If you’re lying awake counting sheep this simple Japanese technique could help you win the battle against insomnia
From sipping chamomile tea to misting litres of lavender over our pillow, we’re constantly on the hunt for new tips and tricks to nab those vital eight hours and keep the dreaded insomnia at bay. This relentless tossing and turning is a common problem amongst adults – The National Institutes of Health estimates that approximately 30 percent of the UK’s population complain of sleep disruption, and 10 percent have symptoms of daytime functional impairment consistent with insomnia. Enter, moon breathing. Whilst hot drinks and essential oils may not be for everyone, this easy breathing exercise is something we can all turn to when we’re lying wide awake during the early hours wondering why we just can’t get to sleep.
According to yoga teacher Hannah Presence, moon breathing is a Japanese alternate nostril breathing technique used in yogic practices and other cultures to calm the nervous system and balance the body’s yin (moon feminine energy) and yang (active masculine energy). It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, high levels of which can lead to anxiety, digestive problems, and heart disease. So, for the times when your mind is racing with endless thoughts, here are some guidelines to help you get started: “Sit comfortably with your spine extended and chest unrestricted,” says Hannah. “Close your right index finger and middle finger down towards the palm of your hand leaving your thumb, ring and little finger extended. Now, close your right nostril with your thumb, take a big slow inhalation through your left nostril, and close your left nostril with your ring finger. Then release your right nostril and exhale slowly out of it.” While you’re repeating this exercise a number of times, it’s important to remember to always inhale through the left and exhale through the right nostril.
This slowing of the breath will help calm your thoughts, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system releasing the tension from your muscles. “It slows down the thought processes and reduces levels of stress in your body,” says Hannah. This practice is also believed to cool you down as well as let go of the physical tension, leaving your mind ready for a restful night’s slumber.
Unfortunately, insomnia can be a symptom of stress and if this is the case it could continue until the stressor is removed. So, it may be worth considering other actions you can take to address and manage your current situation, such as meditation, yoga or simply picking up the phone and talking to a friend or professional. Once you’ve taken the appropriate steps, you’ll be the smug sleeper you’ve always dreamed of being in no time – sleep tight!
For more yoga or meditation tips, follow Hannah’s Instagram page, @hannahpresenceyoga.
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