3 yoga poses that will help improve your sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle in so many ways. It gives the body a chance to recuperate from the day’s exertions, recalibrates the parts of the mind which deal with memory retention and cognitive thinking and leaves you feeling refreshed and revitalised, ready to start again anew.
However, the frenetic pace of modern life is all too often not conducive to restful sleep. Whether it’s spending too much time on our devices, worrying over the current financial climate or a symptom of a deeper-seated medical issue, insomnia afflicts over one quarter of the population according to certain studies. Not only can this cause chronic fatigue and negatively impact on mood, but it can even contribute to overall health complications. In fact, not getting enough sleep each night has been linked to almost half of the top 15 causes of premature death in the USA.
Of course, advice about how to drift off peacefully abounds on the internet. While reducing screentime before bed and drinking chamomile tea can work for some people, it doesn’t produce results for everyone. If that sounds familiar, it might be time to give yoga an opportunity to change your night-time routine for the better.
How yoga can help you sleep better
When practiced on a regular basis, yoga and breathwork can help to unify the mind and body, delivering a wide range of health benefits. Improved sleep patterns is just one of these and is achieved due to the following reasons:
- Yoga helps you relax. For many people, switching off their brain at the end of a tough day at the office can be an almost impossible challenge. By assuming specific yoga postures and concentrating on slow, steady breathing, you can help your stress and anxiety to melt away, thus preparing you for bedtime.
- Yoga consumes excess energy. It’s not just the mind which can be difficult to shut down, either. Many people find themselves tossing and turning all night precisely because they have too much nervous energy left over from the day. Although bedtime yoga should not be physically exertive, it can consume the last stores of energy and leave you ready to sleep.
- Yoga loosens tights muscles. Many of us spend our days sitting in chairs and staring at screens, which can lead to muscle cramps, aches and pains. By stretching out your body and breathing into your muscles, you can improve circulation, loosen off tight muscles and create the ideal environment for relaxation.
- Yoga can promote deeper sleep. As well as allowing you to drift off to sleep more easily, yoga can also help you to access the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep which is so important to restoring physical and mental well-being. This is because it helps to achieve perfect harmony between the mind and body, both while asleep and awake.
Of course, not all types of yoga are appropriate for achieving the state of peace and equilibrium required to sleep. As mentioned above, you do not want to get the blood flowing or lungs pumping prior to bedtime, so vinyasa yoga or hot yoga should be avoided. Instead, hatha yoga and nidra yoga are better choices, since these focus more on particular body poses and breathing patterns.
3 yoga poses you can try tonight
If you really want to unlock the full benefits that yoga can bring to your life, it’s advisable to enlist the help of a trained professional and take advantage of expert advice, such as that which is provided in our Ultimate Sleeping Course. 92% of people who took this course and followed the advice contained within it reported experiencing better sleep as a result.
Having said that, the good news is that you don’t need to be experienced in yoga in order to begin to improve your sleep. Even just a few minutes dedicated to the practice each night before bed can work wonders for your sleeping habits. For starters, we recommend trying the following poses:
Janu Sirasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose)
This pose is similar to a forward bend but is practiced sitting down rather than standing up. As well as stretching out the muscles on the backs of your legs, it can also relieve tension in the lower back and the arms. What’s more, it’s great for aiding digestion, which is crucial to getting a good night’s sleep.
To begin, sit down on your yoga mat and extend one leg in front of you, with the other bent at the knee and tucked into the upper thigh of your straight leg. At first, sit up straight, extending your spine and holding your arms above you, before slowly hinging forward and reaching for your toes with your hands. If you can’t reach your foot, simply stretch forward as far as you can and hold for 30 seconds, before switching legs.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
This pose is excellent for stretching out tight hamstrings and relieving varicose veins in your legs. Depending on your flexibility, it can be lightly strenuous but also very good for working out tension in your lower body, meaning it’s a great precursor to sleep.
Start by lying down on your back facing a wall, with your feet planted firmly on it and your legs bent. Then, slowly walk your feet up the wall, unbending your knees and inching your buttocks forward as you go. The goal is to get as close to the wall as possible, with your buttocks touching it, your legs straight and held at a 90° angle from your body. Hold the pose for one minute.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
A favourite component of many yoga routines, the child’s pose is often included as a means of grounding the body, relaxing the mind and giving the muscles a rest in between flows. As a standalone posture, it’s ideal for allowing yourself the safety and security you need for sleep.
From all fours (with knees hip-width apart), sink down so that your bottom touches your heels or sits on or just above the mat between them. Keep your arms straight out in front of you and allow your forehead to rest on the mat. If it doesn’t reach the mat, you can fold your arms in front of your head and rest it on them instead. Because it doesn’t require much flexibility or exertion, this pose can be held for an extended period of time – but remember to focus on your breathing for the duration.