Insomnia: For the benefit of all beings?

Before I started practicing yoga, I woke up a lot. Not awakening in the enlightenment sense, but more like insomnia.

I am not a heavy sleeper. The heavy sleeper can and does fall asleep anywhere, anytime, and sleep through major construction, loud music, and freeway noise. In comparison, if someone breathes loudly in the next room, that’s it for the light sleeper.

Last night was a light sleeper kind of night, the first in awhile. My mind was busy. I tried the body scan. Tried mindfulness of the breath. Tried extended exhales, with an “advanced” breath count. Nope, the to-do lists kept getting longer, and the songs kept playing in my head. At 3 AM, I got up.

True confessions of a yogi. In years past, when I was new to yoga, and sleeplessness still was a miserable norm, I would get up silently and do supported asana in the dark living room: legs up the wall, child’s pose… until I was sleepy enough to return to the bed. Now that I sleep better and am up like this infrequently, my practice is… to get up and write.

I imagine I’m not the first person to entertain this fanciful thought: What if it’s necessary for a certain number of us to be awake at any given moment? What if sometimes the balance of people awake isn’t quite enough, and so those who can’t sleep actually are staying up for the benefit of all beings? That’s definitely the kind of thought that arrives only at 3 AM.

For me, a dedicated yoga practice over time has eased my sleep and made a good night’s rest an everyday pleasure, no longer a struggle. So that on those rare nights when I find myself wakeful, I can make up stories about the global wakeful quotient. And soon go back to bed and dream.

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