Yoga for sleep

We’ve been discussing sleep issues… why sleep is important (here) and sleep disorders in Parkinson’s disease (here)

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” M. Ghandi

A little yoga before bed can be a great way to wind down the body, and mind too, and prep for a good sleep. Here are three poses for a relaxing bedtime sequence.

Next time you find yourself counting sheep, try these poses instead! much love

1. a) Figure 4 / Eye of the Needle



lying on your back, cross one leg over the other with the outside of the ankle resting on the opposite knee. Either place our hand on the knee to create pressure OR reach your  arm through the triangle between your legs and clasp your hands around the back of your leg of the non-bend side. Keeping your shoulders on the ground and a long spine, gently pull the hamstring towards your belly and feel a stretch to the opposite side. Repeat other side.


1. b) One-legged Pigeon (Kapotasana)

DSC_0097 DSC_0046

Come onto hands and knees. Bring your left knee forward and place it near your left wrist, with your shin on a diagonal and your left heel pointing toward your right frontal hipbone.

Maintaining a square hip alignment, shimmy your right toes back until your right thigh releases to the floor. Move your left foot and shin toward the front of your mat, aiming for your shin to be parallel to the front edge, and flex your foot to protect your knee. If you wish to go deeper: using your arms for support, walk your upper body to rest your forehead on stacked fists or on the ground. Repeat other side.

2. Stacked Ankle to Knee / Firelog (Agnistambhasana)


Sitting tall with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Slide your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip, and lay the outer leg on the floor. Then, stack your right leg on top of the left. Be sure the right ankle is outside the left knee (i.e., sole is perpendicular to the floor). If you are more flexible, slide your left shin forward directly below the right; otherwise, keep the left heel beside the right hip. If you’re tight in the hips, simply sit with your shins crossed in Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Repeat other side.

3. reclining twist


Lie on your back and draw both knees into your chest. Open your arms to the side like wings and drop the knees to one side, turning your gaze to the opposite side. Place hand onto of outer thigh to add more resistance to your twist. If your shoulder/hips begin to float up, place a blanket under the shoulder or a bolster along the spine. Repeat other side.

happy hips = happy sleep! much love.

… more great yoga pose ideas at:

Sleep in Parkinson’s disease

Last week, I posted about a recent scientific understanding of WHY we need sleep (see post HERE).

There are all kinds of benefits to getting enough sleep:  It’s good for your heart, it may reduce stress, and even prevent cancer.

More importantly, sleep is good for your brain – especially working memory… the kind essential to daily function.

People with Parkinson’s have difficulty sleeping; including difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, restless legs and vivid nightmares. However, the link between sleep disorders and Parkinson’s has yet to be scientifically determined.

Peeraully et al. (Mov Disord 2012) report a higher prevalence of subjective sleepiness, increase in daytime sleepiness, rapid eye movement behaviour disorder in persons with Parkinson’s compared to controls

If you’re interested in learning more about sleep disorders in Parkinson’s, the National Parkinson Foundation and Tanya Simuni, MD have a great video about the topic… you can watch it below. Sweet dreams and much love.

For more on sleep and Parkinsons:

Michael J Fox Foundation

Mov Disord. 2012

Why do we need sleep?

Before 2013, we didn’t really know the answer to this question.

We knew that our brains and bodies work better after sleep. But what we didn’t know, until now, was why.

Scientists report the first major mechanical reason our brains need to sleep in Science (Xie et al., 2013) — certain cleaning mechanisms in the brain work better when we shut the brain down. Similar to how dump trucks drive around pre-dawn hours because there’s less traffic, our brain’s cleaners also work best when there’s less going on.


We feel restored after sleep because of the active clearance of the by-products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness. In brain tissue during sleep, cerebrospinal fluid flushes out toxic proteins that build up during the day, including the kind that are responsible for neurodegenerative diseases (*blue channels in the picture).

Also, our brains consolidate memories during sleep. For our bodies, sleep allows our muscles, bones, and organs to repair and keeps our immune system healthy.

For the full article by Xie et al. Science 2013 – HERE

… All the more reason to get some shut-eye! much love.

From research to real life: smell, sleep, constipation and Parkinson’s

… what do these 3 things have in common? Early detection of PD.

New research shows that hyposmia (loosing sense of smell), rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder (RBD), and constipation, may be early Parkinson’s disease manifestations that reflect the underlying alphasynuclein pathology (the degeneration that is happening in the brain!) as well as predict subsequent onset of motor manifestations (Ravina & Aarsland, Mov Disord 2013).

Also, recent prospective (it means the researchers followed patients for 4-years) study shows that patients with RBD have increased cognitive impairment on neuropsychological testing (Postuma et al., Mov Disord 2012). The results showed that 48% of persons with RBD developed some cognitive impairments (especially hallucinations and some cognitive fluctuations), compared to 0% of patients who did not have RBD. This gives us an indication that we should watch RBD diagnosis in Parkinson’s disease closely as RBD may be a good marker of cognitive impairment subtypes associated with Parkinson’s.

A typical sleep cycle (

A typical sleep cycle (

what RBD can often look like! Yikes! ... and often dangerous to your bedmate (

what RBD can often look like! Yikes! … and often dangerous to your bedmate

… so ask your bedmate and talk to your doctor about how do you sleep at night. much love.

Tutorial: meditation 101

Being in the present moment is a meditation practice.

There is a challenge in sitting still in meditation and watching the activity of the brain/mind. Anytime you sit with the intention and willingness to be mindful, transformation will happen. At first, you want to bring stability to the mind, perhaps by focusing on one thing, such as the breath (note: you can count your breaths in groups of 10; restart once you reach 10 or lose count). Eventually expand your focus/awareness to encompass bodily sensations and thoughts. Typically the first insight meditators have is, ‘Holy crap! I think all the time!’ By practicing meditation, you start to observe the way your thoughts move and change, and you can develop a more subtle awareness of your experience.*


Health benefits of meditation primarily focus on increasing the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and allows us to  “rest and digest.” … and this leads to boosting the immune system, improving digestion, improving sleep, and increasing cognitive function. This helps your relax more throughout the day. Meditation decreases the likelihood of reacting negatively to stress… for example, you might stop overeating/drinking.

More Reasons to meditate:

  1. Dull the Pain! Meditation training cuts pain perception in half (J Neurosci 2011) and makes pain less unpleasant because brains are busy focusing on the present moment, and anticipating the pain less, blunting its emotional impact (J Pain, 2010).
  2. Improve your sex life! Meditation helps bring thoughts into the present moment, and can enhance a woman’s sexual experience (less self-judgemental chatter!) (J Psychosomatic Medicine, 2011)
  3. Problem-solving! Meditations helps apply switching strategies for problem-solving and getting out of habitual patterns… it breaks the cycle and enables you to look at things with a fresh perspective (PLoS One, 2012).
  4. Boosts mental toughness! Regular meditation improves mood and working memory, which allows for short-term retrieval and storage of information. Meditation helps individuals stay alert and in the moment without becoming emotional (J Emotion, 2010).
  5. Emotional regulation! Meditation improves feelings of empathy and benevolance (PLoS One, 2008).
  6. Improve your attention span! Meditation practitioners are better able to make fine visual distinctions and sustain visual attention during a demanding tasks (Psychological Science, 2010).
  7. Get a bigger brain! Long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (i.e., folds) of the brain’s cortex than people who don’t meditate. The extra folds may allow faster processing of information (Neuroimage, 2011; Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2012).

How do you find ways to bring meditative moments into your day? Share some of your meditation experiences in the comments below. much love.

*Adapted info from: Kripalu Thrive Blog

From research to real life: feel better and sleep better with yoga


Recently, a systematic review of 16 scientific studies was published on the effects of yoga on depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, sleep complaints, eating disorders and cognition problems (Murali Doraiswamy et al., Frontiers in Psychiatry 2013).

What did they find?

This review found that a yoga program can improve biological factors related to mental health and have similar benefits as antidepressants and psychotherapy. Physiologically, yoga affects neurotransmitters, inflammation, oxidative stress, lipids, growth factors and second messengers, all of which influences mood and emotional well-being.
According to this study, other benefits of a regular yoga practice included 40% reduction in depression symptoms, improved sleep quality and reduced need for sleep aids.
The scientific evidence in support yoga practice on psychiatric disorders is “highly promising” and showed that yoga may not only help to improve symptoms, but also may have an ancillary role in the prevention of stress-related mental illnesses.


Kripalu’s Stephen Cope says “yoga postures improve mood by moving energy through places in the body where feelings of grief or anger are stored… it is an accessible form of self-soothing”
… and since depression is the  biggest threat to the welfare of people with Parkinson’s disease (HERE and HERE and HERE), this makes yoga for Parkinson’s even more important (Yoga for Depression in Parkinson’s). much love.
**Note: The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) says people should not  replace conventional medical care with yoga. Nor should people who practice yoga postpone seeing a health care provider. Patients should tell their doctor about any complementary health practices they use. Anyone with a medical condition should check with a health care provider before starting yoga.

Tutorial: Nah-dee-show-DAH-nah

Nadi (=”channel”) Shodhana (= “cleaning” “purifying”) Pranayama is an alternate-nostril breathing exercise.


The right hand is placed in Mrigi Mudra (a Sanskrit word meaning “to seal, close, or lock up” or “gesture”) by pressing your hand into a fist with your index and middle fingers firmly into the base of your thumb. Stretch out the ring and pinky fingers. Keep your pinky relatively straight, but curl your ring finger slightly; the idea is to “blend” the two fingertips into one.


  1. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb
  2. Inhale through your left nostril
  3. Close left nostril with your ring-little fingers
  4. Open right nostril and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
  5. Inhale right nostril
  6. Repeat step 1. This is one cycle.
  7. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand mudra and go back to normal breathing.

Benefits include lowered heart rate, reduction in stress and anxiety. This breath is also said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain (oh so beneficial for Parkinson’s disease!) and encourage prana (life force energy) flow.

This breathing exercise is great for quieting your mind before beginning a meditation session, and it is also a soothing practice for calming racing thoughts and anxiety if you are having trouble falling asleep.


Try it to feel more balanced and calm. much love.

PS. Want more yoga tips for a better sleep? Check out Yoga for Sleep I and Yoga for Sleep II