CELEBRATING WORLD SLEEP DAY
Improve your rest with our yoga and meditation tips from top London instructor Jessica Stewart.
Why We Sleep
We are undergoing a sleep renaissance – slowly, thanks to the flourishing of research in the field of neuroscience, the impact and scale of poor sleep patterns on our health is finally being recognised.
Matthew Walker in his book, why we sleep, points out the myriad lethal outcomes of poor sleep, and that anything less than 8 hours, with a balance of N-REM and REM sleep cycles can be extremely detrimental to your physical and mental health.
So, does yoga help people reset their body clocks and experience better quality sleep? The answer is a resounding yes – for the simple but profound fact that yoga incorporates three practices that disrupt chronic and acute stress states.
Breathwork, meditation and mindful low impact movement facilitates a shift from a sympathetic (fight/flight/freeze) mode to parasympathetic (calm, rest, connect, repair) mode in our nervous system. The presence of stress hormones whilst we are trying to wind down in the evening, will prevent the natural increase in the cocktail of sleep hormones that cause you to feel tired, and stay asleep.
Yoga For Sleep
As with all forms of exercise, moving the body will help your brain distinguish from the ‘activity’ of the day from the rest of night. Sitting at your desk all day can create mental hyperactivity and physical lethargy, which keeps us trapped in a state of physical fatigue and mental stress which we cannot ‘wind down’ from. Yoga is also a form of exercise that will not increase your adrenalin levels, so whilst you will feel energised after a class, you will not feel restless or pumped as you may do after a hit class or high cardio.
Yoga encourages (where possible) nose-breathing. Nose-breathing warms, humidifies and slows down the breath, emphasising an elongation of the exhalation. Try it now: breath in through your nose for 4, pause for a moment and breath out for 6, pausing at the end of the breath. Continue, and as you breath, draw your chin and throat slightly back, to engage the throat muscles, and stroke the breath along the back of your throat making the sound of the ocean as you breath in and out. Mouth breathing and shallow breathing can make us feel tired in the day, and then restless at night. So practicing slow nasal breathing in class will help to rewire your automatic breathing patterns to promote a good nights sleep.
What About Meditation?
Becoming aware of what thoughts are going on in your mind is important. It is not likely to feel ‘relaxing’ straight away when you start to observe your mind in mediation, but it is only with practice and good tutoring that you can learn to observe the thoughts without attaching or identifying so strongly with them. This will mean you can let go of the stresses of the day and experience more emotional equilibrium.
Listen to this great playlist for meditation.
How State Can Help
At State we run an extremely popular 4-week course in breath work and meditation accessible for beginners and those who have tried meditation and breath work but struggled to adopt a self practice. Our highly experienced and friendly teachers offer a range of inspiring, evidence-based yoga classes, emphasising breath-work and finessing the poses so they suit all bodies and all experience levels.
State Yoga opened in September 2020, as a response to the pandemic and the increased need for community, and for an accessible-to-all practice that would look after our state of mind in a positive way. State Yoga also runs Yoga Teacher Training programs, workshops with internationally renowned teachers and offers therapies.