Everyone can use a little help falling asleep at night. Most people have a bedtime ritual, such as drinking a calming tea, lighting a candle, or maybe writing in a journal or meditating. If long, intricate, or even simple meditations are not your thing, here are two different breathing techniques used in yoga that can send you off to the land of zzzs. When trying these techniques, it is a great idea to have a pen and paper next to you so that if you have any gnawing thoughts that won’t quit, you can write them down so they go away (rest assured you will remember them in the morning). Sweet dreams!
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Encourages deep relaxation by balancing the left and right sides of the brain while calming the nervous system
Sit comfortably in or next to your bed (cross-legged, kneeling, propped up on blankets, or any way that feels the best for you), resting your left hand on your left thigh. Take your right hand with the fingers extended like you are waving at someone and bend your peace fingers (pointer and middle finger) so they curl into your palm.
Rest your right ring finger and thumb on either side of your nostrils, lightly touching them but not constricting. Take a big breath in and a big breath out, then close off the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril fully for a count of four. At the top of that breath, close off the left nostril with your ring finger, hold and retain the breath for a count of four, and then release the right nostril and exhale for a count of four.
Next, inhale deeply for a count of four through the right nostril, close it off, hold and retain the breath for a count of four, and then release the left nostril as you exhale completely through it for a count of four. Proceed to inhale deeply through the left, repeating the cycle.
Do this as many rounds as you like, being sure to exhale through the left nostril to complete your last cycle. Once you are done, lie down in bed and drift away!
RELATED: Need more help conking out? Try these five simple tips for better sleep tonight!
Deep Throat Breathing
Calms the mind and relaxes the entire body
This one can be done lying down in bed. Lie on your back with your legs about hip-distance apart, arms relaxing on either side of your body, and eyes closed. Take a few deep inhales through your nose, exhaling out of your mouth. With each inhale, fill your lungs completely, and with each exhale, rid them of all of the air.
After three breaths, take a deep inhale through your nose for a count of four, slightly constricting the back of your throat so that it feels like you are breathing through a straw at the back of your throat and filling your lungs. The sound of your breath should almost mimic the soft sound of waves coming in and out. That sound is a huge part of what helps you fall asleep. (It can also be likened to the sound of a baby snoring.) Hold the breath at the top for a count of four while you quietly observe how you feel; try to feel full and relaxed. Then exhale through your nose for a count of four, again, slightly constricting your throat.
When all of the air is out of your lungs, start to fill them again as you inhale for a count of six. Hold this breath for a count of six, then exhale for a count of six. Continue in this manner, adding two counts each cycle for as long as is comfortable for you.
When you reach your max capacity of holding and breathing, start taking away two counts each time. So, if 12 beats is the most you can hold your breath comfortably, the next round, do 10 counts, then 8, and so forth.
Once you get back to a four-count breath, release all effort, come back to your normal breathing, and enjoy your slumber!
Photos: Vera Boykewich