Yoga offers us many lessons, that are applicable both on and off the mat. By taking some of yoga’s traditional lessons and applying them to our modern life, we can shine a fresh light on our problems and maybe even learn how to make changes that last.
Do you ever find yourself heading to bed early (ish) with the best of intentions to turn that light out and hit the hay for a great rest. But then you decide to have one last check on social media, and before you know it several hours have floated by and all you’ve did is scroll? We all know that using our devices too near bedtime has an adverse impact on our ability to get a restful night, but we do it anyway.
This is where the yoga lessons come in. Ahimsa is one of the Yamas in traditional yoga teachings. It forms a collection of ideas which combine to create a wholistic picture of the yoga experience. Created in the 2nd century BCE by Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras is an ancient text which outlines how to practise yoga and the many benefits it can bring to its practitioners. In total, Patanjali outlines 8-limbs or aspects which make up the concept of yoga – only one of these relates to the physical postures!
The first of the Yamas is Ahimsa, which translates as non-violence. For most people this is where the vegetarian and pacifism ideas of yoga come from, but it can also be considered violence towards ourselves in the form of with holding what our bodies and minds need. This can be eating nutritious food, limiting the amount of caffeine or alcohol we consume or even contemplating the damage late night scrolling can bring to our health and wellbeing. There are so many studies explaining the negative impact of the blue light from our devices and how that affects our sleep patterns. This information is widely known, yet many of us continue to gaze, unblinkingly, at our screens well past a decent bedtime.
The blue light from our tablets and phones actually suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, that’s the hormone which makes you feel drowsy. We are essentially tricking our brain into thinking that it’s the middle of the day, when it’s sleepy time. Which disrupts or circadian rhythms and makes us feel much more alert at bedtime, making it difficult to fall asleep.
But we are consciously choosing to scroll, we are making the choice to keep looking at social media even though we know it is having an negative impact on our health (by stopping us from getting a decent sleep.) Could this be considered violence towards ourselves?
If we’re really considering heading down this path of yoga and embracing all the benefits it has to offer, we need to consider the ways we are causing harm to ourselves. You might not consider a little bit of scrolling on social media harmful, but doing so in the evenings or late at night is preventing your body from entering its natural and restorative processes. So I’d argue that yes, this is violence towards the self – by doing electing to do something we know is causing us harm looks like the opposite of the concept of ahimsa. I think Patanjali might have a comment or two to make on this aspect of our modern lives.
So let’s take some advice from the 2nd century BCE and from Patanjali – let’s use yoga to encourage a change in our bedtime scrolling habits.
Here are a few suggestions of changes you could make to encourage a better habit, and ultimately a more restful and restorative sleep:
- Create a gratitude list – before bed each night write down 5 things you are grateful for from that day. With continued use, your mind will begin to scan your day to find things to write in your gratitude list (this might make you a more positive person!)
- Or why not create a routine to put away your devices 2-3 hours before bedtime. This could include some bedtime yoga and meditation .
- Try spending a few minutes in Child’s Pose (or any restful yoga position.) Child’s pose helps us to practise pratyahara (another of Patanjali’s 8-limbs, meaning ‘withdrawal of the senses.’) Basically it encourages us to draw our attention inwards, to our breath. We can close our eyes or rest our vision and focus on noticing the breaths. This can help to calm the mind and may just be a nice alternative to some late night screen time.
If scrolling is keeping you up at night, why not decide to make a change. It might just improve your sleep and your health, that’s worth making the shift for.