Yoga can be a great strategy to help with both sleep and general health and wellness. Dr Giselle Withers (clinical psychologist) and Dr David Cunnington (sleep physician) discuss yoga and its role in helping with sleep.

 Video timeline:

  • 00:00 – 01:01 What is yoga?
  • 01:01 – 01:52 Who is yoga for?
  • 01:52 – 02:40 How does yoga interact with mindfulness?
  • 02:40 – 04:00 What types of yoga are there?
Dr Giselle Withers

Dr Giselle Withers


Dr Giselle Withers is a Clinical Psychologist with over 15 years experience working across private and public health services in Australia and in the UK. Giselle has years of experience with yoga and also runs mindfulness groups online and at the Melbourne Sleep Disorders Centre. For information on mindfulness classes, check out Giselle’s site, A Mindful Way.


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David Cunnington: So Giselle, in your role as a psychologist but also someone who’s really experienced with yoga, if I’m seeing someone with sleep problems and they want to look at yoga as an option, how would you advise them to incorporate that as part of their treatment?

Giselle Withers: Well, yoga is also mindfulness practice and yoga is also a way of living. It’s much more than just the physical practice that people often think about when they think about yoga. It’s a whole sort of philosophy really and to incorporate ethical ways of living, ethical ways of being, interacting with others and as well as bringing practices, physical practices, meditation and as a spiritual component too, so connecting into – through a higher consciousness, if you like.

So that’s a bit of a brief summary on yoga just to explain that it’s more than just a physical practice. But for people to try yoga, the first thing to say is – sorry, that yoga is for everyone. It’s not for people who just like being in black or in doing all sorts of poses.

David Cunnington: I’m not very flexible.

Giselle Withers: It’s for everyone and it is really a practice of mindful stretching, mindful awareness as well. So I would recommend that people try a hatha yoga class and be really comfortable talking to the teacher really about the class to say absolute beginners. It’s the first time you tried it. Maybe even explain that you’ve had some problems with sleep and yeah, not compare yourself to anyone else in the class and find a teacher that you feel is right for you. Maybe a bit of searching for different classes to get that right fit.

David Cunnington: And as part of the mindfulness groups that we run, yoga is part of that.

Giselle Withers: It is.

David Cunnington: So how does that fit; people who are in mindfulness training and yoga and working on that as part of helping their sleep?

Giselle Withers: One of the benefits of doing a six-week or an eight-week mindfulness training course is that you learn a whole range of mindfulness practices within that training and yoga is a really important component with that. So in week three, you’re learning to different mindfulness stretching approaches and most people are provided with the recordings, so you can practice that at home.

So it’s a great way to be introduced to yoga and to being in a group situation where everyone is learning it for the first time.

David Cunnington: And you talked about hatha yoga. I really didn’t get the pronunciation right.

Giselle Withers: Hatha yoga, yes.

David Cunnington: What other styles of yoga are there?

Giselle Withers: There are many, many different styles of yoga. So, some of the people might have heard of Iyengar yoga, vinyasa yoga. There are multiples. So hatha tends to have a focus on breathing and awareness. Some of the more advanced yoga practices like Iyengar or some power yoga is probably a little bit too focused on the body.

I think a hatha yoga approach has a bit more of the holistic approach for people.

David Cunnington: When I’m working in India, people are quite focused on breathing-focused yoga. So how do you use that?

Giselle Withers: With the breathing-focused yoga, part of every class there’s always training and breathing awareness. So we often begin the class with the breathing practice and all throughout the class, you’re focusing on reading throughout all the different poses and towards the end of the class as well, we often do a meditation that can start with some breathing practice as well. So it is very much part of – it’s intrinsic.

Need more information about how you can sleep better?

At Sleephub we understand the struggle people endure with sleeping problems which is why we have created a comprehensive FAQs page with information for those seeking information about sleep disorders and potential solutions.

Check our resources or take our Sleep Wellness Quiz for a free assessment of elements that may be keeping you from a good night’s sleep.


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