Lack of sleep can be debilitating. Getting enough sleep not only affects our energy levels and mood during the day, but it also plays an important role in our health, from digestion and weight gain to anxiety and depression.
If only curing insomnia was a simple as a warm glass of milk. But the truth is that everyone’s insomnia is different and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all fix for the problem. For the most part, however, Yoga Therapists see people suffering with insomnia usually falling into two major camps: those with pitta imbalances and those with vata imbalances.
Pitta what? Vata who?
Vata and pitta are types of doshas. There are three dosas actually: vata, pita and kapha. (For purposes of this blog we’ll leave kapha out.) You can think of doshas as personality types. But in this case, the personality types correspond to energies. We are all made up of all three doshas (or energies), but sometimes we get imbalanced in certain doshas. If we are pitta imbalanced, we can have too much fire energy. If we are vata imbalanced, we can have to much air energy.
Your specific type of imbalance can be at the root of your insomnia. Again, everyone is different and there are not hard and fast rules, but those who are vata imbalanced often have trouble falling asleep. The influx of air energy keeps their thoughts swirling and their body restless. Pitta imbalanced people often wake up in the night. With too much fire bubbling under the surface, the energy of the pitta wakes them, often just a few hours before they want to be awake, leaving them unable to fall back asleep.
And to make matters worse, sometimes a pitta imbalance can cause a vata imbalance! So trouble falling asleep combines with waking up in the night. This double whammy of energy imbalances takes time to be sorted out.
So, what’s the fix? Well, first you need to know HOW you are imbalanced. Meeting privately with a yoga therapist can help you learn about your dosha imbalances so you can do the correct yoga technique.
Once you know that, pranayama or breathing practices, are often a good way to correct these imbalances. The “prana” in pranayama actually means “energy” in sanskrit. For vata balancing, practicing “grounding” breathing techniques that stimulate the resting side of the nervous system can help. For pitta balancing, it’s a process of sensitizing to the fire energy. One pitta balancing practice includes a slower version of something called kapalabhati breath that brings the heat in the belly area up, allowing the practitioner to sensitize to the energy, before mindfully bringing it back down. (All these practices should be learned in-person from a yoga therapist.)
Are you at your wit’s end with your insomnia? Ready to balance your energy and get a good night’s sleep? Contact us today for a private Yoga Therapy session and take your health into your own hands.
Joe Simek is a Certified Yoga Therapist, 500-Hour Level Yoga Teacher, and Co-owner of Dragonfly Yoga Studio. Joe has been practicing yoga for more than a decade, using the wisdom of the teachings to lose weight, get sober, and abandon the corporate grind. In 2012, he formalized his yoga education, completing Dragonfly’s 200 HR Yoga Teacher Training. Joe went on to study Yoga Therapy and Peaceful Weight Loss Through Yoga with Brandt Passalacqua of Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy (where he is now a Teaching Assistant) and Advanced Vinyasa Yoga with Rolf Gates. In 2016, Joe co-founded The Fiaria Project, a non-profit organization that aids foster children. He is also the frontman of Destroy It Up, an indie rock music project inspired by yoga philosophy. Joe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Arizona State University.