According to the National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org), fewer than half of all Americans sleep long enough or well enough. Sleep deprivation depresses your immune system, increases irritability, and slows your reaction time. Losing sleep can also accelerate the aging process.
All forms of exercise help you sleep better, because exercise is the best antidote for stress, and stress is what usually causes sleeplessness. Yoga with weights may be the best answer to your sleep problems, because the exercise program helps you relax and de-stress.
If you're the kind of person who gets revved up on account of stress, exercising uses up your excess energy so you can sleep. If you're the type of person who feels overwhelmed and listless as a result of stress, exercising helps you achieve clarity so you feel less overwhelmed and more tired. Exercise helps regulate and balance your ability to sleep naturally.
If you wake up agitated in the middle of the night, or if you're suffering from insomnia, try taking the long, slow, yogic breaths we describe in Chapter 4. Or try this technique: Lie on your bed with your eyes closed and your hands resting on your belly. As you inhale, feel your belly expand and rise to the ceiling. As you exhale, feel it softly contract, and visualize your belly drawing closer to your spine. By focusing on the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe, you still and soothe your mind. You quiet your thoughts and, in doing so, permit yourself to fall asleep. Deep-belly breathing helps trigger the relaxation response in your brain.
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