Dara Kennedy

Dara Kennedy worked in beauty product development and marketing for more than 10 years before starting Ayla. She is a graduate of Princeton University and holds an MBA from Harvard. A longtime yoga practitioner and mother of 2, she's been a supporter of non-toxic beauty products for years.

 

BREATHING EXERCISE FOR BETTER SLEEP: VILOMA PRANAYAMA

Pranayama is the yogic exercise of controlling the breath. There are many different pranayama techniques that can be practiced with different goals in mind (calming the mind, cooling the body, building heat in the body, etc.), but overall, breath control can have a profound and positive effect on stress. One of my favorite techniques, Viloma Pranayama, is a simple exercise that can be done at bedtime to achieve a sense of calm and balance.

“Viloma” means “against the natural order,” and in Viloma Pranayama you inhale with several pauses. Below are instructions for Stage I of the exercise: I’ve kept it to this beginning stage because it’s simple to learn and remember — even for those who are completely new to pranayama.

 

Viloma Pranayama, Stage I: Interrupted Inhale.

Follow these steps when you get into bed, before you go to sleep.

1. Lie down on your back, with your head on your pillow, and close your eyes. It may help to cover your eyes with a cloth or a sleep mask.

2. Let your eyeballs feel soft and let your breath fall into a regular rhythm. Just notice your breathing for a few moments, remembering to breathe not just in your chest, but also in your belly.

3. Take an easy breath in and exhale all the air out.

4. Viloma cycle:

- Inhale to fill a third of the lungs, then pause and retain breath for a moment.
- Inhale to fill two thirds, then pause.
- Inhale to fill the lungs completely, then exhale a smooth, steady, deep breath out.

5. Continue your normal breathing cycle, taking two or three normal breaths in and out.

6. Repeat steps 4 & 5 for up to 5-10 minutes until you feel a greater sense of relaxation and balance.

7. Sleep!

 

Many thanks to yoga instructor Isaac Pena for sharing this — and so many other pieces of knowledge that I will always carry with me — during my yoga teacher training.