A Yoga practice for Insomniacs

A Yoga practice for Insomniacs

Wide awake again? 

I am wide-awake and so frustrated, it makes me want to weep and sometimes I do. It’s 2.22am, 3am, 3.33am, the numbers take on some ominous significance that sends my mind off down another rabbit hole. At least it’s more mindless than thoughts that deeply unsettle me - blame and shame gnawing away at me and catastrophising, blowing stuff out of proportion in the dark shadows of the night.  Distressed, I pick up my mobile phone to distract me but I find myself getting wound up even more with shiny people and their perfect lives. I feel even worse!

I ask myself how long is this sleep deprivation going to last before I fall off the edge of sanity? It feels like it wouldn't take much to tip the balance in this over-sensitive state.

I crawl out of bed feeling grouchy, twitchy-eyed, short-tempered and overwhelmed – hello world, grizzly bear Judy here…again! 

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Around a third of the UK population suffers from insomnia at some time in their life and reports of higher statistics since the living nightmare of covid hit our pillows and more anxiety ticked away hour after hour. Add a cup of stress and a bowl of peri menopause…ok, STOP!

The good news is there is something you can do

I know because I’ve researched and developed practices for myself in phases of sleeplessness due to menopausal hot flushes, deep grief and consuming pain. I wrote a course in the night hours when I couldn’t sleep, and run courses on Yoga Therapy for Restful Sleep.

I do not pretend that yoga practices can "cure" insomnia or even guarantee that I have answers any for you but some things have worked for me and course feedback reports even more effective than I’d dreamed of.

Three key principles

But what I do know there is three key principles that can help us to know:

1. Wherever we place our attention, we bring energy - through pratayahara, we can choose a focus and through dhyana, we learn to hold steady, change perceptions and develop new neural pathways in the brain.

2. We can change our relationship with bedtime and sleep. Keep self-fulfilling prophesies in check. Review your beliefs about your sleep patterns through education, pranayama practices, mantra, and yoga nidra.

3. A teacher cannot teach you how to sleep any more than a teacher can teach you how to meditate - dropping into a deep meditation or falling asleep are similar in the way we can "fall" into different brain states through a series of steps that create the right conditions, and guided practices that can support the dropping in.

Getting to Sleep Practice

I offer you a practice that I made up in what I call “my creative night time experiments”  that helped me and I hope this helps you

  • In bed, lie in a position of comfort, relaxation and safety that has worked for you at some time in the past
  • Look around your darkened room, soften the muscles around your eyes to take in what you see - move from doing to receiving mode
  • Let your eyes close, scan through your body slowly from the crown of your head down to the tips of your toes, noticing the temperature of different parts of your body, material touching your skin, move around a little to maintain focus and interest
  • Take some long exhales through your mouth - sigh, yawn or blow out, whatever comes
  • Follow the natural movement of breath now. Focus on the temperature of the air as it enters and leaves your nostrils, the rhythm
  • Hold your attention here, dropping your eyes inward and downwards

Notice that the mind wanders and know this is natural so rather than get frustrated or anxious that you 'can't switch off', use the noticing as a signal to start the next step -  ujjayi breath. If you do not find ujjayi breath soothing, use a gentle lengthening of the breath with a quiet blowing sound or an image that holds your attention

  • Start a soft snoring ujjayi breath and focus on the soothing sound
  • Continue to focus your breath moving down in the lower half of your body
  • let your eyes drop inwards and downwards again, all the way to your feet and the tips of your toes
  • Introduce an effortless pause (BK) at the end of exhale, a moment of melting and dropping the whole body
  • Go even deeper - on your exhale, imagine your eyelids closing a second time, a heavy gate coming down over your already closed eyelids, closing off the outside world
  • Slowly move into a more natural sleeping position if necessary and continue
  • Any time you notice the mind has kicked in, come back to the practice, pause, melt into the exhale, allow the gates of your eyelids to drop any number of times - repeat
  • Imagine closing all the gates or shutters through the surface and depths of your body
  • Don’t make it too stimulating and interesting unless you are resigned to being awake and creative, you might even end up writing a course! What a great use of the creative night time, focussing away from trying to get to sleep…again
  • After some time, let the ujjayi go
  • Drop any focussing or practicing, no effort now
  • Try it the next time you’re having difficulty getting to sleep and let me know how it goes judy@yogaheadspace.co.uk

Try a FREE Yoga and Meditation audio class  - sign up to receive a free 1.11hr class with Judy Hirsh Sampath HERE


If you are having trouble sleeping, join our next BWY Yoga Therapy for Restful Sleep module with Judy Hirsh Sampath and Mary Mackie.

Loads of practices, self-enquiry and the science of sleep

It's online in the evening so you can come in your pjs and you don't have to get home. 

More details HERE


FREE yoga therapy taster workshop - offering insights into the definition of yoga therapy, the difference between training to be a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist with an embodied mindfulness practice to receive direct experience of tuning into the body's wisdom

Find dates and BOOK HERE

For more information about yoga therapy courses DISCOVER MORE 

If you'd like a prospectus for our yoga therapy diploma CONTACT US


Neuro-Linguistic Yoga Therapy – Your Body Holds the Resources - Transform self-limiting beliefs through self-understanding

With Antonia Boyle (NLP Master) and Judy Hirsh Sampath (Yoga Therapy Trainer)

21 & 22 May 2022 in person in London, Saturday & Sunday 10-5pm 

Befriend deeply held beliefs that no longer serve you

Transform self-limiting beliefs through self-understanding

Tap into the resources you forgot you had for self-healing.

For anyone wishing to change their relationship with Self, and those working with transformational change with health seekers and truth seekers. Demos, lead practices, partner work and deep enquiry will be supported by two experts in their fields.

Find out more HERE


Try a FREE Yoga and Meditation audio class  - sign up to receive a free 1.11hr class with Judy Hirsh Sampath HERE


If there's something keeping you awake at night you would like to explore, Judy offers 1-2-1 yoga therapy

Find out more HERE


Hope to see you in person or online,

Love Judy