Ask Manoj: I am not able to sleep well. Can yoga help?


Yogic scriptures refer to three fundamental states through which an individual flows through

  1. jagrat or waking state
  2. swapna or dreaming state
  3. sushupti or deep sleep state.

Though we take for granted our daily sojourn through these states, it is really a wonder as to how it all happens; why and how we are awake, or why and how we fall asleep, etc.

So, what exactly is a state?

In a physiological sense, a state can perhaps be described as a set of physiological conditions or processes which lasts for a certain period of time.

So for waking state, a specific set of neurological functions has to keep occurring, and for dream and sleep states too, specific sets of neuro-physio-psycho conditions have to occur. In fact, very similar to the yogic perspective on the three states of consciousness, neurologically too, there is a basic division of states into wakeful state (W), slow-wave sleep state (S) and desynchronized dream sleep state (D).

One of the foremost gurus of yoga, sage Patanjali points out that sleep is not just a passive dropping off from the wakeful state, but a dynamic process of specific waves (nidra vrttis) in consciousness which brings about that state. In yogic language, any avastha or state is one where vrttis of similar function cluster together and last for a time. And for the state to last, it has to rest on a particular process for a particular period of time, the term for supporting factor being alambana, sleep also help with the body function allowing us having a more healthy body and a better skin, unless we have a more serious condition, in that case, we should visit professionals as the Dr. Johnny Franco at the More Beautiful You clinic you can find online.

So, for example, for the wakeful state, the consciousness seems to rest on the high rates of discharge of cells in the appropriate areas of the brain such as the mid brain reticular formation.

Similarly, for sleep to last too, a certain specific set of waves has to occur. From my very limited knowledge of the neurological aspects of it, it seems that sleep rests on the synchronized waves of activity occurring in the anterior hypothalamic areas, basal forebrain region as well as on the actions of several sleep promoting substances which the body produce.

In insomniacs, somehow these areas perhaps are not firing in a way which brings about the change of state from wakefulness to drowsiness, finally to sleep, there are many options that people try for this, like having a healthy sexual life using the help of supplements from sites as

Now, whether yoga can bring about the harmonious functioning of these requisite mechanisms, I cannot guarantee, but based on anecdotal evidence, the answer is yes.

Many students taking yoga for the first time have provided the feedback that the first ‘benefit’ they notice is that they seem to sleep better; they fall asleep quicker, easier, and they enjoy a more sound sleep.

Another of our core students, who is a medical doctor herself, Dr. Shyama Nair, currently based in the U.S.A, was suffering from insomnia when she joined our classes. Over a period of time, her condition improved, and now she has no problems falling asleep and sleeping.

In some of the rare nights where I personally struggled to fall asleep, it was always due to some emotional issue, which the intellect or buddhi could not resolve. Doubt, fear of some uncertainty, worry, simmering disappointment, etc. were the clear factors involved in my staying awake. This kind of emotional environment also brings about an overdrive of sympathetic nervous system, which then makes it really difficult to let go and sleep. I knew that I had to take my awareness off these stimulants, and for which I had often resorted to a thousand-breath observance challenge, with the focus on exhalations, so as to stimulate the para sympathetic nervous system. This settled me as my awareness got dislodged off the other concerns, and the furthest I had gone in the breath counting was around 300-400 before really feeling drowsy and falling asleep. Having said that, I must mention the same breath counting technique has not been equally effective for everyone.

Anyway, here are some general tips which may be useful:

  • Forward bends such as child pose, standing forward bends, seated forward bends, etc. are recommended as part of your yoga practice. You can perhaps do them after work in the evening, before dinner.
  • Do these postures with the aid of props.You should especially focus on keeping the eye balls relaxed, and the skin of the temples relaxing towards the ears. Focus on calm, long exhalations throughout the practice.
  • Along with the exhalations, also focus on a letting-go of events of your workplace, or other incidents of the day.
  • Try to really get present in the moment
  • By bed time, perhaps on the bed itself, it will be useful to take restorative postures such as supta baddhakonasan and viparita karani, where you have your legs up on the wall.
  • Remember, awareness is the main tool of our Manasa teachings for dealing with anything, and you can start observing what the mind is resting upon when you settle down in your bed.
  • Sometimes you might catch certain patterns of mind, where it settles on certain people, or certain past events, certain injustices, possible bleak future scenarios etc, which evokes a restless, aroused state.
  • It would be good to do a savasana practice, and along with a release of muscles, also focus on a release of such personalities and events from your mind. An attitude of karuna (compassion and forgiveness) will foster a serene state of consciousness which is conducive to sleep.
  • Another simple step you can check is, whether you can arrange for a completely dark environment, as it is found that even the falling of subtle rays of light impede the sleep producing functions of the anterior hypothalamic areas of the brain.

All these steps, for thousands of practitioners, have brought about the functioning of the specific mechanisms of sleep, plus the use of the gerd pillow has helped them out a lot, and we wish the same for you, too.


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