Yoga For Insomnia ~ Tips To Get You Started

Yoga For Insomnia

Yoga For InsomniaNot sleeping so great? I feel for you, I really do. Insomnia is what brought me to meditation and then yoga many years ago.  You can read more about that here and listen to my Facebook Live talk if you are interested to hear my story.

Insomnia is a very common complaint with almost half of adults experiencing symptoms on a few nights a week. It is more prevalent in women and older adults but anyone can be affected. (www.sleepoz.org.au)

Just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal wellness, so is sleep. As a yoga therapist, I often observe that there is a direct relationship between the quality of a person’s sleep and the quality of their waking life.

Insomnia can have complex and far reaching effects into the overall health and wellbeing of a person.  This often includes people close to them and communities at large. Many turn to pharmaceuticals to combat the problem but this is rarely a long term solution.

How Yoga Can Help With Sleep

Yoga can be a fantastic way of dealing with insomnia over the long term. It provides an excellent opportunity to relieve stress, improve self-awareness. The practices have more effect over time with minimal adverse side effects.

Most importantly guidance is required with what techniques to practice when or you could end up making the situation worse.  Yes, yoga could make your insomnia worse!  For example, having a really strong, stimulating or energising practice in the late evening.  Although this might be great for waking you up in the morning, it is not so great later. So, you might ensure your yoga teacher/therapist is confident to prescribe techniques therapeutically in order to get the best outcome.

There is a growing evidence base of research supporting the effectiveness of yoga in treating insomnia. We go through some of this in our yoga for insomnia workshops. Many techniques have been shown to be effective.  These include asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), concentration techniques, meditation and awareness exercises.

Yoga is an active therapy, this means you have to be ready and willing to make change for it to work! So, here is my action plan for incorporating yoga into your lifestyle to help ease insomnia.

Yoga For Insomnia – Action Plan

  1. As a starting point, follow good sleep hygiene practices see here
  2. Find a yoga teacher who has classes near to where you live and start attending regularly, if you need help looking, let us know! Regular practice will give the greatest benefit.
  3. Keep a sleep diary for a week so you and your  yoga teacher can analyze it for any patterns
  4. See a yoga therapist who can help you get to the root of the problem and then prescribe something that is tailored to you as an individual.
  5. Come along to one of our workshops which will arm you with a heap of yogic tools to use to help combat insomnia (and there is cake & chai!)

At Charleyoga, we aim to educate and empower you with yogic tools that are easy to learn an practice.  Some you can use regularly as a preventative measure.   Other techniques are perfect to use in place of spending hours tossing and turning in bed. They can be extremely effective if you are willing to commit to an “active” therapy. Yoga is not a passive form of therapy so requires a willingness to make change and become more self-aware (mindful).

It’s always beneficial to get live training and to build up a working, experiential knowledge of yoga by joining a class.  You could start by watching this recording of a talk I did on Yoga for Insomnia here.  I’ve been been offering insomnia workshops and yoga classes Perth clients with sleeping issues have had successful outcomes with for many years. Contact us today for more details, or go ahead and book into a class.

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

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My Mum The Accidental Muse

Family Yoga Perth MumLooking at this picture you may think you already know what I’m going to write.  Perhaps something like –  “My mother was a yogi from a very young age.  She moves calmly through her day with ease and grace and is such an inspiration to me and taught me all I know.”

Well, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth!  She did teach me a heck of a lot though, that’s for sure! Without realising it, my Mum was the catalyst for me starting yoga and an accidental muse as is the case with most good muses so I hear!

Family Yoga

You see, my slightly crazy and amazing Mum (think Dad may have been involved somewhere too?) decided to have 5 children.   She then unofficially adopted another and if that wasn’t already enough, ran a family day care from our family home.  Among all the hectic craziness of our loving home, I found I craved peace and quiet.  I also had difficulty sleeping as there always seemed to be someone up and about. This is what brought me to yoga at age 11, suffering from insomnia. I used to stress out about the noise, mess & busyness of our home but quickly realised that it wasn’t going to go away.

Yoga For Stress Relief

As a self confessed person of action and an avid reader, I took to researching the problem myself. I was delighted to discover the joy of finding a place of internal quiet and peace through meditation, breath work and eventually the whole package in yoga.  So, you see, I really do have my Mum and the whole of my family to thank including my late Dad and siblings Renee, Lisette, Melissa, Nick & Kerry. I really don’t mean to sound like our home environment was horrible, quite the opposite in fact.

So, when you come to along to my yoga classes, we don’t have a fancy, freshly decorated and peaceful studio dedicated to our yoga practice (although that would be nice!).  We run classes in spaces where there are often other things going on outside of our control.  This often comes with little disturbances that might intrude on our practice momentarily. However, I see these as useful opportunities to find that place of internal peace and practice for real!

Anyone can find calm in a quiet, comfortable space but does that really sound like your day to day life?

Charley Hickey

 

 

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About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

How To Cheat A Yogic Psych Test

Charley Yoga Fremantle

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

Some of you may have heard of an exercise called the three blessings or a gratitude exercise. From what I understand, it’s a commonly used tool in positive psychology where you ask a person to think of three things that they are grateful for in their day that has been. I thought this was a great thing to introduce to my kids to so every night before bed so I ask my young son to recount to me three things in his day that he is grateful for. Being such a smarty pants (not sure where he gets that from?) he’s come up with a handy little cheat that works every single time. His third item is always “right now” at which point he gives me a hug and kiss. The reason it’s so smart is that as well as knowing I’m a sucker for his kisses & cuddles which he adds in as the kicker, he knows that “right now” is where true happiness is. This is because we’ve discussed it many times, however, I totally get that he is only saying it to please me as he knows it is what I want to hear. I’m not saying he is enlightened and ahead of his time by any means, just cheeky! We’ll keep doing it though in the hope that these concepts might be carried into his adulthood and seep into his much more “serious” adult life.

The gratitude exercise is a challenging one to begin with, especially when you’ve had a “bad” day but like any other practice, it gets easier with time.  These days, I find because we practice this so often, we are able to see the things we are grateful for much more easily as we are regularly mindful of what it is in life that we are truly grateful for. Sometimes we have four or five things each and find it hard to pick out only three! This is a good example of “Tapas” in yoga which means discipline or regular practice. This regular practice means that gratitude becomes easier and more natural over time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a believer in turning everything into a positive, this is both unreasonable and unattainable. We talk about the bad stuff too but this little exercise stops us from becoming overwhelmed by the bad stuff. This is a good example of “Santosha” or contentment – being able to find contentment amongst the full spectrum of emotion that we go through in our daily lives. The good, the bad and the times where we are tempted to simply write-off the day completely and start again tomorrow thus ignoring our innate ability to be content in the moment if we simply allow it.

Yoga Sutra 1.1 tells us “Atha yoga anushasanam” which can be taken to mean “Now begins the practice of yoga” – Now meaning right now, here, in the present moment – see, I told you my son was a smarty pants cheater!

Can you bring to mind three things in your day that you are grateful for? How about on a “bad” day? I’d love for you to give it a try :)

Charley Hickey

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Why You Should Never Trust A Yoga Teacher…

Private Yoga Classes

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

Yesterday I did a very silly thing; I trusted someone else’s judgement on something that I was much better placed to judge myself. I squeezed myself into a rather tight parking bay (you already know how this is going to end!). I knew I could get out so was in the process of doing a 20 point turn when a “helpful” passer-by stepped in.  I wish I’d trusted my own judgement instead of her yelling “You’ve still got heaps of room love, just go!” It was only a very small scratch but still, I was annoyed at myself for being silly as it wouldn’t have happened if I’d trusted my own judgement.

This is the exact same reason why you should never trust a yoga teacher over and above the signals coming from your own body. You know your own body the best and should always trust that judgement. Even if your teacher is encouraging you to change position slightly or try something new that should work for your body. They do not live in your body, you do! They cannot possibly feel what’s happening in your body, you can! Yoga teachers will never mind if you say “That doesn’t feel quite right for me today.” In fact, they will most likely feel proud of you for taking this decision on yourself and tuning into the wisdom of your own body.  You’ve probably heard your yoga teacher say this before anyway so the chances are, they would be feeling pretty smug right now seeing you put into practice :)

I remind my students that I’m just there to guide them, a bit like a running commentary in the background which occasionally you switch off to as the real thing is going on in your own body and it’s so much more important to stay tuned into that. I’m often proud of my students for ignoring me and doing something completely different to what I’m instructing. As a teacher, it doesn’t bother me at all and I don’t find it distracting to have students that aren’t always following what I’m saying – they are hearing it of course but then they are listening to their bodies and going with that.

I’m not saying you should ignore your yoga teacher completely; it would be pointless coming to a class if you didn’t surrender to some degree to have someone guiding you. But it really is just that, guiding, you can pull away and go off on your own for a bit here and there and your teacher will be watching to ensure you don’t do anything that is potentially dangerous.

As a yoga student, it can feel strange at first to make a decision to ignore the teacher and do something different that works for you as it might go against your beliefs about “teachers”. However, I think this is a much safer way to practice and you learn a lot more about your body.

As a yoga teacher, I believe you must accept that you don’t always know better and are not always helpful and to question what the motivation is for getting a student into a particular pose a particular way? Is that useful for them and ultimately, is that useful for you?

Charley Hickey

Find out more about our gentle therapeutic yoga classes and private yoga classes in Fremantle & Applecross, Perth.

S**t That’s Hard To Swallow

Yoga Therapy Perth AustraliaI came across this on a menu board on a recent family trip to Thailand and it gave us all a laugh. Of course we knew full well what the intention was behind those words and that we’d be eating fried rice with crab – not crap!

It might seem like a bizarre connection to make but it reminded me of how I’ll sometimes be teaching a yoga class and say something in Sanskrit (the language that yoga practices are named from) and the pronunciation isn’t 100%. It’s not my area of strength so perhaps I’m inadvertently asking you to “clip your toenails” rather than execute “hand to big toe pose”! I’m not afraid to admit that I’m not an expert in everything; however the “intention” behind my words is always 100% wholesome. For example –

  • My intention is for you to safely practice a pose
  • My intention is for you to do it in a way where you can stay present in your own body
  • My intention is for you to quiet the craziness of your hectic mind
  • My intention is for you to discover something about yourself and get glimpses of your true nature.
  • My intention is pure, even though my pronunciation is s**t………..

This is yoga – both as a practice and as a state of being. Yoga is a means to quiet the craziness of your hectic mind so that you may glimpse your true nature. Again, this is my own interpretation of the yoga sutras (1.2 & 1.3) and isn’t absolute. Yoga is a state of being as well as a means of attaining that state of being and this can be a confusing concept.

I suggest that instead of getting caught up in technicalities when attending yoga classes,  it’s easier instead to focus on the intention behind the words, rather than the words themselves. These are some questions that you might ask yourself.

  • Am I practicing yoga?
  • Is this practice leading me towards this state of yoga?
  • Does this feel like a good fit for me?

These are much more important questions to ask ourselves than “Why didn’t this teacher pronounce or explain that the same way as my other teacher? I wonder who is right or more authentic? I can’t touch my toes yet, am I doing yoga?”  Refer again to “Yoga is a means to quiet the craziness of your hectic mind so that you may glimpse your true nature.” and herein, you will find the answer.

There are many ways to practice yoga and navigating all the different styles can be confusing but coming back to intention is a great way to pick the useful from the not so useful. Intention is a two way street so it can be nice every now and again to revisit this question yourself “What is my intention when I practice yoga?” The answer may not always be exactly the same each time but it may help you to get what it is that you need from your practice.

If you feel inspired to do so, I’d love to hear what your intention is for your practice at the moment. Simply go to our Facebook page here and find the post with this picture on it to make a comment :)

I’d also like to thank the delightful Leanne, an eastern states yoga therapist as she inadvertently inspired this BLOG post and sparked my interest after a wonderful talk she gave, I wonder if that was her intention?…….

Charley Hickey

Find out more about Yoga Therapy Perth Australia or gentle weekly yoga classes in Perth

Facebook Just Undid My Life’s Work…..

www.charleyoga.com.au(1)

I may be taking a risk here, questioning Facebook through a Facebook post but hey, that’s what Facebook is all about right?  I’m questioning, not insulting, just to be clear!

Charleyoga uses Facebook to keep in touch with you all, our interested followers.  It’s an amazing platform which we love using and intend to for many more years to come.  We do however also run a yoga school.  This of course is our core work which we try our best to be absolutely amazing at to keep our loyal followers happy.  I was really disheartened this week to find that my Facebook page has been labelled with a status/rating for how quickly we respond to messages that come through our Facebook page.  We are not displaying a high rating for this because guess what – our response time is 11 mins (averaged out to one hour) which is apparently TOO SLOW! Too slow?  They clearly haven’t read our blog about how “Slow Is The New Fast”, since this is the heart of our teachings.  We love helping people to slow down a little every now and again.

Speed alone is an awful way to measure the responsiveness of a business, it’s so much more than simply replying at super speed.  If we have to do it within 5 minutes at any time of the day or night then I’m proud to say that we don’t have a good rating for replying to messages!

So, although it may sometimes take us a whole hour to reply (yes a FULL hour!) this is because we may be resting between teaching classes, helping someone else, perhaps even sleeping.  What I can guarantee you though is the response you will get from us will be 100% personal, authentic, measured and will address each of your questions with the thought and care that we think you deserve.  That is why we have loyal customers, not because we respond in less than 5 minutes to a message.

I’d love for you to put a comment on the Facebook post that you followed to get to this link if you agree with some of what we are saying and guess what, we will even respond to it but maybe give us a few hours :)

Actually, I’d also like to thank Facebook as I wasn’t sure what to write in my BLOG this week but this really gave me something to think about!

Charley Hickey

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama – Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique

Alternate Nostril Breathing Instructions

Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique  ~ Nadi Shodhana Pranayama

(nadi = subtle energy channel; shodhana = cleaning, purification; pranayama = breathing technique)

Nadi Shodana is an easy and safe breathing technique with some promising therapeutic applications

BENEFITS INCLUDE:

*Balances L/R brain hemispheres

*Clears mind, improves focus

*Slows breathing rate

*Calms the central nervous system

HOW?

This technique has featured in a few studies with various findings:

*There is evidence to support its use to decrease heart rate and breathing rhythm and therefore cause parasympathetic nervous system dominance which creates a feeling of calm (Jovanow, E. 2005).

*It featured in another study which showed that participants had an increase in plasma melatonin levels after 3 months of yoga practice (Harinath, 2004). (melatonin is your naturally produced “sleep drug”)

*It was part of another study that showed improved stress and self-confidence scores in insomnia sufferers without any side effects (Sobana, 2013)

*Enhances respiratory function in school students (Sivapriya, 2010)

TO PRACTICE:

Sit comfortably or lie down if that’s easier. Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril.   Close off the right nostril gently and breathe in through the left nostril, then breathe back out the right, back in the right and then out the left. Out and in on one side, out and in on other side – follow this lovely pic if unsure & try to keep the breath really natural, no need to force it or lengthen/deepen it in any way. Continue for a few breaths or a few minutes, whatever you are comfortable with, finish with a breath out through the right nostril and pause to notice how you feel.

References

  • Jovanow, E (2005). On Spectral Analysis of Heart Rate Variability during Very Slow Yogic Breathing. Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society conference publications.
  • Sobana, R. (2013). The Effect of Yoga Therapy on Selected Psychological Variables Among Male Patients with Insomnia. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 7 (1), 55-57.
  • Harinath, K (2004). Effect of Hath Yoga and Omkar Meditation on Cardiorespiratory Performance, Psychological Profile and Melatonin Secretion. 10 (2), 261-268.
  • Shivapriya, D.V., Suba Malani, S. Thirumeni, S. (2010). Effect of Nadi Shodana Pranayama on Respiratory Parameters in School Students. Recent Research in Science and Technology, 2 (11), 32 – 39.

To All My Clients ~ “I Don’t Want to See You Anymore!”

private yoga therapy classes fremantle

Truly, I mean it, this is the ultimate goal of a practicing yoga therapist.  I really don’t want to see you anymore because that means that I have done my job and you are doing yours :)

If you are are unsure what yoga therapy is, here is a good definition – Yoga Therapy empowers and supports individuals to manage their own health and well-being using the principles of Yoga and applying a range of Yoga practices developed within a professional therapeutic relationship. (Australasian Association of Yoga Therapists www.yogatherapy.org.au)

Note “manage their own health and well-being” When a yoga  therapist works one on one with a client, the aim is that you actually write your own “prescription” that fits with your own life, your way for your own unique goals.  A yoga therapist guides you in this process but is hardly ever “telling you what to do”.  This is what makes yoga therapy so damned effective, that’s why it feels so manageable and easy to integrate your practice into your day.  A good yoga therapist will listen to what will work for you and never try to force their own way of doing things onto you.

We are here to connect with you regularly whilst you are integrating your practice into your routine, which can be a bumpy road at first but then, we are happiest when you are off on your own doing your own practice.   We’re keen to help you if you lose control of the reins every now and again or would like your practice updated but for the most part we don’t want to see you anymore!

Ok, so I’ve never met a millionaire yoga therapist but honestly, when I bump into a client months later and they say “when I was doing my practice the other day…” – that is worth more to me than any amount of money ever could.  I think “Wow, someone actually read that and still benefits from that crumpled up piece of scribbled hand written notes with the badly drawn stick figures on it from ages ago!”

By the way, I really didn’t mean it, I do love seeing you all but it made you learn a bit more about yoga therapy if you didn’t before so my work here is done, thanks for reading!

Charley Hickey

Read more about our private Yoga Therapy classes in Fremantle.

How To Get Away With “Morning Hair”

Yoga Workshops in PerthI had to laugh at this pic my young son drew last week, according to him my morning hair lasts all day (well technically that’s not morning hair then is it, but I digress….).   I’ll let you in on perhaps my best kept secret.  I hardly ever “do” my hair in the morning, it seems like such a waste of time to me and I hate it.

So, a few years go, I asked my hairdresser if she could  cut my hair in a way that I could just get up in the morning with my “morning hair” and get away with it all day without doing anything.  Mission accomplished and the funniest thing about it is my hair is always what gets the most compliments from people, even strangers say “wow, I love your hair!”  It’s astonishing and I honestly think it’s just my attitude about my hair rather than how good it looks that gets these comments.  I think my hair just really “fits” with me, my persona and my lifestyle and people notice that because honestly, sometimes it is an absolute mess when people say this!

I never thought I’d be writing a blog about my hair, in fact this is the most attention I’ve given my hair in years.

What this has all taught me is that going my own way on this and making it fit with my own lifestyle has made it easier, made me happier , contributed to me being a nicer person, less stressed & stopped me from spending time on something I hate.  Often simplifying something that is causing you unnecessary stress can be the answer.  The true challenge is in recognizing the things that are causing us stress in the  first place.  I’m sure I went on for years about how I hated doing my hair and getting ready for work in the mornings.  Now I throw on a pair of yoga pants, run my fingers through my hair and off I go!  So simple, yet has taken me years to simplify it down.

I feel like this is a good example of “Svadhyaya” or “Self-Study”  which is one of the “Niyamas” or practices that help to build a spiritual seeker’s character.  I’ve always thought that serious study of the yamas & niyamas (the 1st and 2nd limbs of the 8 limbs of yoga) was meant more for yoga teachers than students.  However, I can see how conscious self-study is definitely a part of a weekly yoga class once you have been practicing for a while.  Like many things we discover, it is often seemingly by accident!   The good news is you don’t have to do a lot of study if you don’t want to as your yoga teacher has already done it for you and is weaving the yamas and niyamas into each and every class for you and you can take it in by osmosis :)

Charley Hickey

If you want to know more about the 8 limbs of yoga, we run yoga workshops in Perth each year on this topic for yoga students that are interested to delve a little deeper into the philosophy, history and underpinnings of yoga.

What “Letting Go” Really Feels Like

Yoga Near Fremantle "Letting Go"

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I think we all know someone who gives the well-meaning advice of “Just let go…”.  I should know as I am one of those people and chances are if you are reading this, you’ve heard me say it during a yoga class! It’s easy advice to give but much harder in practice.

The picture above is an accurate representation of what “Letting Go” really feels like sometimes. Often there are no hearts & flowers, sailing off into the sunset, epiphanies, blue skies & rainbows. There is not always immediate relief or the anticipated sensation of a weight suddenly lifted from our shoulders. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still practice letting go, it just means that we must accept the challenge in its entirety. It won’t always be pretty!

What I’ve realised through my own ongoing practice and guiding others through theirs is that letting go is a process. A process that takes time, practice, patience and perseverance. Something that at times you think you have mastered and then realise quickly when the next time comes around that you are back to the pulling your hair out stage again!

For example, just recently I’ve been quite unwell with a virus that started during my holidays. I realised I wasn’t going to be able to go back to work as planned. In the past, I’ve struggled with letting go of my work responsibilities, partly because I enjoy it so much and love to be around the students that come to our classes. This time I again went through this struggling phase but realised much more quickly that I had to let go of it. Sure enough a bunch of relief yoga teachers came to the rescue, work was put on hold for a couple of weeks and nothing bad happened. That’s not to say I didn’t still have a few “hair tearing out” moments but they passed and I’ve been able to take my time to recover as I probably should have other times.

Just like most things in life, letting go is a process; an ever repeating one. It’s most certainly worth the effort just not always as easy as it first sounds :)

Charley Hickey

For gentle therapeutic yoga near Fremantle where you can practice the art of letting go, see our timetable here