Yoga is an excellent way to stay physically fit and mentally relaxed. It involves a series of practices like breathing control, meditation and adopting various postures. Yoga not just tones the muscles and burn calories but is, in fact, a complete mind and body workout. No wonder this ancient practice has been around for more than 5000 years. In this article, we’ll discover the importance of yoga for sleep. So let’s start the journey!
Yoga is fast becoming a workout norm in the west and is immensely popular among celebrities. They credit yoga and meditation not only to their physical fitness but also to their increased focus and mental performance. Celebrities such as Miranda Kerr and Jessica Alba perform yoga to stay fit. Jennifer Aniston claims that the practice not only keeps her fit but it helps to prepare physically and mentally for anything.
Even business leaders are finding out the huge benefits of yoga to help them be calmer, clearer, and more physically & mentally capable. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square regularly performs meditation for 30 minutes every morning. Being the full-time CEO of two publicly traded companies is not an easy task but Dorsey says that exercise and meditation is the key to his success. Other CEOs include Donna Karen of DKNY, Bill Gross of Pacific Investment Management and Mark Bertolini of Aetna. David Inns of GreatCall, a provider of mobile health and safety solutions, is taking it to the next level by engaging his employees in yoga and organizing weekly sessions at work.
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We are familiar with the benefits of waking up early and starting the day with yoga but interestingly ending the day with a few stretching poses and meditation has its own benefits too, the number one being quality sleep.
Yoga for sleep | what research says
According to the National Sleep Foundation, one of the top reasons for sleep deprivation is stress and yoga is a gentle and restorative way to combat stress. Mindful meditation calms the turbulent thoughts racing through your mind and improves the ability of your brain to focus on one thing whereas deep breathing and stretching poses help to unwind physically. The stress releasing effects of yoga can be felt instantaneously but over a long period of time yoga practitioners can even lower their stress releasing cortisol levels.
Another major reason that keeps a lot of people up at night is a pain. Yoga is also effective in relieving pain to promote a good night’s sleep whether it’s arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia, migraine or any other type of chronic pain conditions. According to Harvard Health Publications, a recent study including 313 participants suffering from back pain found that weekly yoga classes helped well than standard medical conditions to ease back pain. A meta-analysis of 17 studies by Harvard researchers also concluded that yoga can improve daily function among people with fibromyalgia osteoporosis-related curvature of the spine. This eventually helps the patients to sleep well at night.
Another study conducted by the Harvard Medical School and lead by Dr. SB Khalsa, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that yoga is an effective treatment for chronic insomnia. The study was published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback and it included 20 participants which were taught breathing, meditation and mantra in one training session. After undergoing the yoga training session, the participants were left on their own to practice yoga techniques before bedtime for 8 weeks. They, however, stayed in touch with brief in person and telephone follow-ups. The participants were required to maintain a sleep-wake diary 2 weeks prior and during the study so that improvements in their sleep quality could be measured. After 8 weeks, researchers assessed the participant’s diaries and found that sleep efficiency, total sleep time, total wake time, sleep onset latency, and wake time after sleep onset had significantly improved.
Yoga has also been proved to help cancer patients sleep better. A study conducted by the University of Rochester included 245 women participants suffering from breast cancer and having sleep problems as a result. The women were quizzed on their sleep problems and energy levels and then divided randomly into two groups. One group was the control group and the other was given a yoga training session including breathing, meditation, and stretching exercises. After 4 weeks, the participants have quizzed again and researchers found that the yoga group had reported significant improvement in sleep quality and the decrease in stress.
From insomniacs to cancer patients, from business leaders to celebrities everyone turns to yoga for an emotional and physical well being and of course to improve sleep.
This is just some of the evidence linking yoga practice among cancer and chronic pain patients to better sleep. If you find yourself having difficulty sleeping at night, we suggest give yoga a try. It’s simple, gentle and doesn’t include any rigorous exercising and what’s more, it works immediately.
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