The Breathing Technique that Helped me Sleep

A couple weeks ago I decided to tackle my sleep problems.

I would fall asleep and then get up hours before my alarm clock. It was so annoying. I felt grumpy during the day. It was devastating for my soul.

So I went into my Facebook group and asked people for help. I got lots of suggestions. Eager to finally find restful sleep, I took it upon myself to try the suggestions.

My Sleepless Adventure

On this fateful night, I had avoided caffeine during the day.

I was using my laptop and phone in my room, but then I decided to disconnect. I made sure to turn the phone screen away from me to avoid the light.

I lied down and had the intention to sleep through the night.

Well, I couldn't sleep.

Alright, I thought to myself, let's try some guided meditation.

I took out my phone and opened up Insight Timer, my go-to meditation app. I tried a yoga nidra meditation for sleep. It was a great recording but I was super fidgety throughout most of it. Near the end, when I began to feel sleepy I thought I could finally rest.

But I couldn't sleep.

It's not over yet! I thought. I can do some restorative yoga.

I did legs up the wall on my bed and then child's pose on the floor.

I felt calmer. I yawned a bit. With sleepy intentions, I climbed into my bed and thought I could finally rest.

Well, I couldn't sleep.

Screw this! I'm just going to play my ukulele. I was desperate and tired of falling asleep, maybe sleeping for like 2 minutes, and then feeling anxious and awakening.

I knew it wasn't wise to stay in bed awake if you couldn't sleep. I had read up on how you should do something else until you could sleep.

So I played my ukulele in the dark, on the floor. I began to get really sleepy. Like, I began to fall asleep on my floor with my ukulele. I thought about sleeping on the ground, but I was afraid I'd wake up with discomfort. So I climbed back to bed.

And just when I thought I could finally rest... I couldn't stay asleep.

Just breathe, Hien. That's all you can do now.

I didn't feel like doing anything else. I remembered learning in my yoga teacher training that the left side was the receptive, cooling, and feminine side. I remembered the tip to breathe through my left nostrils in order to cultivate this cooling side.

So I closed my right nostril with my thumb and breathed through my left for a bit.

After some time, I let go of my thumb against my nostril and imagined breathing into my left nostril. I then drifted into dreamland and didn't wake up again until my alarm rang.

I finally fell asleep.

Thanks, pranayama!

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Since then, I've been doing the breathing practice with some success. I don't feel as tired, I don't wake up as much, and I have something to focus on.

This whole nostril thing is a variation of alternate nostril breathing -- which is meant to balance your energy. The left side is your more cooling side and the right side is your dominant, active, and masculine side. When you alternate your breathing in this practice, you are are using both sides intentionally.

We may not realize it, but we tend to breath more through one side.

Here's how you do it.

1. Take your thumb and close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril.

2. Exhale through your left nostril. Lift your thumb. Take your index figure and close your left nostril. Inhale through your right nostril.

3. Exhale through your right nostril and repeat steps.

It's a cycle that can seem confusing at first... but basically you do an inhale-exhale cycle through each nostril at a time.

Need to calm down like me at night? Breath in and out through your left nostril.

Need to activate energy? Breath in and out through your right nostril.

I can't guarantee what would come out of practicing any of these nostril techniques, but it's been really helpful for me and my sleep quality. :)

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