At its core, yoga is a mind-body practice, characterized as a mindfulness mode of exercise.
The most popular form, Hatha yoga, is the foundation of all yoga styles. It includes both Gentle Hatha and Restorative yoga. Gentle Hatha yoga is about tuning into your body and breath without raising your heart rate (like in high-intensity exercise) or placing your leg behind their head.
Restorative yoga focuses on total relaxation of the body and mind. It involves only 5 or 6 poses that are supported by props, rather than your muscles, so that you can fully relax and rest. These yoga poses include light twists, seated forward folds, and gentle backbends, and are held for 5 minutes or longer.
The combination of Gentle Hatha and Restorative yoga are an efficacious method for improving sleep quality. It uses a holistic sequence of meditative, breathing, and physical alignment movements that require active and passive engagement of skeletal muscles.
The 1st nationwide, multicenter, phase III randomized controlled trial by Mustian and colleagues (2013) demonstrated cancer survivors experienced significant improvements in sleep quality and daytime energy because of yoga alone versus standard-of-care treatment.
The cancer survivors were randomized to 2 75-minute yoga sessions each week consisting of pranayama (breathing exercises), 16 Gentle Hatha and Restorative yoga asanas (postures), and meditation for one month.
The yoga intervention group also decreased their sleep medication use by 21%, while the standard-of-care (non-yoga) group increased their medication(s) by 5%.
By integrating yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation into one’s regular routine, we can successfully begin to treat sleep problems in cancer survivors.
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