Can you sing yourself to sleep?

May 5, 2023 0 Comments

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You’ve read time and time again that quality sleep is essential if you want to feel better, heal better, cope better with stress, and even look better in your relationship. The difference is obvious every time you manage to get a good night’s rest.

You know you need more sleep. The challenge is to calm down so you can sleep. If you’ve tried countless science-based and research-backed sleep techniques but still find yourself just too stressed to wind down, there’s one thing you may not have considered: the simple, free, side-effect-free act of singing.

How chanting helps you sleep better

Modern science, as well as the ancient tradition of yoga, suggest that chanting helps you more easily settle into the relaxed state needed to fall asleep.

Modern science confirms…

A recent study indicates that a five-minute repetition of Om “can increase the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, promote relaxation and calmness,” according to its authors.

Whether you’re speaking, singing, or chanting, you create sound on your exhalation, a part of the breathing cycle that is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Chanting Om lengthens the exhalation and initiates the PNS response, which in turn creates a sense of peace and tranquility.

Researchers have attributed some of the demonstrated physiological and psychological effects of chanting to the vibrations that reverberate through your body when you chant a mantra.

…What the ancient yoga tradition has always said

The yogic tradition teaches that repeated repetition of mantras leads to focused steadiness of mind, or sthira, which can give your mind a place to rest and calm your racing thoughts. The sound created by chanting Om (pronounced aum) has long been considered particularly powerful by some Southeast Asian cultures because it encompasses the vibration of all known sounds in the universe.

Think of chanting as an expansion of the breath. If you practice yoga, you already use different breathing practices (pranayamas) to effectively regulate your nervous system, depending on whether you want to calm down or activate your energy, every time you engage in Ujjaya (Victory Breath) or Kapalabhata ( Skull Shining Breath). You can rely on singing in the same way.

Chanting does not necessarily have to include sound

Tradition holds that chanting can be practiced orally and mentally, each of which brings significant benefits. Verbal chanting has a direct vibrational quality on the physical body and produces specific physiological effects similar to pranayama practice.

Mentally or silently repeating a mantra can also be done with the breath to focus your attention within and produce a calming and stabilizing effect on the mind. The yoga tradition considers silent chanting to be the most powerful way to use chanting to affect your state of being.

You can also practice verbal and mental chanting together, in sequence, to go deeper within and prepare your mind for relaxation. through the vehicle of sound. According to the yogic tradition, by modulating your voice in this way, you create an energetic calm or langana, effects on your nervous system.

Slow yoga, a practice that has been shown to support sleep. The combination of gentle movement and chanting further helps your body relax, unwind and prepare for rest. But if you choose to just sit and sing, you will also notice the unique effects of this process.

A chanting (and yoga) practice that will help you sleep better

Do the following practice slowly. When chanting, start with a full, sonorous voice, then move to a quieter, softer sound with each repetition of Om. Allow your exhalation to reach a comfortable length as you chant, perhaps 4-6 counts.

You may find that this practice becomes more effective if you practice it regularly as part of your nightly routine. This can be done even in bed.

1. Chakravakasana (dynamic child’s pose)

Start on your hands and knees. As you inhale, draw your chest forward and up as if you are entering Bitilasana (cow pose), creating a gentle arch back with emphasis on the upper back; as you exhale, chant Om and gently draw your abdominal muscles into your spine and press back into Child’s Pose, keeping your hips against your heels, your chest against your thighs, and your elbows and forehead against the mat. On the next breath, slowly return to your hands and knees and arch your back slightly. Repeat 8 times, gradually softening the volume of your chant.

2. Parivritti Sukhasana (sitting twist)

Begin sitting cross-legged in Sukhasana and bring your left hand to your left thigh and your right hand to your left knee or thigh. On an inhale, sit up straight; as you exhale, repeat Om, turning your chest to the left and turning your head, looking over your left shoulder. On your next breath, gently relax from the twist and return to the starting position. Repeat this turn to the left 4 more times, gradually lowering the volume of your chant with each repetition. On the last twist, take 4 breaths, getting quieter and quieter with each exhalation.

Repeat the twist on the other side.

3. Apanasana (knee to chest pose)

Begin lying on your back with your knees above your hips, lower legs and feet relaxed on the ground. Place your hands on your knees with your fingers to your toes. On an inhale, straighten your arms and allow your knees to move away from your body. As you exhale, chant Om as you bend your elbows and pull your knees to your chest, gently bending your lower back in Apanasana. On the next breath, straighten your arms and return your knees to the starting position above your hips. Repeat 8 times, gradually softening the volume of your chant. You can even go into mental repetition for the last few repetitions, drawing your attention even more inward as you prepare your mind to rest.

About our contributor

Bernadette Soler is a certified yoga therapist and teacher of the Viniyoga lineage. She is dedicated to the study and practice of yoga and has a gift for applying ancient techniques to our modern lifestyle. Bernadette has over ten years of teaching experience and believes that a daily yoga practice can be life-changing to unlock your potential. She is deeply indebted to her teacher, Gary Crafts, for preserving and transmitting the teachings of yoga in an authentic and timeless way.

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