By Donna Nolan and Alexandra Plane.
We come across many clients in our clinics and at our yoga classes who have difficulty sleeping, insomnia being the most common form of sleep disorder complaint. They may find it hard to know how to get to sleep, or they may be able to get to sleep however then wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back asleep.
Good quality sleep is super important for our overall health and wellbeing.
We all know how much better we feel when we have properly rested with regular or even one good night sleep. It makes a world of a difference as to how we feel, relate to others and approach all areas of our day.
WHY falling to sleep or staying asleep can be a problem?
How we live throughout our day has a direct relationship on the quality of sleep we get at night. The majority of us – whether we are a busy mum, white/blue collar, students etc – live our days in intense busy-ness with our minds always racy, full of thoughts and with little body connection.This way of being holds a particular quality of energy that affects our body.
Then, when we go to bed, the momentum of our day is still there in the body (i.e this busyness of the day, its associated mental, emotional and physiological racy-ness, overwhelm and/or other disharmony). The body may be tired and wanting to rest, however the physiology is still stimulated, racy, and the mind still thinking of all that has been and may still be going on.
The above scenario is the most common one experienced by people having difficulty falling to sleep or staying asleep – putting aside the occasional jet lags, changes in sleeping environments, medical illnesses etc -. They can’t get to sleep or fall back asleep because their nervous system is overactive, their physiology still racy and their minds super busy, unstoppable with lots of thoughts and activity going on.
The key here to return to getting good quality sleep is to look at the quality of being/energy of how we are living throughout our day, as this directly affects the quality of our sleep.
If we can develop the habit to align, focus, place our mind with our body in all that we do throughout the day and hold a quality of gentleness, when we put the body to bed at night it is ready for sleep, and the mind too can follow, allowing our whole being to properly rest and rejuvenate.
This means developing conscious presence – ie. having an awareness of feeling our body in all that we do, say and think. When we develop this quality of being in our day-to-day activities, any stressful and disharmonious momentum already built in our body will begin to clear, and the draining, uncontrollable chatter of the mind will reduce and gradually stop.
Tips for developing conscious presence – mind and body in union together
Make the choice to put your attention with the activity that you are doing throughout your day as you are doing it. Rather than being lost in thoughts whilst you are doing something, give the mind something to do, a point of focus, that is, to be with the activity you are doing.
Choose to do the activity in a quality of gentleness. By giving yourself the task of doing it gently, it gives room for your awareness to expand and brings an energetic connection to the mind and body. Maintaining an awareness of your body posture as you go through your day – keeping it open and alive – will support your quality of awareness, gentleness and the prevention of various muscle tensions/ body aches.
Maintain an awareness of the quality of your breath and choose a gentle breath. Awareness of the breathing process is a simple technique that can be done anywhere anytime to develop/maintain body connection and is sufficient to kick an overall relaxation response in your physiology. A gentle breath in and out your nose will help to clear stress and disharmony built in your body, and bring you back to centered state of mind and being.
Choose a couple of activities to begin with that you can playfully practice conscious presence each time you do them. For example, every time you shower, eat, brush your teeth, pick up the phone, get into your car, stand up and sit down, open a door – the list is endless, make it fun, playful and loving. Do these gently and with presence, rather than mechanically and being checked out in your head. Once you have mastered a couple of activities, choose another to add to your repertoire and continue to build on the number of activities that you deliberately practice conscious presence with. This will gradually develop conscious presence over time throughout your day.
Try doing the Gentle Breath Meditation daily. This guided meditation will give you a marker in your body as to what it feels like to be connected with you and your body. Then take this feeling of connection into the next activity that you do.
Meditation is simply a tool for reconnection with self. Meditation is simple and only requires a few minutes. Learning how to meditate will help you bring yourself back when you are feeling completely off – emotional overwhelm, anxiety etc.
In our next blog, we explore our rhythms and cycles around sleep and how these can prepare us for a quality of sleep that is both deeply rejuvenating and healing. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, why not try playfully practice conscious presence in your daily activities, include the gentle breath meditation as part of your daily rhythm and see how that feels in your body? It is about developing our ability to make self-loving choices, not about discipline.
Donna Nolan and Alexandra Plane teach Yoga, Meditation and assist people in their healing via Esoteric Therapies, Massage, Yoga and Meditation. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org