How often do you wake up feeling refreshed and well rested every morning? Do you often get more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night? Does your phone come to bed with you each evening? Have you ever popped a pill in hopes of finding dreamland or relied on coffee to power through exhaustion? Maybe this is you or someone you know. Between stress, caffeine, poor sleep habits, hormonal changes and work and parenting demands, most of us go sleepless at some point. Yoga practices and a truly holistic approach offer long term relief and more. Read more about Lisa Sanfilippo, London based master yoga teacher, trained psychotherapist and researcher, who cured her own insomnia, anxiety and over-active stress responses through Sleep Recovery.

The insomnia statistics are chilling: Up to 60% of adults in a recent UK survey reported they were unhappy with the amount of sleep they get each evening and almost 30% said they never wake up feeling refreshed (Dreams,2016). It’s similar in other countries with an estimated 10% - 20% of the general population in the US, UK, Germany, Australia and Japan also suffering from insomnia (Havens et al., 2017).

The marketplace is flooded with sticking-plaster quick fix solutions: apps, supplements, special aromas. Some of them work, but only for a short time. A truly sustainable sleep solution comes from addressing root causes. Yoga practices and a truly holistic approach offer long term relief and more than that: sleep recovery. As yoga practitioners and yoga teachers, we can heal ourselves, and reverse the tide from an increasingly sleepless society towards sleep recovery.

This term ‘Sleep Recovery’ is pioneered by Lisa Sanfilippo, London based master yoga teacher, trained psychotherapist and researcher, who cured her own insomnia, anxiety and over-active stress responses years ago “by making simple, powerful yoga-based life changes.”

Through fifteen years of research, practice and helping others, Lisa developed the Super Sleep Yoga programme and Yoga Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Recovery to help those who suffer from poor sleep to get lasting results for better sleep. Her method changes lifetime patterns using time-honoured yoga-based wisdom, simple movements and practices based on modern neuroscience. These both integrate and surpass cognitive behavioural approaches and received medical wisdom. Unlike drug or psychology-based programmes, her method involves the whole person, mind and body… and soul.

Lisa shares with Yogacampus subscribers a powerfully simple pre-sleep sequence. In Lisa’s upcoming book, and the Yogacampus course, Lisa shares how the sequence worked for Cathy, a retired grandmother who has suffered from sleep problems all her life, as well as the practices that worked for a range of other students and clients.

Cathy: A Super Sleep Yoga Case Study

Though Cathy slept for hours each night, she seldom felt rested. She would stay up late, not feeling sleepy enough to drop off, but would sleep for up to 10 hours, awakening groggy in the late morning, with little energetic spark.

Cathy learnt the Simple Sleep Sequence in Lisa’s Yoga Therapy for Insomnia and Super Sleep Yoga course and took 10-15 minutes each night to unravel the tension in her body and get to sleep more deeply and fully than she had in years. She added morning wake-up poses she learnt on the course to create a simple, effective energy boosting routine, something that she lacked in retirement. Cathy also learnt about circadian rhythms, specific sleep saviours in a simple chart that gave her positive guidelines, showing her how to structure her day in a healthy sleep-positive way.

The same sequence, as Lisa details in her book, worked as part of a holistic sleep recovery programme for people like Simon, a stressed out high-powered executive and Lina, an athlete with a history of traumatic life events.

Taught properly with its corresponding breathing practices, this sequence has worked for thousands of people. Lisa shares this segment of her upcoming illustrated book, Yoga Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Recovery (Singing Dragon Publishers, purchase on Amazon here.)

Simple Sleep Sequence © Lisa Sanfilippo drawings by Masha Pimas 2018-2019: Yoga Therapy for Insomnia (Singing Dragon to be published 2019)

Lisa’s Super Sleep Method and yoga therapy approach to Sleep Recovery work by first practicing simple body-unwinding techniques to provide immediate relief. These techniques showcase immediate results from first time use and over time, help to re-pattern the nervous system and habitual tendencies. This simple tool is for everyone – from absolute yoga beginner to seasoned yoga teacher – and takes about 10 minutes each night, right before bed.

Lisa breaks down one of the postures for us in more depth.

"This is one of my absolute favourite poses. It helps to quell the anxiety feeling in the tummy. Doing the pose quells the butterflies and gets me breathing slowly and freely. Perfect conditions for sleeping better. I have been using this pose consistently for 20 years. It’s been an absolute treasure. When practiced properly, it helps to alleviate both back pain and tight shoulders. As part of the simple sleep sequence it combines with time-tested grounding poses and a very accessible routine that balances the entire body before bed, and can help to manage middle of the night wake ups."

Simple Supine Spinal Twist- Lying Down Version © Lisa Sanfilippo: Yoga Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Recovery (Singing Dragon Publishers, 2019)

Simple Supine Spinal Twist- Lying Down Version

Benefit: This pose releases the muscles along the thoracic spine, in the middle back, and relaxes the upper back/shoulders. It opens the chest and expands the breathing space by stretching the diaphragm. This enables the chest to expand and soften more freely. This pose also opens and relaxes the third chakra 'solar plexus' area near the stomach which often carries anxiety and tension. Finally, it also lengthens the hard-to-stretch muscles that connect the lower back to the shoulders. Twists gently compress and then release the areas around the internal organs, giving an effect akin to ‘flushing’ them, removing tension in the belly.

Props: A yoga block or firm cushion

Step by Step:

  • Roll completely to your right side
  • Bend your knees up to the same height as the hips, keeping your outer right hip and thigh on the floor
  • Stack your left leg evenly on top of the right, so that the knees match
  • Squeeze a yoga block or cushion between your knees to keep the sacrum (lower back joints), keeping your lower back stable and supported, ready to twist your upper back
  • Keep your lower body stable in this position and on the exhale, twist from the middle/upper back, broadening your right shoulder to the right
  • Press that shoulder down towards the floor, breathing to broaden your upper back while you expand through the left side to create space and evenness
  • Let your left shoulder slowly drop towards the floor
  • Do this for about five breaths, then repeat on the second side

Next, getting to the root of the issues causing sleep deprivation are vital for providing sustainable, life-long fixes. More than just a few yoga poses, Super Sleep Yoga and Yoga Therapy for Sleep Recovery offer a paradigm shift, transforming your sleep issues into the wake-up call that changes life for the better.