I can wind down, relax and sleep – in fact, this is a common problem throughout my entire family! I plan on focusing on breath work tonight before bed to see if I can help lull myself into a better rest and I’m very much looking forward to parts 2 and 3 of the blog.


I can tell from your writing that you hold high talent in the skill of observing– all the subtitle observations are so crucial and yet can be challenging to see.
Sounds like the course you took elevated those skills even more and you are fine-tuning them through your teaching.
Thank you for your contribution!

Katiana Paré

Reading this article I can picture someone who’s in a very similar position, always looking to make every aspect of their live better, takes on the world, doesn’t want to let anyone down, living every day in sympathetic without even realizing it. I’m looking forward to your next blog, hoping I can pass on the knowledge.

Tatjana Brandl

How often do I tell myselfe to turn on my off switch. And often it is so hard to let my thoughts just flow without any judgement. I am very looking forward to the five P’s 🙂

Trevor Gribble

My mom is a lot like the dude. As are her friends. They are all great people, raised lovely families, and now all do their best to get into yoga. But life is tough and the world is crazy and it’s so easy to get caught up into the madness of it all, to the point that it takes a massive toll on your health. I certainly struggle at times myself, but I’ve been lucky enough to study yoga and meditation and many forms of bodywork and therapy that keep me from deviating too far from my mean. I’m grateful… Read more »

Jeanette Johnsson

I see lots of breathing where only the belly is moving, no movement in the ribcage/chest, and that the client is sympathetically dominante, stressed out and can´t relax. I would love to read more on this since there is lots of information about belly breathing/parasympathetic dominance. Looking forward to your part two of the five P´s.

Jasmine Ellemo

I’m very curious to read Part 2 and find out more about the 5 P’s and how you are helping this man. Better sleep will help him regain balanced energy. It sounds like he is in good hands with you!


My mom suffers from challenges with sleeping but she seeks no help! I have suggested essential oils, self foot massages, calming music and of course yoga, but she will not take the initiative! Maybe I too need to use the training skills and take her on as a client. 5p’s and an unforgettable Savasana! Well, I will see what I can do for her, thank you for sharing this information!


I definitely need to jump back into the manual…my mom has trouble sleeping and has for years…I’ve tried giving her suggestions, but like most people, she does not follow the advice, from self massages on feet, certain plants in bedroom, essential oils, liquid mind music. Maybe I have to give her an unforgettable Savasana! And teach her the 5 P’s! Well, back to the manual I go! Thank you

Jenni Everard

I think I need to take the Breath and Bliss course. So many things to learn:)

Nick Shrewsbury

I identify with many of your descriptors of this client. I love that you chose to focus on the breath and mind to begin working with him and his rage at the degradation of the environment. I appreciate that you kept things so simpe, rather than giving a Type A person more work to do.


Super interesting can’t wait for the next article! I never thought about watching someones body breathing as a way to diagnose. Thanks!

Jamie Walsh

Thanks for sharing Shari.

I can definitely relate to him. I have practiced yoga for several years now and have always known logically breathing is important. (duh, lol) Recently, along with my meditation practice, I have incorporated breathing.
It has made a huge difference. I would like to check out the breathing and bliss immersion in the near future. Look forward to your next post on the 5 p’s.

Robert Ouellet

Hi, this dude in that blog is almost me except for the age, i am a bit younger! Big city, visuals arts, stress of all kind, student of all stress, nice life! Madame Williams give me some hope to clear all those shadows far away. The “five P’s” are a mystery for me at this moment but i can’t wait to learn more. Yoga and Yoga Tune Up® are the royal path to understand our body, our mind. So nice tool to play with.


Thanks for the article! Helpful to hear how others work with their clients. I’d love to take the Yoga Tune-Up training somday 🙂


I look forward to your next post on the five Ps. It is amazing what breath can do for your well being and to help you down regulate. We are way too stimulated and stressed these days. Learning to use your breath as a tool is key to navigating everyday challenges.


Thanks for sharing Shari! In a couple of weeks I’ll be going to the Breath & Bliss too. Really looking forward to it, not only for my clients but also for myself. Many years ago I encountered panic attacks. It was a very busy time, new job, finishing one master and starting another one. Although I’m free from the panic attacks, there are times when I can feel some anxiety coming. No therapist or doctor has ever explained were a panic attack comes from, but hopefully the Breath&Bliss will teach me!


The client you mention here sounds a bit like myself as my mind constantly races. I’m alsways thining of ways I could be a better mom, help others and follow my dreams with out fear and anxiety getting in the way. I could really use some more tools to down regulate in my tool box. I too see lots of students who have a hard time conntecting to the bliss side of it all and would love to attend the bliss immersion.


The client featured in your blog post reminds me of many people I’ve met on my journey as an RMT + yoga teacher. I am hoping to attend the breath and bliss immersion in the fall to gain some insight on how I can provide these clients with tools to self-regulate. I look forward to reading the next installment of your blog.

Mona Laflamme

Thanks Shari, I recognize someone close to me in personnality, shall observe his breath pattern. Am already excited for the Breath and Bliss immersion!