Yoga and Sleep

It’s a common misconception that yoga is always good for sleep.  Yes, it can be good for sleep, but sometime it can cause insomnia!
I’ve never been a good sleeper and these days I rely heavily on my daily yoga practice to ensure a good night’s sleep. 
I discovered that yoga isn’t always good for sleep when I went to a my first ever Bikram yoga class in January 2011. I was excited to try it as it was the original hot yoga and it was known for detoxification and calorie burning and at the time it was new to Canberra.  For those of you haven’t tried it, it’s a set sequence that runs for 90 minutes and is made up of two types of pranayama (breath work) one at the beginning and one at the end, and in amongst this are 26 postures.  The class was the most challenging yoga class I’ve ever experienced due to the 40 degrees celsius heat that I wasn’t accustomed to, the whole time I was thinking, when will this torture be over? However, after the class I felt AMAZING! I was high on yoga! The flipside was I couldn’t sleep as I was so wired from the heat, the deep backbends and the kapalabhati pranayama (breath work).  This was the start of my yoga journey and to this day I still practice Bikram yoga about 2 -3 times per week when I’m not travelling. In my opinion Bikram yoga is a very powerful style of yoga that is great for the tamasic mood (for most but not all) and I experience great benefits with it uplifting my mood, stretching my muscles, detoxing and the moving meditation that it is.  However these days’ I mainly practice it in the morning or early afternoon (4pm) as otherwise it affects my sleep, plus if I practice in the early afternoon I have to ensure I have a longer yin and LifeForce yoga style practice before bed to be able to relax into sleep.
Does this mean that everyone will experience insomnia after Bikram? Nope! As Paul Grilley says “Always is always wrong.  Never is never right”. It just depends on you, and so it means you need to experiment to see what works for you as we are all unique. I’ve known people to practice Bikram Yoga in the evenings and sleep easily.
This experience made me curious to delve deeper into why yoga could potentially cause insomnia that I did some research and ran a workshop in Canberra while I lived there and I am running another one next month on the 26th August. Plus, I continue to experiment with other yogic tools that might help me sleep at night as you never stop learning!