Daytime stresses and worries often stay with us well into the evening.
Whether you come home from work with your mind spinning about budget analytics or you keep replaying that argument you had with your kid, it’s normal to have a hard time decompressing on demand.
The problem? You may be carrying those stresses and worries into bed with you — and they may be costing you much-needed rest.
When you’re stressed, anxious, depressed or just have a lot on your mind, it’s much more difficult to wind down and relax into sleep.
And unfortunately, lack of sleep creates even more stress — which makes it even harder to sleep.
So how do you break the cycle?
The key is learning to get your body and mind into a relaxed state, on demand, so you can wind down and fall asleep intentionally. That’s where yoga comes into play.
Yoga is the physical practice involving breath exercises, simple meditation and specific body postures. The combination of focused breathing and tension-releasing poses works wonders for those looking to enhance their sleep.
By practicing yoga, a form of mindfulness (1), you give your body and mind a chance to decompress — so you can finally rest.
Taking just a few minutes before bed to unwind with some simple yoga poses can have you sleeping like a baby in no time (2).
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a master of yoga to try these fun and relaxing poses.
Here’s how to practice the best poses for sleep:
Child’s Pose (Bālāsana)
Kneel on the floor and bring your toes together. Separate your knees and drop your torso down into your thighs with an exhale. Lay your forehead on the ground and close your eyes. Be sure to focus on slow, long and steady breaths.
For a more active child’s pose, stretch your arms out straight in front of you and press your palms into the floor.
Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Elevating your legs and feet improves your circulation and helps re-oxygenate your blood supply, which is crucial before bed.
Lay down on the floor near an empty wall space and raise your feet and legs until your body is in an “L” shape against the wall. Your arms should be resting out in a “T” shape on the floor. Close your eyes, and focus on slow and steady breathing.
This pose works particularly well for those who spend all day on their feet, which can lead to sore and swollen feet and ankles.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend forward, either letting your arms hang down or holding onto your elbows. DO NOT strain to touch the floor or purposefully stretch any muscles — this pose is a relaxed stretch that allows your spine and neck to loosen up.
If it’s difficult for you to hang forward, you can use blocks to help support your hands and arms. Just make sure to stay as relaxed and free-flowing as possible.
While in this stretch, gently shake your head “yes” and “no” to loosen neck muscles. You might enjoy slowly and gently swinging side to side too, to release tension in your back.
Focus on slow and steady breaths throughout.
Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana) at the Wall
Begin just like the Standing Forward Bend, but instead of letting your body hang forward, stretch your arms in front of you and press your palms into a wall. Your body should be in a standing “L” shape at a 90-degree angle.
Press into your palms and through both feet. Shift your weight around slightly to stretch and loosen muscles.
Make sure to breathe deeply and focus on the feelings in your muscles, as you stretch. By focusing on what your body and mind are experiencing in the present moment, you train your brain to be able to relax.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Corpse pose is typically the final and most relaxed pose in a yoga class.
Lay down on your mat and stretch out your legs and arms before getting situated in the pose. When you’re ready to settle, make sure your legs and arms slightly spread out with your palms facing up. Close your eyes and begin to tune into your body.
Focus your thoughts on relaxing each body part, one at a time, from the feet up. By the time you reach your head, you should feel calm and pressed into the ground.
Try to stay still in this pose for several minutes until you feel completely relaxed and able to clear your mind.
Namaste (In Bed)
Are you itching to get up and stretch?
You can do any or all of these poses before bed for a better night of sleep, starting tonight. And the more often you practice these yoga poses, the better you’ll sleep over time (3).
So go ahead and dust off that yoga mat, pick a pose and breathe deeply. Which pose are you going to try first?
(1) Isaacs, Noah.“Bring More Mindfulness Onto the Mat." Yoga Journal, 12 Apr. 2017, www.yogajournal.com/practice/peace-of-mind
(2) Wei, Marlynn MD, JD. “Yoga for better sleep." Harvard Health Publishing, 5 Oct. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/8753-201512048753
(3) Breus, Michael J PhD. “Yoga Can Help With Insomnia.” Psychology Today, 4 Oct. 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201210/yoga-can-help-insomnia
Help your mind wind down before bed with these yoga poses. 🧘🧘♂️
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