Not getting a good night’s rest is one of the worst afflictions that can happen to a person. You’re tired, you’re grouchy, you don’t feel well and your body and mind feel sluggish.
Bad News: According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation is reported in two-thirds of Americans, with many reported having chronic insomnia.
Good News: Yoga has been found in multiple different studies to help insomnia suffers sleep and those who sleep poorly, sleep more soundly.
Why does yoga work?
Sleep deprivation and insomnia are linked to other disorders like depression, mental illness and ADHD. In all three, yoga has been found to help lesson the symptoms of all three, (I’ve written blog posts about the positive affect yoga has on each one) so it would make sense that yoga would also help a symptom (sleep deprivation) of these illnesses.
Yoga is designed to mentally and spiritually affect the mind, with poses helping to calm, focus and center the mind. By stretching out your body in certain areas you’re helping your body to breathe, stretch, become less tense and relax itself. How many times have you witnessed somebody –or yourself! - falling asleep while in corpse pose during a yoga class? All day long the human brain is trained to go, go, go.
When it’s finally time to shut your brain off and give it some rest, it might be unable to do so, so used to staring at screens and multitasking. Your brain needs time to decompress and slow itself, weaning itself off its 0-60 mode and releasing its chronic muscle tension. This is what a regular yoga practice provides, especially when doing a sequence before bed.
So, which poses are the best to provide your body and mind with the full relaxation needed to achieve a good nights sleep?
I’ve collected my favorite 6 poses that can all be done on your bed right before you go to sleep. I would hold each one for one-five minutes.
Begin in Childs Pose
Always my favorite. Childs pose is great, it decompresses and stretches out the tension in your lower back while calming and centering your mind- it’s almost as if you can feel your muscles and the strain from the day relaxing.
After Child's Pose, move into Seated Forward Bend.
Stretch out your back and reach extend your fingers and arms forward to reach for your toes. It’s okay if they don’t touch- don’t strain yourself. The point here is to give your lower back, hamstrings and spine a much-needed stretch, not to hurt yourself.
From here, transition into Head-to-Knee pose
Slowly sit straight up but don’t move your legs from Seated Forward Bend. When ready, take one leg and bend it outwards, so that the sole of your foot is now touching the inner thigh of your other leg that’s still straight. Slowly go down again with your hands outstretched towards your foot and lower your face towards your knee. When you’re ready, switch positions and do the other leg. Similar to Seated Forward Bend, this helps to stretch out the spine and lower back, helping you to focus and deeply stretch one side at a time.
Slowly come out of Head-to-Knee pose and lay on your back. Bring your knees in tight together against your chest and hold them there with your arms. Gently begin to rock from side to side, massaging your spine and neck.
Final one- Corpse Pose! Relax and straighten your legs out of Head-to-Knee pose and lay straight with your arms by your sides. Make sure you're in a comfortable position on your bed (perhaps your head near your pillows, in case you fall asleep?) There's a reason so many of us fall into a trance-like state when we go into corpse pose. After doing a series of poses and relaxing your mind and pose, Corpse Pose allows you to now fully extend and relax your body, letting it enjoy the stillness. You are now able to focus on your mind, shutting it down and clearing out all your activity from the day. Allow yourself to go a meditative state, focusing on your breathing and releasing every body part of tension.
||Sky Andersen holds down the role of blog writer at Yoga Accessories. Currently studying Public Relations at Virginia Commonwealth University, she writes for many different publications and is passionate about all things photography, travel and of course- yoga.