Yoga For Better Sleep!

Dr Ishwar V. Basavaraddi

“Yoga Practice without a Sound Sleep is as futile as washing mud with soap”

Sleep can never be substituted with any amount of meditation or Dhyana. The only right way of body and mind regeneration is through a bountiful sleep overnight that brings complete relaxation of human systems. Yoga, undoubtedly, helps in bringing about a good sleep when practised timely and regularly. It is a lifestyle discipline that optimizes our schedules and ability to fall into a better and plentiful sleep every night.

Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga under the umbrella of it’s November initiative ‘Yoga Nidra’ for promotion of immunity, organised a weekly webinar on the topic, “Yoga For Sleep,” introduced by Dr Ishwar V. Basavaraddi, Director, MDNIY, with Taiyab Alam, Communication and Documentation Officer along with other members of the institute on the panel.

Dr Basavaraddi addressed the webinar with his introductory remarks welcoming the esteemed guest speaker, Prof. R. S. Bhogal, Joint Director of Research, Scientific Research Department, Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Swami Kuvalyananda Marg, Lonavla, Pune. Prof. Bhogal, a post-graduate in psychology, with many years of research and teaching experience has authored three highly acclaimed multilingual books; 

i) Psycho-physiology of Traditional Yoga (in Korean)

ii) Yoga and Modern Psychology (in English and German)

iii) Yoga and Mental Health and Beyond (in English)

Dr Basavaraddi deliberated upon the objectives of this session and the others conducted previously, which aim to further the importance of ‘Yoga for Immunity’ – a drive started by the Ministry of Ayush to promote large scale development of public health and wellness all over the country and abroad.

He quoted Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which says Chitta, i.e, mind and intellect correspond perfectly well with prana – the energy dynamics of the body, creating a balanced mind-body interaction. Therefore, calming down the mental activities through Raja Yoga – meditation practices (Dhayana, Samadhi, etc) and correcting Pranic dynamics through Hatha Yoga practices would result into an ideal mind-body interaction that in turn regulates all our psycho-physiological process including sleep and waking cycle becoming normal.

Prof. R. S. Bhogal began by quoting Taittiriya Aranyaka;

Om Annamaya Pranamaya Manomaya Vijnanamay Anandamaya me Shuddhyantam, Jyoti aham Viraja Vipapma Bhooya sam me swaha

Throughout the session, Prof. Bhogal referenced holy scripture Gita and its Shlokas to connect the scientific elements of sleep along with Yogic practices that bring better sleep in our upturned lifestyles.

He opinionated that “there is a lot of misconception among people that they can substitute sleep with certain practices or 20 min. of meditation or Shavasana equals 7 hours of sleep, which is entirely false. Nothing can substitute a good amount of sleep that our body needs on a daily basis.” He further iterates that, “Yoga alone is never enough, i.e, Before Yoga, we should have a sound sleep and also before sleep we should have a sound yoga.

After this, Prof. Bhogal went on to explain different sequential cycles of sleep and how they affect us; wake, Light Sleep – good for Auto Suggestion, Deep Sleep – regeneration from all the loss due to wear and tear, REM – for mental Catharsis, where we have dreams, is helpful in neutralising “day residue”, and repeat. 

He talks about Akasha Traya, awareness of three kinds that influence our quality of sleep, namely;

BahyakashaAwareness of whatever is happening around us through touch receptors, pressure changes, sensory experiences, sensations felt through all senses (Prayoga)

Antarakasha:  Interoceptive Awareness comprising proprioception and visceroception and vestibular awareness, i.e, feeling our body as it is without inhibitions. (Samprayoga)

Cidakasha: Non-muscular and non-interoceptive awareness giving us subtler abstract awareness  (Samprasada), approaching bliss (Ananda) i.e. absolute joy.

Prof Bhogal emphasised that among all these Akasha Traya, Antarakasha is the most important, given it focuses on interoceptive awareness – opening our consciousness with oneself. He then talks about Melatonin, a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and then released into the bloodstream, which helps regulate circadian rhythm and synchronizes our sleep-wake cycle with night and day, facilitating a transition to sleep and promotes consistent, quality rest. Moreover, it also is useful in Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder (DSWPD) and jet lag. Helps children with certain conditions including epilepsy and some neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

According to Prof. Bhogal, the basic cause of disturbed sleep is Kleshas (Obstructions). There are five Kleshas;  Avidya (ignorance), Asmita or (selfishness), Raga (attachment), Dvesha (aversion) and Abhinivesha (fear), but here, in particular, he talks about Attachment bordering indulgence and Antipathy (that creates enduring impressions feeding into making Kleshas more pronounced) that disturb our path towards a good sleep.

Emphasising upon the Yogic Management of Sleep, Prof Bhogal talked about certain basic philosophical background preparation through –

  • Patanjala Yoga & Bhagwat Gita
  • Long term Management through Kriya Yoga – which as per Patanjala Yoga Sutra attenuates Kleshas, (the root cause of all existential problems) and creates meditative mental set; Pranayama & Meditation – for complete relaxation.
  • Immediate Management of Sleep; Slow Eye Movement stage- 1 Sleep and Lucid Dream.
Image Source: PPT presented during webinar

Prof Bhogal iterates that Yoga practices enhance internal awareness through Interoception that interlinks physical level and the deeper states of consciousness giving a relaxation useful for sleep. In addition to this, he suggests recitation on OM Omkara, and Gayatri Mantra that stimulates parasympathetic ganglia on either side of the spinal cord, resulting into a parasympathetic shift, culminating into an Abstract Awareness of Citta Vishranti.

Image Source: PPT presented during webinar

He quotes from Gita, Hridya Vichchhinnam Omkaram Ghanta Nadam Bisornavat,”

Meaning; The Sound of the Omkar should be as tender as the fine capillary of the Lotus stem, creating vibrations in the Heart and should also be as tapering as the sound of the Big Bell.

In the interactive session between Dr Basavaraddi and Prof. Bhopal, Director MDNIY sought the guest speaker’s suggestion on the benefits of waking at Brahma Muhurta, or early in the morning wherein an individual develops their waking schedule which becomes a recurrent habit

Prof. Bhogal iterates that “any person who wants to fix a waking time will have to develop ‘Anushasan’ (discipline) – our body only needs a limited amount of sleep depending on our body composition and work schedules.”

Discipline and mindset to perform our activities, based on Praharas – be it Yoga, waking, sleeping, working – is important to create a routine. He further referenced that “great Personalities like Guru Gobind Singh, used to wake at 3 am in the morning, but were still able to work productively throughout the day.” Therefore, it is paramount to bring discipline in our lifestyle in order to reap the benefits of Yoga for Better Sleep!

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