Yoga literally means “union” in Sanskrit, a harmonizing of the mind, body, and spirit. This ancient practice is inextricably tied to the Ayurvedic primitive pillars of life: food, sleep and sex. In Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science, which is devoted to balancing the mind and body), it is believed that people who manage these three pillars properly are guaranteed full life spans that will not be cut short by disease. I want to explore how these pillars relate to each other, and how yoga can help you strengthen them in your own life.
Before we go any further, however, I just want to remind you that everybody can do yoga. Whether you’re a beginning student or a seasoned yogi, there is always an enormous benefit to developing this practice in your life, and there is always going to be more to master. You don’t need a fancy yoga mat or trendy yoga clothes—yoga is going to increase your mindfulness and wellness in whatever capacity you can do it. So get to it!
Sleep is the period of time that allows the body to rejuvenate, re-energize, and repair. Too little or too much sleep can be harmful. There are numerous stressors placed on the body during waking hours, and without restful sleep, health and wellness steadily decline and can lead to accelerated aging—and nobody wants that. Yoga helps relax the nervous system, which allows the release of negative pent-up energy that prevents one from sleeping. This practice also promotes sound sleep. Yoga helps calm your racing mind, clearing your brain of all the daily activity and stresses we subject ourselves to. Let’s get technical for a second: during yoga, one learns to focus and meditate, and the brain passes from beta waves to alpha waves, which allow the parasympathetic nervous system to predominate. What does that really mean? Yoga actively promotes relaxation and calmness. There are specific yoga poses that encourage restful sleep, such as uttanasana, savasana, and balasana.