No need to toss and turn all night – use these simple breathing techniques to put you into a restful nights’ sleep.
Yogic breathing exercises, also known as pranayama (meaning “life force” “expansion”), have been shown to be beneficial for many different types of ailments including hypertension, stress, anxiety, and depression. All of these can negatively affect sleep and cause insomnia. One thing that many of these breathing exercises have in common is their ability to calm the nervous system, helping your body come into a relaxed rest-and-digest state. (1, 2)
Whether your lack of ability to sleep comes from stress, anxiety, or chronic pain, these four simple breathing exercises can help put you to rest, easier. Practice one of these exercises – or all of them back-to-back – each night before you try to sleep. You can practice them all in bed, on your yoga mat, or in a chair.
Sama Vritti | 10 breaths
This basic breathing exercise reduces stress and helps the body wind down with relaxing, equal inhales and exhales.
- Find a comfortable seat with your legs crossed, or sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Place your right palm on your belly and your left palm facing up on your left thigh.
- Close your eyes and notice your natural breath for a moment.
- Then, inhale slowly to a count of four, filling up your lungs completely. Pause at the top of your inhale, then just as slowly, exhale to a count of four. Pause at the bottom of your exhale when your lungs are completely empty.
- Continue slow breathing to a count of four for 10 rounds of breath. Feel your belly rising and falling underneath your palm.
Wave Breath | 10 breaths
This breathing exercise helps to reduce blood pressure and calm the nervous system.
- Start in a comfortable seat or by lying down. Place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your heart. Take a few natural breaths and just notice them.
- Then, as you inhale, first fill up your belly. Then fill up your ribs, feeling them expand outward. Then, fill up your chest all the way. Pause for a moment with your lungs completely expanded.
- As you exhale, first empty your chest, then your ribs, then your belly. Pause with your lungs completely empty.
- Repeat for 10 breaths.
Alternate Nostril Breathing | 10 rounds of breath
This technique soothes the nervous system to bring you into a state of calm.
- Find a comfortable seat. Place your left palm face up on your left thigh. Bring the tips of your index fingers to the center of your thumbs and extend the other three fingers outward to find a chin mudra with each hand.
- Place your right index and middle fingers between your eyebrows. Position your thumb over your right nostril and your ring finger over your left nostril.
- Plug your right nostril and take a slow inhale through your left nostril. Pause with your lungs filled up, then plug your left nostril and exhale through your right. Pause with your lungs empty.
- Reverse the breath by inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left. That counts as one round. Repeat for 10 rounds.
Bhramari | 10 breaths
Anxiety and stress can make falling asleep at night a challenge. Bhramari, also known as Bee’s Breath, helps to relieve anxiety to help you get a restful night’s sleep.
- Find a comfortable seat.
- Bend your elbows and place your index fingers on your forehead. Close your eyes and place your middle fingers on your eyelids, your ring fingers on the sides of your nose, and your pinky fingers between your upper lip and nostrils. Place your thumbs over the cartilage between your ears and cheekbones.
- Take a deep breath in. Then press down on the cartilage of your ears as you exhale and make a loud “HMMMMMMM” sound like a humming bee.
- Continue for 10 breaths.
(Your Next Workout: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Sleep)