Three and a half years ago, I worked a (more than) full-time job in public accounting, and I ran a martial arts and yoga studio with my husband. I worked all day and most of the night hours, too. I operated on little to no sleep at all. All-nighters were a regular occurrence.

People used to marvel at how I managed to do it all on four hours (or less) of sleep a night. The truth is, doing it all came at a very high price – my health. Of all the changes I’ve made the last few years, I believe that consistently getting eight hours a sleep a night has made the biggest difference in my health and well being. (That is why I felt I needed to salute the sleepy mamas!)

The road toward doing less was not easy. There was pain and sadness as I let go of dreams and plans. But, my yoga mat has always been a place where I can safely explore the choices I’ve made off the mat. When I practice yoga, I gain not only clarity and perspective, but I also unwrap the confidence to make hard decisions.

If your schedule is packed so full that there is little to no room for sleep, commit to practicing Savasana every day for at least 20 minutes. Then, spend five minutes afterwards reflecting on your commitments and priorities. The doing of nothing is a great place to begin your journey toward doing less.

Now, I know many of you would love to get more sleep, but you just can’t seem to fall or stay asleep. If counting sheep hasn’t lulled you to dreamland, maybe you need a yoga nightcap.

There are a few conditions that when met, aid in inducing the body into sleep. You should be in a reclining position. The room should be quiet and dark. A repetitive stimulus, like a white noise machine or the sound of a ceiling fan can be helpful. You should be warm, comfortable and still. Your muscles should be relaxed. And, you should be free of stress and have a passive attitude. (Did your mental car just come to a grinding halt?)

Most of us can easily meet the external conditions, but not everything on this list is simple to accomplish. If you are in physical pain, it is hard to find a comfortable position, remain still and relax your muscles. If you have a pulse, you are probably not free of stress. But, this is where yoga can help. The regular practice of a few simple poses can aid in reducing physical pain, relaxing your muscles and reducing your stress.

A Yoga Nightcap

About an hour or two before bedtime, enjoy a yoga nightcap. First, practice three to five rounds of Chandra Namaskar (moon salutation). From Tadasana (mountain pose), inhale your arms overhead, then exhale and fold forward into Uttanasana (standing forward bend). Remain for two to three breaths. Inhale back up to Tadasana.

Next, enjoy a Bharadvajasana (reclining twist or “splat pose”). Remain in this pose for three to five minutes. Then, repeat on the left side.

Finally, enjoy 10 – 15 minutes in Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose).

Sweet dreams!

What do you do to ensure a good night’s rest? Do you also see the connection between the amount of sleep you get and your health? Let’s hear all about it!

P.S. This post is part of a series about how I’ve used yoga to transform my body. See here for additional posts in this series.

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