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.”
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.
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[reprinted with permission from Gaiam Life.]