Saturday, April 28, 2012

Yoga Poses for Insomnia

Rebecca sent me a message asking what Asanas (yoga poses) i would recommend to treat insomnia, a common complaint during the menopause.
I wish i could help, but without knowing Rebecca's general level of fitness, strength, flexibility and the structural qualities of her body, i think it would be far too risky to recommend poses that often require a teacher's guidance and adequate preparation.

There are four types of asanas: Standing, Seated, Lying and Inverted. Some are common body positions that we are used to in our daily activities, some are unfamiliar to those who have never practiced yoga, and should be performed only with the guidance of an expert teacher.

Health and well-being cannot be enhanced by practicing only one or two asanas. We need to practice a variety of asanas. Before designing a sequence of asanas you need to know where you are starting from and where you are going. Progress is defined by your needs.
Building the attributes of health that we lack - structural, functional or psychological - should be the goal of a sequence of asanas.
Building strength could be the goal for one person. Increasing flexibility could be the goal for someone else. For another person, the goal might be to resolve a structural disorder.
Furthermore, different breathing techniques can facilitate progress, and enhance the effectiveness of various asanas.
I am a firm believer in the benefit of Viniyoga, an individualized approach to yoga, where the methods we use are modified and the very purpose of our practice changed to suit individual needs.

Without knowing whether Rebecca's insomnia is caused by stress, depression, an over-active thyroid, medications, a change in her work routine or diet, hot flashes, or the use of stimulants such as caffeine, it's impossible to address insomnia, which is a symptom.

What i found to be the most effective poses for my occasional insomnia, are inversions such as Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand) Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand) and Halasana (Plow Pose) that require a regular yoga practice, a strong body and should be taught by a qualified teacher.

If you suffer from structural imbalances in your body, such as scoliosis, even a mild form of scoliosis, neck problems, retinal problems, high blood pressure, these poses are not safe for you.

There is a pose that is very beneficial and quite safe to perform: UTTANASANA (Standing Forward Bend) It calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression, reduce fatigue and anxiety. It helps women to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
If you suffer from high blood pressure or low blood pressure, do not hold for more than a breath and come out of the pose very slowly to avoid dizziness. Otherwise just hold it for as long as comfortable, breathing slowly through your nose.

Instructions:
Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) on an inhalation raise the arms above the head, shoulder distance apart, palms facing toward each other. On an exhalation, fold forward from the hip joints (keeping the knees bent to help protect the lower back).
As you descend, lengthen and open the space between the pubis and the top sternum.
Keep the knees bent as much as necessary to allow the back to hang without tension.
Place the hands beside the feet, fingertips in line with the toes.

Variation: A more gentle version of the classical pose is to take the feet hip width apart and cross the forearms, grasping the elbows and allowing the torso to hang passively.

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