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by Cathe Neukum (Director)
Gaiam, 2008
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Mar 24th 2009

Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Insomnia

This DVD is part of a series from lifestyle company Gaiam and the Mayo Clinic, an integrated group practice treating every medical condition.  The DVDs in this Wellness Solutions series take an Integrative Medicine approach to various conditions; as explained by Dr. Brent Bauer, Director of the Mayo Clinic's Complimentary and Integrative Medicine Program, this includes a combination of traditional and alternative healing methods with exercise and diet to produce relief.  The Main Menu of the DVD reads as follows:  Chapter 1, What is Integrative Medicine? (a 4-minute overview by Dr. Bauer); Chapter 2, Understanding Your Condition: Insomnia; Chapter 3, Action Plan; and Chapter 4, Behind the Scenes (includes About Gaiam, About the Mayo Clinic, Meet the Mayo Clinic Doctors, Resources, Credits).

The heart of this DVD lies in Chapters 2 and 3.  The second chapter features several Mayo Clinic doctors, including Dr. Eric Olson, Co-Director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, Dr. Amit Soot, who practices General Internal Medicine, and Dr. Peter Hauri, also of the Sleep Disorders Center.  They provide a 21-minute discussion of insomnia issues.  First of all, they explain that in most cases, insomnia is not caused by an underlying medical condition.  They review various facts about insomnia as well as address common myths.  Finally, they offer a general overview of treatment strategies, from the use of medications (including natural substances such as melatonin) to the role of relaxation strategies to the importance of good sleep hygiene (discussed in terms of a simple ABCDE format). 

Chapter 3, the Action Plan, is further broken down into three segments:  Eat Well to Feel Well (Nutrition Options for Insomnia), Soothing Therapy (Meditation for Insomnia), and Soothing Therapy (Yoga for Insomnia).  For the first 11 minutes of the nutrition segment, a doctor leads you through "smart shopping" at the grocery store; this information is common to all of the Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions DVDs.  The next 3 minutes features a registered dietitian who explains that maintaining a healthy weight can improve sleep; in order to facilitate weight maintenance, she recommends eating a plant-based diet.  She also suggests several foods to avoid for those with insomnia, including foods high in fat as well as caffeine and alcohol.

The meditation and yoga segments are led by renowned yoga instructor Rodney Yee.  For the meditation portion, Yee is alone, and he instructs via voiceover for two separate 5-minute meditation programs.  The first is a seated meditation.  Yee instructs you to sit on a cushion with towels under your knees for support; the focus here is on being calm and in the present moment as you rest.  The second meditation practice is restorative:  for this practice, Yee has you lie back over a blanket, using a towel under your head as a pillow.  Resting in relaxation pose, he encourages you to scan the entire body, releasing the arms and legs into the floor as you focus on letting go of tension.  For the 27-minute yoga practice, Yee is instructing live, and he is accompanied by two students, one of whom shows modifications; a chair, yoga strap, several blocks, and blankets are used during this session.  Yee begins with a standing forward bend, having one of the students support her head on yoga blocks, the other support his head on the chair.  This is followed by wide-legged standing forward bend, again using support under the head.  Yee then brings his students to the floor for supported child's pose over the blankets, reclined leg stretch using the strap, and down dog resting the head on the block.  Next comes a series of forward bends (head-to-knee pose and full forward bend) resting the head and hands on the chair.  Finishing postures include supported reclined cobbler's pose (using blankets and blocks), brief seated meditation, and a short (2 minutes) savasana before ending the class in a seated position.

All of the Wellness Solutions DVDs, which are packaged in Gaiam's "eco conscious" cardboard cases, include a 48-page booklet entitled "My Stress Solution."  This booklet is not specific to the particular condition address in the DVD (although it does include a quick overview of the major points insight the back cover), but it provides an excellent overview of the basic principles of stress management.  I am a psychologist, and this booklet reviews the same strategies which I would use with my clients, including changing negative thought patterns, dealing with anger, learning to say no, improving communication, incorporating leisure activities, and finding ways to relax.

This DVD offers several nice meditation and yoga options for insomnia.  The practices are very accessible; they would be appropriate those new to yoga but should also be useful to more experienced yoga students looking for a sequence designed to promote restful sleep.  Most of the educational and nutritional information offered here is fairly basic--I think it is unlikely to provide any new insights for anyone who has previously researched this condition, but it is presented in an encouraging and hopeful manner.

© 2009 Beth Cholette

Link: Gaiam website

Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.