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Sequences for Sleep and Calming the Brain

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A lot of practitioners in my classes lately have been talking to me about having some mild insomnia and mental fatigue. Energetically this is quite normal for the spring, and it is exacerbated by the emotional stress we all feel from the marathon anniversary as well as the sudden warm weather.

 The wonderful thing, of the many wonderful things, about yoga asana is that they do not just make you strong and flexible. Asana, when used in the proper way, can be remarkably beneficial to every system of the body. Asana also works both physiologically and energetically, meaning that they address the physical body and the energetic system at the same time. When the energetic system is in balance, we have a sense of well-being and our biorhythms flow naturally. When the energetic system is out of balance, we feel stress and our biorhythms become imbalanced. The energetic system can be imbalanced by being depleted, overloaded, or stagnated.

Energetic overload with a dash of stagnation is what I have been noticing this week. Foggy minds, overtaxed nervous systems, and general fidgety stress. It's no surprise mental fatigue and insomnia are surfacing left and right. We need sequences that calm the body into a place of feeling safe and relaxed. We need sequences that allow the brain to begin to wind down to have a sense of ease, steadiness, and clarity.

Below are two sequences that help with this kind of overload. They include lots of easy inversions, including Down Dog and Standing Forward Folds, and long holds in restful poses. The idea energetically is to drain the excess energy from the system and then allow the body to replenish itself through rest and sleep.

Soothing the Brain
Do this sequence when you are feeling fed up and stressed out from too much multitasking or when you feel tired and you can't slow down. It will calm your brain, wash out your head, and give you a wonderful sense of clarity and balance. It will also help you to rest better at night, but don't do it right before bed.

PS, lest it not be obvious, if you don't know how to do these poses safely, ask a qualified yoga teacher to help you out.

1. Child's Pose (2-3 minutes)
2. Down Dog (2 minutes, inhaling through the nose, out through the mouth)
3. Standing Forward Fold (2 minutes, relaxing the jaw and face)
4. Down Dog (1 minute)
5. Wide Leg Forward Fold with Blocks Under Head (2 minutes)
6. Half Pigeon (1.5 minutes each side)
7. Reclined Twist (30 seconds each side)
8. Supported Bridge (5 minutes)
9. Supta Baddha Konasana (3-5 minutes)
10. Easy Inversion with Block (3-5 minutes)
11. Savasana (at least 7 minutes)

Insomnia
There are many energetic causes of insomnia so there are of course many different pose sequences to alleviate it. The sequence below is for when you can't get your mind to stop running and can't fall asleep or if you are prone to waking in the middle of the night with a racing mind. It can be done right before bed or at any time in the evening preferably 30 minutes or more after dinner.

To really blow your mind, play some soothing music during this sequence.
1. Easy Inversion with Block Eyes Covered (5 minutes)
2. Supported Bridge Pose Eyes Covered (5 Minutes)
3. Savasana with Sama Vritti Pranayama Eyes Covered (7 minutes)
a. Sama Vritti Pranayama translates to "Same Interval Breath". You breathe in and out for the same duration. Usually a slow count of 10 works, but if that feels too straning 8 or 6 is fine.  The important thing is that the inhale and exhale are the same interval. 10 in, 10 out.

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