Sleep Deprivation & Yoga
Kurmasana to Tone and Relax the Body
“The sleeping tortoise takes all its limbs into its carapace. So does the yogi: going back into himself he does not see anything worldly any longer, he makes peace in himself.”
I love this quote, probably because it refers to an animal. My heart melts for every one of Mother Nature’s creatures, truly, as I bashfully reveal. I can’t say that I particularly connect or relate to the tortoise. I obviously do not have a hard outer case. However, I have needed to learn how to harden my shell and strengthen my backbone over the years, and for that I am intrigued by this reptile. The ability to create complete darkness, solitude, safety, and peace within is everything the tortoise is capable of providing itself. It is everything we reach for on a yogic journey; to make peace from within. It is no coincidence that tortoise pose, kurmasana, is one designed to strengthen your backbone, so to speak. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, kurmasana “tones the spine, activates the abdominal organs, and keeps one energetic and healthy.”
Additionally, the posture “soothes the nerves of the brain,” he says, “and after completing it one feels refreshed, as though one had woken up from a long, undisturbed sleep.”
(Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar)
It is no coincidence that tortoise pose, kurmasana, is one designed to strengthen your backbone, so to speak. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, kurmasana “tones the spine, activates the abdominal organs, and keeps one energetic and healthy.”
Research tells us sleep deprivation is alive and kicking. Short sleep duration and poor sleep quality are prevalent among Canadian adults. About one-third of us sleep fewer hours per night than the 7-9 hours of recommended sleep for optimal physical and mental health.
When sleep duration or quality of sleep is poor, there is reduced flow of blood to part of the brain responsible for higher level thought processes like working memory.
If that were not enough motivation to get more sleep, it is also proven that inadequate sleep is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect our performance, including our ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation affects our moods, leading to irritability, depression, increased anxiety, problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers.
There are many factors involved in sleeping well. Diet and nutrition play a big part.
Consumption of artificial electronic light from screens can have an influence as well. Another piece of the puzzle is knowing how to facilitate relaxation for a better night’s sleep;
creating the right space for your body and mind is of optimum value. Just like the tortoise teaches us in Kurmasana.
Learn how to add a constructive rest sequence, a pranayama sequence (breathing exercises) or Svasana (corpse pose) to your bedtime routine.
At their root, constructive rest is a gravitational release of the back muscles. Often when we experience unprocessed energy or trauma they remain hidden and stuck in the body, contributing to poor sleep habits and interrupted sleep patterns.
There are many factors involved in sleeping well…Another piece of the puzzle is knowing how to facilitate relaxation for a better night’s sleep, creating the right space for your body and mind is of optimum value. Just like the tortoise teaches us in Kurmasana.
It is imperative to our long-term health that we increase sleep duration, reduce sleep interruptions, and add meditative practices to our bedtime routines to help the mind and body ease into a state where it can achieve long, undisturbed sleep. Finding evening routines of relaxation and meditation are scientifically proving to be the answers to our sleepless nights. These routines can be practised with your partners, children, or by yourself. Perhaps even more effective when the entire family experiences the need, benefits and joys Svasana and constructive rest can provide. Namaste
Inset image (featured): Yogabodii’s Sam Bederman strikes the Tortoise Pose (Kurmasana)