There’s nothing more frustrating than crawling into bed after a long day and finding yourself wide awake, tossing and turning, unable to finally get some rest. For some of us, no matter how exhausted we are from the day before, nighttime becomes a stressor as we wonder if we’ll be able to get to sleep. Over 40 million Americans are struggling with insomnia or chronic sleep trouble and an additional 20 million have occasional sleep disturbances.
We all know how important rest is. It is during sleep that we reset our bodies and minds. Getting a good night’s sleep helps us to maintain healthy emotions, stay productive and energized, heal and regenerate. Our sleep hygiene is so important for the health of the entire body, so finding ways to get out best sleep possible can make a huge difference in your health.
Getting a great night’s sleep may seem like an impossible task, but you can set yourself up for success with some sleep-inducing yoga poses. Create a bedtime ritual and incorporate some of these poses to help you fall right asleep.
Padmasana — Lotus Pose
Lotus Pose is one of the most recognized yoga poses and can be great for relaxation. Some monks even sleep in this position!
How To: Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Exhale, bringing your right foot in and place it on top of your left thigh. Then slide your left leg in and place the left foot on top of your right thigh. With palms facing upwards, place hands on knees and join the tips of your index finger and thumb. Straighten your spine and reach your head up to the sky. Practice deep breathing or the 4-7-8 breath.
Virasana — Hero Pose
Hero pose is another great way to settle the mind and focus on the breath.
How To: Take a kneeling position on the ground and use a folded blanked to support your calves and thighs. Slide your feet apart slightly wider than your hips and press your feet into the floor below. Sit back halfway, exhale, and lean your torso slightly forward. Sit down between your feet or use a block or bolster to support your sits bones. Turn your thighs in and lay your hands in your lap with palms up. Draw your shoulder blades together and lift your chest. Draw your shoulders down away from your ears and tuck your tailbone to lengthen the spine. Stay in hero pose for 30 seconds to a minute, or longer if you are comfortable.
Supta Virasana — Reclining Hero Pose
For even deeper relaxation, move from hero pose into reclining hero pose. This pose is best for those who are comfortable with hero, and are able to sit fully on the floor between their feet.
How To: Starting from hero pose, exhale and start to slowly lean back. Use your hands and forearms to take your weight as you release down onto your elbows. From there, support the back of your pelvis and lower your back down to the ground or to a supporting blanket or bolster. Lay your arms by your sides, out about 45 degrees, and rest your palms face up. Do not let your knees move wider than your hips. Rest here for 30 seconds to a minute, and extend the time as you get more comfortable.
Uttanasana — Standing Forward Bend Pose
If you are someone who suffers from stress keeping you up at night, standing forward bend is a great way to wind down before bed. This pose helps to calm the brain and relieve tension built up in the neck and shoulders.
How To: Take a deep breath in. On the exhale, swoop your arms to your sides, bend slowly downward, and come into forward fold position. Touch your toes, shins, or knees, depending on what is comfortable for your body. You can grasp your elbows and allow your head to hang free. Take a few breaths here in forward fold.
Prasarita Padottanasana — Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend Pose
Similarly to standing forward bend, wide leg standing forward bend is great to release tension and help you relax from the stressors in your life.
How To: From a standing position, move your legs out to slightly wider than hip-width apart. Breathe in and lift your arms up along your sides, overhead, fingers pointing up towards the sky. Stay here for one breath cycle, then on an exhale, slowly bend forward to bring your chin to your chest and arms down to touch your feet or shins. Engage your thighs and lift the knee caps to maintain stability throughout the bend. Rest here for several breaths and focus on your breathing. Slowly inhale and lift back up, one vertebrae at a time.
Marjaryasana — Cat/Cow Pose
This is one of the most used yoga poses – and for good reason. Cat-cow has tons of benefits, especially for the spine. The fluid motion between cat and cow, and the synchronized breathing through these poses, helps to lubricate the spine and relieve tension. Blood flows to the head and heart and eases the mind.
How To: Rise up to rest on your knees, hip width apart, and place palms firmly on the ground, underneath your shoulders to come to a tabletop position. Exhale slowly and fully, and roll your back to the sky, tuck your chin to your chest to come to cat. Inhale slowly and arch your back, bringing your navel to the ground, lift the head high to look at the sky. Repeat this sequence slowly 5-8 times.
Halasana — Plow Pose
Plow pose can help you focus your mind as you direct your attention to your deep abdominal breathing.
How To: Begin lying on your back, then raise your legs up and overhead. Slowly shift them over your head and on to the ground behind your head. Alternatively, you can hold them over your torso and grab your feet or calves here. Focus on breathing deep through the chest and into the abdomen. Rest here for a few minutes or as long as you are comfortable.
Salamba Balanasana — Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is a quintessential pose for calming the mind and promoting relaxation and sleep. This is a restorative and sedating pose that prepares the body for rest.
How To: From hero pose or seated, stretch the arms out in front of you, reach for the ground, and bend into child’s pose. Open your shoulder joints and extend your fingers. Feel the stretch in the lower back, breath into this space. Take 3-5 slow breaths here.
Pranayama — Breath Work
Breath work is a major part of your yoga practice, but did you know that breathing exercises can help prepare you body for sleep as well? Holistic doctor Andrew Weil recommends breath work to help induce sleep, relieve anxiety, and melt away stress. Try this method to help ease your brain into peaceful sleep.
How To: Start by exhaling completely through the mouth. Then close your mouth and inhale through your nose slowly for four counts. Then hold your breath for a count of seven. Again, exhale through your mouth completely to a count of eight. Repeat this 4-7-8 cycle for four more rounds.
Matsyendrasana — Reclined Spinal Twist Pose
This pose is a great way to open the spine and relieve stress. It allows for a nice stretch through both sides of the body and helps to relax the entire body.
How To: Start in a seated position on the floor, with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knees and rest the feet on the floor. Slide your left leg under the bent right knee. Let the left leg rest on the floor beneath the right leg and twist your torso to the right. Place your left elbow on the outside of the right knee, and your right arm down to your side by your right hip. Lift your chest and head up, then deepen your stretch with each exhale. Repeat this pose on the opposite side, placing your left foot on the outside of the right knee, the right elbow to the left knee, and the left hand to the left hip.
Viparita Karani — Legs Up The Wall Pose
This is one of the best poses to rest in to help relax the body and mind. Legs up the wall pose will reduce anxiety and calm the anxious chatter that so often keeps us up at night.
How To: Sit on the floor near a wall and swing your legs up to land on the wall ahead of you. Move your buttocks to the wall so that you are as close to it as possible and lay back so your back is resting on the floor. Extend your legs up the wall either straight up or in a relaxed ‘V’ position. Allow your arms to rest by your sides with palms facing upwards. Rest here for about five minutes.
Savasana — Corpse Pose
Corpse pose is the ultimate relaxation pose. In addition to finishing off your yoga sessions with a deep corpse pose
How To: Lay flat on your back with your legs extended. Release any tension in your muscles and allow your feet to turn out. Pull your shoulders down away from your ears and allow your arms to lay. Gently by your sides with palms facing upwards. Rest here for 3-5 minutes.
Extended Corpse Pose
Similar to corpse pose, extended corpse pose is an effective, simple way to prepare the body for sleep.
How To: Start on your back or from corpse pose. Instead of placing your arms by your side, extend them long overhead and point your fingers. This opens and encourages blood flow along the entire spine and to the brain. This opening posture also releases tension in the back, shoulders, and neck.
Prioritize a Nighttime Routine
One of the most important steps to insuring a great night’s sleep is to set yourself up for success. Make these yoga poses a habit, part of your nighttime routine, and you’ll reap the benefits of a quiet mind and a restful sleep. You may choose to use all these poses or pick a few that work best for you. Sleep trouble is one of the most frustrating issues to have, especially when you are leading a busy, stressful waking life. Use these simple yoga poses to help make that transition into sleep easier. When your sleep is improved, your overall health is improved as well.
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Paving the way for yogic living in Nebraska, Jacqueline Roberts is adored by her students as a constant source of support and inspiration. A knack for writing allows her to share what she has learned with the world.