A few nights ago, the HuffPost Lifestyle section had a holiday gathering that included a yoga session with Elena Brower, founder of VIRAYOGA and author of The Art of Attention (Jago Yoga, 2012). I'm admittedly a yoga newbie (I had to ask to borrow a mat for the session!), and my yoga experience is limited to one class at Tara Stiles's New York City studio and one class with my mom back in Arizona. But despite my inexperience with yoga itself, I am well aware of its many potential benefits -- after all, a large part of my job involves covering the latest health studies, including those on yoga. I know, for example, that yoga could help relieve back pain, problems with balance in stroke survivors, and even depression in caregivers.
And lo and behold, the night after that yoga session with Elena Brower, I learned firsthand yet another benefit: a good night's sleep.
The past few weeks had been busier and more stressful than usual -- something I chalk up to it being the holiday season -- but it had been taking a serious toll on my sleep. Over the last month, my bedtime was becoming progressively later and later, to the point where I was consistently going to bed around 2 a.m. every night. I would lay in bed, not able to sleep, only to finally drift off late into the night and then be jolted awake (alarm clock, you are so rude) early the next morning.
But the night after yoga, I got into bed around 11 p.m., watched some TV on my laptop, and then realized my whole body was relaxing, un-tensing, getting almost jelly-like... I was getting tired, and it wasn't even midnight yet! I dozed off by the 12 a.m. hour and slept a solid, uninterrupted eight hours.
Maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. After all, a recent Harvard study showed that yoga improved both sleep quality and quantity in people struggling with insomnia. Other studies have shown similar results in other groups of people, including cancer survivors and post-menopausal women.
Now, it's important to note that in these studies, the participants practiced yoga more than once -- for weeks, in fact -- to see these benefits. I only did one yoga session, and it's indeed possible that I zonked out more easily than usual because my muscles were so tired out from the session. But even if that's the reason why, isn't that reason enough?
Already a seasoned yogi? Try these unconventional practices:
Unconventional Types Of Yoga
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