From Aums to ZZZs – How yoga can help improve your sleep

Do you wake up feeling refreshed and energised? Or are you more likely to want to pull the covers over your face and fall back to sleep?

Sadly in today’s fast paced world many of us are not getting enough good quality sleep. In fact a 2016 report by researchers at the University of Adelaide states that nearly half of Australian adults have two or more sleep problems, like difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty staying sleep or daytime sleepiness or fatigue.

But the good news is – yoga can help! Here’s how and why

  • Improve wellbeing: It may sound obvious but it’s good to remember that you sleep better if you enjoygood general health.In fact Dr Carmel Harrington, sleep therapist and Managing Director of Sleep for Health argues that sleep is one of the three pillars of health, the others being food and exercise. Yoga greatly improves our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Better circulation, physical tone and flexibility, nervous system functioning and hormonal balance are among the myriad of benefits of yoga practice.
  • Routine and regularity: A yogic lifestyle involves regularityin the day: rising, eating and going to bed at the same time each day. This helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Yoga also encourages mindful eating of fresh seasonal food.
  • Keep calm! Yoga can enhance sleep by reducing anxiety and worry. Full slow yoga breathing emphasising a relaxed abdominal movementactivates the parasympathetic nervous system(PNS). This is the part of your autonomic nervous system that calms you down, slows the heart and breathing rate, reduces blood pressure and stimulates peristalsis and bile production for digestion. It is designed to enable the body to digest, assimilate and conserve energy, as well as to promote rest and repair, as opposed to your sympathetic nervous system which prepares you for action and is responsible for your stress response.
  • Be a witness not a worrier: Meditation techniques like observing sounds, physical sensations, breath flow and thoughts help to develop the attitude of a witness, so that you are less inclined to identify with these anxiety thoughts and emotions. This self-awareness also allows you to recognise signs of any build- up of physical tension (not a useful sleeping companion!) which you may then alleviate by using breath awareness in that part of the body.
  • Try Trataka: This is a classic technique of gazing with soft eyes at an external object like a flower or some simple image. Avoid the traditional candle gazing if you are doing this just before bed, but at other times of the day it’s fine.

PLUS – Check out the next issue of International Light for a Yoga routine and Pranayama practices designed to soothe you to sleep!


Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, S., McEvoy, D. & Antic, N.Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults.The University of Adelaide & The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.

Yoga Poses that help with sleep


From motorbike to mat

When Tammy Peters signed up to an endurance motorbike race it became the start of another journey too…

Tammy, 33, might stand at just five foot nothing and weigh in at 50 kilos, but she had a very big goal in mind when she signed up for the Finke Desert race – a 460 km ride across the desert.

To help her prepare for the gruelling two-day race she decided to try yoga. “I knew the race would be a lot of strain on my wrists and forearms, so I went to yoga to help build up strength,” Tammy says.

What Tammy didn’t realise at the time, was just how valuable yoga would also be in helping build resilience, focus and mental strength.

Tammy loved the yoga classes with her teacher, Barbie Clutterbuck at the Port Lincoln School of Yoga and she found the practices and poses certainly helped when she took part in the race alongside her husband and brother.

In fact it was such great preparation that Tammy decided to deepen her yoga knowledge, but living in Port Lincoln – a seven hour drive from Adelaide, Tammy’s options were limited.

Luckily Barbie told her about the IYTA’s Foundation of Yoga Studies & the Diploma course which Tammy could do by correspondence.

Tammy enrolled and is really enjoying the course.

She says: “The videos are great and you do feel part of it even though you are not physically there, plus with live streaming there is the option to text through questions.”

Now every lecture on the IYTA’s International Diploma of Yoga Teacher course is filmed and live streamed, so students can watch it in real time. Plus they are sent the edited films after each study weekend, so they can watch in their own time as well.

Tammy has also found the yoga has helped with her job as Chief Operating Officer of a Building and Maintenance Company. Tammy has a staff of around 25 people and believes what she has learnt so far has made her a better manager.

Find out more about the Foundation Studies Course and the International Diploma of Yoga Teaching.