Stretch Your Way to sleep

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • An article from suggests that older people who practice tai chi chih improve their sleep. Tai chi chih is a version of the ancient Chinese martial art, tai chi. However, tai chi chih is not a martial art, and no violence is involved.


    Dr. Michael R. Irwin, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who headed the research team, stated that tai chi chih provided benefits similar to those obtained using drugs or CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy.)


    However, many of the oriental arts can benefit those having trouble sleeping. Yoga, for instance, is an excellent way to reduce stress and relax the body.

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    Yoga is an ancient system of exercises and personal development for the body, mind and spirit. It originated in India over 5000 years ago.


    With its gentle movements, deep breathing and long stretches (like an animal preparing to bed down) it's an ideal method of relaxation for your pre-bedtime routine. Strenuous exercise near bedtime is not recommended, as it is stimulating and can keep you awake. Yoga, on the other hand, promotes a slowing down of the body and mind and encourages sleep.


    If you suffer from insomnia, whether it's only occasionally or if it's chronic, yoga might be one way of overcoming it without resorting to sleeping pills. If you have trouble falling asleep when you first go to bed, try about 30 minutes of slow yoga stretches and meditation about half an hour before bedtime. This will give your mind a chance to rest from the continual bombardment of thoughts and worries.


    If you have a tendency to wake up in the early hours of the morning and you cannot get back to sleep, try some deep breathing exercises. Concentrate on the sound and rhythm of your breathing. Another good idea is to use a chant to drown out your thoughts. "Ohm" is the sound many practitioners use, but any simple word or phrase will do - Love, health, I am. Concentrate on the sound of that word to the elimination of all else from your mind.


    A regular practice session every day, perhaps thirty minutes in duration, doing some of the yoga stretches, is beneficial to body, mind and spirit. Done over a length of time, these exercises can bring peace to the mind, improve the body, and help you get in touch with the spiritual within you.


    There are many difficult poses in yoga, but it's not necessary to twist your body into any pose that isn't comfortable for you. The deep breathing exercises are many and varied. They are called pranayama. Some are practiced in a sitting position with the head up and the spine straight. Others are practiced standing straight and tall. The alternate nostril breathing technique (nadi sodhana) is great for relieving stress, depression and other mental and physical problems.


    If you can manage it, find a class or a teacher and learn some of the asanas. If no class or teacher is available, then find a good book or a video. Do only the exercises that seem appropriate to you. When doing yoga, never strain. Instead, relax.

Published On: July 14, 2008