Perhaps you’ve heard the claims from your neighbor, “yoga cured my insomnia.” Or maybe your co-worker boasts, “I practice three times a week and my back pain is gone.” It’s possible that your 11-year-old daughter squeals with delight because she can now touch her toes and no longer gets “homework headaches.”

Proper support – like the kind you practice in yoga poses – can help sleep come more easily.

With 16 million Americans practicing yoga, the anecdotal evidence is exponentially favorable to the curative benefits of yoga, such as relaxation and stress relief. But skeptical and scientific minds still want to know, is yoga really a remedy?

I began practicing yoga at age 11, and can say from my personal experience that I rarely get sick, I’ve never broken a bone and I sleep like a baby 97 percent of the time. In a purely unscientific poll of myself, yoga has been and continues to be a remedy for my aches and pains and a preventative from getting them in the first place!

I also have hundreds of stories I could share with you from students who work with me in my specialized yoga therapy format, Yoga Tune Up®. A range of students from 17-77 come to me with chronic conditions like MS, scoliosis, breast and chest surgeries, metal implants in their tissues, migraines, car accidents, obesity and more.

The good news is that there are studies that confirm the benefits of yoga for many health conditions. We can rejoice that yoga’s curative powers are not just a myth! Yoga helps and it heals.

Let’s take a closer look this week at insomnia:

Your neighbor’s insomnia

Insomnia is a plague. When we cannot sleep well, our stress levels skyrocket and this can lead to accidents, greater fatigue and weight gain. When your neighbor tosses and turns all night, her mind is not letting her body enter into the healing phases of deep sleep.

Perhaps your neighbor tried out a Yin Yoga class at the local YWCA. Her class promised to help reduce stress and enhance her ability to sleep.

So how did it work its magic? Yoga enhances a body’s ability to sleep by consistently inducing the relaxation response in the body’s tissues. Yin Yoga especially promotes a very relaxing environment by holding static or still stretches for long periods of time (two to 20 minutes), with the body often supported by bolsters, blankets and other props. These stretches are done with the help of gravity’s pull on the body. She is instructed to breathe deeply and rhythmically. The result is that the long-held stretches, combined with the breathing, turn her “fight or flight” response off and her “rest and digest” response on. Ultimately, this resets the resting tone in her muscles and her mind is reconditioned to be more mellow.

On Friday I’ll post about that classic insomnia-busting pose savasana, as well as a video on Monday with special breathing techniques to help your body fully downregulate.

Learn about our stress relief products.

Read how to sleep like you are doing yoga.

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Watch our stress relief videos instantly.

[reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.]

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Eileen Riordan O'Sullivan

I believe yoga has had a powerful positive influence on my life, but I do think it helps for people to understand why they approach yoga in the first place? Are they interested in an active movement to help tone & encourage flexibility? then try an active practice. But if on the other hand they are interested in a gentle, more meditative practice then Yin or Restorative Yoga would be more beneficial. People attending active class when they are more interested in learning to quiten thier sympathetic nervous system, would more likely turn a student off. It is also helpful… Read more »

Libertyville Chiropractic

Hi Jill,
Yes yoga can help one to cope with insomnia because yoga helps in soothing stress, reducing depression and helps in losing unwanted weight. Create sleeping schedule, avoid oversleeping and taking naps in day timings. Be modest about food and drinks and eat only a light snack shortly before going to bed.

Breathe Right For Better Sleep | Yoga Tune Up

[…] Yoga can help you sleep. – Read the post. […]

Caitlin Rotkiewicz

Yoga can certainly be relaxing, but it can also be just as stimulating! I am wide awake from all the backbends I did today… while a series of appropriate counter-poses calmed me from my buzzing state, I am still noticing the energetic changes brought on by today’s yoga practice.

Cathy Favelle

I have a few yoga students that complain of difficulty sleeping at night and I would have to say that something they have in commen is their “Type A” disposition…almost always choosing power yoga over yin or candlelight classes….slow to them means boring in almost everything they do!….and yet how obvious slow is exactly what they need in their lives…I love the quote ” help them turn off their fight or flight responses and turn on their rest and digest responses” Through my recent YTU level 1 training my eyes have already been opened to the benefits and the challenges… Read more »

Nancy

I always appreciate the scientific support to what i have already discovered in my own practice. Even in my most stressful moments i am able to breathe, down-regulate and take that sense of calm into my actions. The anxious/insomniac student is very recognizable. They not only move and fidget throughout the class to escape any sensation but then they cannot remain still in savasana. I am happy to have this physiological explanation to give those students some reassurance that yoga will help! Thank you,

melanie sloane

When I saw the picture of Jill sleeping in the bed, it reminded me of another article that Jill wrote about properly alligning the body to sleep on your side without pain. I use to wake up with neck and shoulder pain until I used Jill’s advice of using pillows as depicted in above photo Now I sleep much better and wake up without pain in my neck and shoulder. I have also shown the above picture to some of my students to help them and they have thanked me for helping them sleep better. A picture is worth a… Read more »

Susan

I also have been plagued with insomnia. Usually I can fall asleep but awaken often. I have been trying lately when I wake to come into suptabatakanasana with a pillow under my knees and just breathing with longer exhales. Definitly helps! Thanks for reminding us to use those props

Cat

It would be difficult to underestimate the power of sleep! Jill’s suggestions to pair responses that are incompatible with an alert state with the bedtime routine and her emphasis on dedicating oneself to trying a new approach should be extremely helpful to those who might think they’ve ‘tried everything.’ Thanks Jill.

Nancy Kranzberg

As encouranging as this article is–for all of us insomniacs– I’ve not had much success. BUT, the idea of using props brings to mind a younger self when I did use extra pillows and I slept better than I do now. It was a great reminder for me. I, also, look forward hearing more about using savasana and breathing. I will report back after using some new techniques.
Thanks