Breathing Exercises to Aid Sleep

A regular brought a friend to this week’s group house practice.  When I asked whether there was anything about her health or practice I should know to enhance her experience in the class, she advised me that she had been having trouble sleeping for the past few months in response to an event in her life.  I did not ask about the event, but offered some of my favorite practices when I am not easily falling asleep:

1.  gentle ujayi breathing with the exhale twice the length of the inhale.  We were sitting up, but this is great to do in vipariti karani (legs up the wall pose).

2.  chandra bhedana (the moon breath).  This is similar to nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) except that for every breath, the inhale is through the left (ida or chandra nostril and the exhale through the right (pinga or surya) nostril.

3.  This one I learned from work place yoga teacher Kathy Rowley with whom I took lunch time classes at the Department of Labor for a couple of years.  I am not sure I remember it exactly the way she taught it, but it works:

Start lying on one side.  Take sixteen deep breaths, keeping count of the breaths, with the exhales longer than the inhales.  Quietly roll to your other side and take another sixteen breaths.  Continue switching sides, slowly and without disturbing growing sleepiness, each set of two doubling the number of breaths you take.  After 16 on both sides, then 32 on both sides, then 64, and so on (though so on is unlikely).  Let the breaths get slower and deeper and when you get to the point where it does not seem right to switch sides, then you let yourself sink into deep relaxed sleep.


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