Yoga Off The Mat: When You Can’t Sleep

Yoga Off The Mat: When You Can’t Sleep

Disclaimer: This is not going to be a yoga tutorial for sleep nor fertility, but a share about how yoga transformed my life, which is the original mission of my blog. 

Been awhile since I’ve been inspired to write about my yoga and life. And this is all came about because I had trouble sleeping. 

My teacher Baron Baptiste says this best

“The work you do on the mat facilitates your whole life.”

I’ll start off with this one –  How yoga helped my stress response feel safe enough to sleep! Or simply it transformed my sleep! 

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

Trouble sleeping?

Not something new! At least for me!

On and off, I’ve had insomnia, disrupted sleep, night sweats, jetlags.

So it’s normal.

But it all came to a head on a Sunday night, I just came back from my holidays, and I expected that I would have problems sleeping and I was fully prepared for it, well I thought I was.

@ 1 AM, I was still awake aarggh

I was trying all the breath techniques I could think of, that has helped me in the past. And before you say it – “Yes, I’ve taken my Calm magnesium gummies, my last caffeine was an Oat Hojicha Tea Latte was before 12, my last meal was at 8pm, TV was off at 11 pm . Sorry, no melatonin tonight, because I was weaning it off but maybe I should, I don’t know. No yoga, because I’m so tired and the room is so cold”

The problem was I was trying hard to relax using my “breathing techniques” which usually works, but I was finding it really hard to relax.

So guess what? I got stressed because I cannot relax. I cannot relax so I cannot sleep. And I cannot sleep because I’m stressed.

My husband even asked me what’s on my mind. And to be honest, I can’t say because when I get into this mood – it feels like my thoughts are in a bouncy castle with no exits, and they want to come out, but they kept bouncing off the walls and off each other.

Literally, I be telling myself, “soften the back of your eyes, your eyelids; where are you in your breath” then bam, back, I go into the bouncy castle. Then I become aware, I start again. 

The irony about all this is that this is the actual meditation process, a practice of becoming aware of your thoughts, and to let it go, over and over again.

But damn it, I want to sleep!!!!! F meditation! lolol

Plus that night, I was trying to break my habit of looking at my phone before my bedtime, as thats my usual modus operandi for sleepy eyes.

But I did look, and this time round, even the phone didn’t help – my mind was too wired up.

(I know I know, I should meditate, Shhh.)

If you have read one of my earliest post about “Tips for practising self-care at home” – I mentioned that reading is one of my self care practice and I had an “aha moment” that is, I became aware that my reading becomes an addiction the moment I start a new book at 11pm, (I’ve Kindle on my phone), which indicated I was bothered with something, which was causing me to unconsciously to find a reason to stay awake.

And thus I could have started a new book at 1 am. But I stopped myself.

Thus my 2nd aha moment happened just right then – I became aware BEFORE I got triggered! Boom!

At that point, I didn’t want to read my book, neither do I want to stay in the bouncy castle. I wanted to sleep!

And I recalled an inquiry technique I learnt from Gabby Bernstein – to ask my Anxiety aka my Stress Response – “What do you need?

ONE word came up-


The yoga that required my tired body to get up, and to do 4 yoga poses, and take 30 conscious deep breaths without looking at my phone.  OMG That was a struggle.

But the truth was I couldn’t even open my eyes so that helped me stay focused on my breath and in the present moment.

When I finished my last pose, which was chair savasana – I went back to bed, and what I felt was calm and clear. My mind was miraculously spacious, not clouded, not empty either, I was thinking but I wasn’t bogged down. I felt light.

This was the ultimate AHA moment, that was happening in my head. This is the real Yoga happening off the mat. 

Not surprising, I fell asleep after that first 3 hours of struggling.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. When I looked back,  I’ve had a few “miracles” since I started practising yoga in 2013.

I guess because these days, I don’t even practice on my mat everyday. If I’m lucky, it’s once a week, when I teach my Yoga for Self Care class.

But what I acknowledge is I’ve created for myself this foundation of resilient, self-care tools that will hold me up for a lifetime. (and I don’t even need a yoga mat).

I was listening to a Dear Gabby’s podcast the other day, and she reminded me that all the work I’ve done up to this point – is so worth it. This foundation I’ve created is really a work of connecting to my inner calm and caring for parts of myself that needed to be taken care of.

So right now, my physical yoga practices may just for that 1 hour – but it still works because everyday, I’m doing yoga, when I interact with people, when I teach, when I cook, when I journal, when I take a mindful pause.

Yes, we’re going to get triggered; we are going to feel anxious and afraid; we’re going to get lost in the swirl of negative thoughts but the stronger we build this foundation, the faster we can bounce back.

Cool isn’t it?

My new learning from this is that I was trying to hard to sleep, when I could have tried easy, and ask my nervous system what it needed, rather doing all the other stuff on auto mode.

The real benefits of yoga cannot be seen; can only be felt, and needs to be a lived experience, and we need to go all in, and commit to your version of consistent practice without being attached to the outcome.

— Sophie Sanders

So remember, when you can’t sleep tonight –

  • It’s okay if you can’t sleep.

  • It’s okay if you don’t get the required 7-8 hours of sleep

  • it’s okay that you’re still awake at 2am.

  • You’ve been through this before. You won’t die!

  • You can look at your phone

  • Ask your nervous system what it really needs.

  • Don’t try too hard, try easy.

  • Choose not to struggle

  • There’s no formula for sleep. Be open to creative possibilities

  • If you feel hot, wash your face with water or do the Sitkari (cooling breath)

As I’m writing this, and I’m still get lagged. I feel like zombie! So I hope the above makes sense.

Can I also make a special request to you, my tribe?

I’m thinking of starting a series of stories about Yoga off the Mat – how yoga works in real life. I’m talking about lived experiences, transformations, shifts in mindsets, the “aha” moments or stuff that can’t be shown in a 1080px by 1080px instagram post.

For the first time, I’d like to hear from you – I’d like to share your “Yoga off the Mat” stories on my blog. So if you have one, please do email me at ; 500-800 words, and simply share how yoga transformed your life, how it shifted your perspective, be specific about the event/situation, what was the aha moment?

Thank you! xx

With love, light and abundance


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