Having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone. Over one-third of adults suffer from insomnia and don’t wake up feeling rested and refreshed. You need 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep every day to function properly.
Lack of sleep can cause a whole host of health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “sleep deprivation can have a cumulative effect on your physical and mental wellbeing and can exacerbate chronic diseases.”
Lack of sleep can also cause you to have difficulty concentrating. It can affect your ability to remember, perform your work, drive and take care of your financial affairs. In other words, not getting enough sleep is dangerous. Fortunately, yoga may just be the answer you’re looking for.
Yoga for Sleep
The benefits and pleasures of yoga are numerous. But how does yoga help you sleep? Yoga works on several key areas.
Fight or Flight
Modern life is stressful. Because you’re constantly being bombarded with stressors, your body remains in a perpetual state of fight or flight. The fight or flight response evolved as a temporary reaction to help you survive an extreme emergency. It’s not supposed to be a way of life.
Yoga poses for sleep shift you out of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). This transition will put you in a state that’s more conducive to falling and staying asleep.
Yoga reduces stress. You may be so accustomed to being stressed that it feels almost normal. Yoga helps you to relax, which lowers the cortisol levels in your brain.
Yin to Your Yang
So, now that you know yoga could be your key to a better night’s sleep, you’re probably wondering how to do it, right? A yoga class can make you feel awake and energized, and you certainly don’t want that. It’s all about choosing the right yoga poses for better sleep.
Most types of yoga incorporate the same yoga postures. What differs is the sequence in which the poses are done and how long you hold them. Yin Yoga is a meditative and relaxing practice. The poses are done on the floor and you hold a posture for a minimum of 3 to 5 minutes.
Big Toe Pose
Start your bedtime yoga with Big Toe Pose. It will gently stretch your hamstrings and lower back. It helps to relieve insomnia by calming your brain and relieving stress.
This pose gently stretches your hips, thighs, and ankles. It also calms your brain and helps relieve stress.
If you sit most of the day, this is a great pose to open up your hips, hip flexors, and in front of your thigh. It’s also a gentle backbend.
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend
The benefits of this pose are so numerous that it might be the only yoga pose you need for sleep. If you’re short on time, that is. This can calm your brain and help relieve mild depression; stretch your spine, shoulders, hamstrings, and groin; stimulate the liver and kidneys, and improve digestion; relieve anxiety, fatigue, headache, and menstrual discomfort. It will lower high blood pressure and alleviate insomnia.
Bridge is another pose that offers an enormous list of benefits. It will stretch your chest, neck and spine. Bridge also calms your mind, reduces anxiety and helps with insomnia.
If you find it difficult to hold bridge pose for long, a block or bolster under your lower back and butt can help support the position.
Before you embark on your bedtime yoga journey, there are a few tips you should keep in mind:
- Use blocks, bolsters, straps, blankets or any other props you need to be able to relax into these poses.
- Never stay in a pose if you’re feeling a sharp pain. Readjust and back off.
- Do each pose to the point where you feel a bit of resistance from your body, then stop. Hold the pose right there. Start with 3 minutes on either side and then increase the time when you feel ready. As you feel your muscles relax, you can go a little deeper.
- When your mind wanders, as it invariably will, focus on your breath.
You might feel bored because your mind just isn’t used to stillness. Let yourself be bored and stick with it. There are lots of free, high-quality Yin Yoga classes available online.
Janet Ashforth is a certified Personal Trainer, licensed Massage Therapist, and meditation instructor. She has been helping people regain their health and wellness for more than 14 years. Janet also writes about health, fitness, nutrition, cooking, and baking. She is a real food advocate and currently creating a wellness retreat.