Tag Archives: Insomnia

How pain can* become a real gain


I loved seeing Lisa Sanfilippo’s segment on Save Money, Good Health recently. She shared some of her yoga for sleep tools (I did some sleep yoga cpd with her years ago and love this gentle way of working with the mind-body connection to aid sleep without any side effects).

What astonished me was the presenter’s conclusion that asking people with insomnia to do 5 or 10 minutes’ yoga before bed was ‘a big ask’. When my insomnia was terrible (from primary school until my mid twenties), I’d have LOVED to know about yoga but it wasn’t part of my world. Instead, I felt doomed and permanently exhausted and on edge.

At the turn of the millennium, when I was in pain every day, not just a few days a month, I think I’d have wanted to punch (and me practically a pacifist!) anyone who suggested that one day I’d be grateful for the pain.

But the other day, I realised that the pain was a catalyst to my completely overhauling my life. Without it, I wouldn’t have celebrated my 13th Business Birthday this month.

Thanks to the pain, I have created a business that is sustainable throughout my energy cycles. After minor surgery, I was told I’d have to keep having surgery every couple of years until menopause (I was in my 20s) and there was no cure. Volunteering on the (then called) National Endometriosis Society helpline meant I routinely heard far worse stories than my own and I became determined to find ways to deal with it myself.

Feeling let down by the medical profession led me to yoga and quitting caffeine (apart from in chocolate) and alcohol. Cat Cow pose was better than hospital prescribed painkillers. I think modern medicine is wonderful and always recommend people see their GPs but am maybe more aware than many, because I was in so much daily pain and desperate, that there’s an awful lot we can do ourselves.

Thankfully, due to all the major and minor lifestyle changes I’ve made, I generally only have a couple of painful days each month and even they are much better than they were. I’m taking fewer painkillers than ever before and some months, don’t need any at all.

How motivated are you?

Everyone who knew me back then didn’t believe I could quit alcohol (I had drunk too much from my early teens) but, with immediate pain from my abdomen encouraging (yelling at me), I managed to find other ways to deal with my emotions. It was hard – I remember imagining myself taking myself for a walk into the depths of the woods in the snow with a giant bottle of whisky in an effort to stop feeling things. Quitting alcohol was probably the most dramatic change I made. And I needed that pain or I wouldn’t have done it.

Are your symptoms easy enough to continue living with or are you ready to try something different?

Back then, my work’s EAP meant I got some counselling to support me pre-surgery (and pre-diagnosis). I still remember the counsellor asking me what my ovaries (where I felt so much of the pain) might be trying to TELL me. I thought she had lost the plot completely but quickly realised that it was worse when I was bottling up my emotions and not saying what needed to be said. My body, in being so painful, coached me to learn to be a little (progress not perfection) more assertive and expressive.

If there’s a part of your body currently screaming for your attention in the only way it has available for communication (ie PAIN), what might it feel like to tune in? Just for a moment? What have you got to lose? No side effects (other than potential embarrassment but this is just in your imagination – no one else need ever know).

What might your symptoms be trying to tell you?

Louise Hay, who died recently, has left an amazing legacy helping the mind-body connection become more mainstream.

Her books can be a lovely starting point, a bit like a dream dictionary might give you ideas about yours but ultimately, you know yourself and your body best. Even when you’ve been ignoring it.

What clues is it giving you now?

 Feel free to comment below.



*please note that while this was the case for me, am not by ANY stretch suggesting that everyone reframe their pain




Harvard neurophysiologist and yoga researcher Sat Bir Singh Khalsa recommends Bridge (done early in the day) for insomnia.

Lying on your back with head, neck and spine aligned, have arms alongside the body, palms down. Drawing the feet towards the torso with bent knees over the ankles, gently inhale rising up and exhale back down.

After a few breaths like this, you may want to hold the pose, lifting the hips towards the heavens, opening the heart centre and noticing the breath. Don’t have the feet so close to the torso that the hips jut forward.

Keep the inner thighs active (maybe using a block) and when you’ve had a few (maybe 5 if that feels good) complete breaths, gently come back down to the ground and stretch in whatever way feels best for you.

It’s a balancing pose, both grounding and energising. The heart is open and it helps build power and lung capacity as well as relieving lower back tension.

Holding it for a short time (or simply inhaling lifting up and exhaling down) can be helpful for high blood pressure.

It also helps us ponder gaps (between where we were and where we want to be) we’ve already bridged in our lives, encouraging us to do the same with current obstacles.

Do you like Bridge?

What has it helped you with?

Feel free to comment below.







Struggling to find 90 minutes for a yoga class? New 75 minute classes available


Would you like to start 2015 by getting back into (or beginning) your yoga practice?

With new 75 minute classes available (for Tuesdays and Saturdays) as well as the 90 minute classes on Thursdays, there’s something for everyone.



Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or book.





Struggling with sleep issues?

I’m now taking bookings for my next available (September) Better Sleep workshop and 6 Week Course.

If you’re local to Witham, Essex and would like to learn how to use your body, brain, heart and soul (using a blend of yoga, meditation, EFT, NLP and crystals) to help you sleep better, visit www.bettersleepessex.co.uk to find out more.


And if you can’t wait that long, apart from working with individuals throughout the year, I run Better Sleep open yoga classes every Tuesday:


If it’s feeling awake, energised and wanting to live life to the full that’s more of a concern, my Saturday morning classes might be what you’re looking for:


There are so many things you can do, without any side effects, to support yourself in getting the rest you need. I look forward to helping you learn these simple tools.

Metta x


Struggling to sleep? (Or stay awake?) – new yoga classes, courses and workshops from Feel Better Every Day


Having spent a delightful 5 days at the Minded Institute, learning how to use Lisa Sanfilippo’s Organic Awakenings Yoga for Insomnia and Better Sleep Method, I’m enhancing my better sleep services (while still incorporating the counselling, coach-therapy, NLP, EFT and crystals alongside the yoga therapy and my own experience with insomnia from primary school until my late 20s).

Find out more about my upcoming workshops and courses (and early bird discount offers).

And from now on, my Saturday morning yoga therapy classes will be ‘awakening’ classes helping you greet the weekend and new week with more energy and vitality. Tuesday evening classes will ‘better sleep’ classes to help you unwind and prepare your mind, body, heart and soul for a good night’s sleep.

Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more or book for a yoga class, course, workshop or individual session.

Metta x

Image courtesy of graur codrin / freedigitalphotos


Trouble sleeping?

Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong

Gwyneth Paltrow told this week’s ES Magazine that while she’s pretty chilled during the day, ‘When I get to bed, my heart starts beating [faster] and I stress out.’

Anyone struggling to sleep will know this feeling well. All the things you haven’t done and all you still hope to cram into an already busy life can feel overwhelming. Who has time to sleep? But our systems need downtime to rest and recharge.

I battled insomnia from primary school until my late 20s. I overslept for my Drama GCSE exam having been wide awake until 7am (friends had tried phoning, ringing the doorbell and even throwing rocks up at my window and in the end, some teachers drove over to get me up). At my worst, I’d go to bed at 1am and still be wide awake at 9am on a regular basis.

At 22, my heart was racing so fast I was convinced I was having nightly heart attacks (my GP prescribed beta blockers but I remained clueless about dealing with the anxiety that kept me awake for many more years).

Now, while my sleeping patterns are a gazillion (no exaggeration) times better, there are occassional nights when sleep is more of a challenge. As well as having a regular routine to help my whole system wind down, ready to relax enough to sleep, I’ve learned that the best way to deal with it is to immediately tell myself that being awake is OK.

Even as a small child, I’d beat myself up for being awake, telling myself horror stories about just how exhausted I’d be the following day. Funnily enough, this didn’t help me sleep. Instead, it would have activated my sympathetic branch (the ‘fight/flight’ branch) of my autonomic nervous system when, to sleep, I’d have needed the parasympathetic system’s ‘rest and digest’ qualities.

Now I tell myself that even if I only get an hour’s sleep, it will all be fine. As a result, I usually get a great night’s sleep. If talking kindly to myself about my (fortunately now occasional) insomnia doesn’t work, I become mindful of my breath, slowing it down and supporting parasympathetic activation by making my exhalation longer than my inhalation (if counting helps you, experiment with breathing in for 2 and out for 4).

Sometimes, a Body Scan helps. You can get all sorts of audio support to help you with this or simply lie still as you mentally name each part of your body, beginning with your left big toe and moving up.

Other times, I need to burn off those stress hormones so I might go for a walk (if that feels like a sensible enough thing to do), do some Sun Salutations (without beating myself up for not having done enough dynamic yoga when the sun was out to stave OFF said insomnia) or simply enjoy Chair pose and some sleep inducing Forward Bends.

Thinking about what aspect/s of my life are keeping me awake can also help. Sometimes, sleepless nights have served as impossible to ignore alarm bells and I’ve made dramatic changes to my life which, ultimately, have been a Very Good Thing.

Is it possible that your sleeplessness is trying to help you wake up to something that needs changing in your own life?

If you have trouble sleeping, I hope you’ll find ways to talk gently to yourself instead of further agitating yourself and making sleep even less likely. I hope some of these tips help you.

Sleep well.

Metta xx