Still trying to count sheep?
Sleep may well be the one most underappreciated commodity in today’s world. Whatever age you are, you’ve likely fallen victim to the world’s tendency to trick you into never taking a break.
And why would you take a break, after all, when the internet and all our “more-available-than-ever” entertainment and social media fixes are in the palm of our hand? That is if you’re not buried eyeballs-deep in work that keeps you from taking any opportunity to rest.
Indeed, we underestimate the importance of sleep, taking it for granted until our bodies crash due to fatigue and burnout.
One unexpected way to get more and better sleep is doing yoga.
Yoga by itself is one of the current new favorites, having experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 2000s. It’s known to help improve physical strength, a range of movement, and flexibility, as well as enhance mental focus and help us regulate breathing.
“Studies have shown that yoga can help people who have insomnia or other sleep disorders, helping reduce feelings of fatigue, improve sleep quality, and thus overall reduce the need for sleep medication. This leads to an overall improvement in the quality of life.”
Here are six yoga poses that will help you improve your sleep.
1. PERFECT POSE
Tias Little’s advice helps those whose occasional waking up too early or unexpectedly in the middle of the night might otherwise derail their autonomic rhythms.
First, remember that this is not an active posture. Sitting upright with eyes closed, relax your spine and keep it delicate and at rest. You may cover yourself with a blanket, or a shawl if that’s what you use. Just stay silent, letting the silence continue to cover you and quiet your mind.
Whatever you do, try to keep your mind clear as thoughts and plans will activate your mind and make you too alert to get back to sleep. As you drift off, roll back in Savasana, lying on your back and allowing yourself to luxuriate in the sense of spacious ease. Even if you don’t fall asleep, your body will at least be calm and restored.
2. CHANDRA BHEDANA
Sarah Finger’s “Moon Activating Breath” is a simple but effective breathing activity that soothes and relaxes. You can do this one in bed, falling asleep as soon as it takes over.
Sit comfortably with your spine erect, and close your right nostril by placing your thumb over it. Inhale through the left nostril, and hold that breath before switching fingers and exhaling through the right nostril. Keep doing this, extending each taken and held breath with each repetition. Keep your mind clear.
3. VIPARITA KARANI
Natasha Rizopoulos’ “legs up the wall” pose help rest you at any time of day. You can take as little as five minutes, and it’ll still let your consciousness settle. As an added bonus, it helps you soothe tired legs!
Start by putting a blanket or bolster down parallel to the wall, about 6 inches from it.
Sit sideways on this support, setting your hip against the wall and putting your legs up the wall and your back flat on the floor. By this point, the support should be under your lower back. Those with tighter hamstrings can scoot a bit further back from the wall. From here it’s just about keeping the legs up and letting the calm wash over you.
What could be simpler than actually just lying down? Jeanie Manchester has a Savasana version somewhat unsettlingly called a “corpse pose,” but it’s incredibly simple and effective. You can do this in bed, under a blanket (as long as you’re warm it’ll help).
Lie down flat and relax your jaw, and relax the rest of the way down your body. Slow your breathing to an even pace and feel your body feel heavier with each exhalation. Focus on each breath and clear the thoughts out of your mind with each one. Keep this up for 20 minutes.
5. SUPTA ARDHA DANDASANA
Sage Roundtree has a great half-bow pose that stretches out the hip flexors, which can be great for those who sleep on their side. You can actually do this in bed!
In bed, let your leg dangle over one edge. From here you have the option to hold your foot (with knee bent) or keep the leg straight. The non-dangling leg can then be kept in a half Cobbler’s Pose, holding for up to 20 breaths before switching legs and doing the other side. This is surprisingly restive and might have you drifting off to sleep part way through.
6. PASCHIMOTTANASANA/BALASANA HYBRID
Mary Taylor’s hybrid of the seated forward bend and child’s pose helps fight all kinds of insomnia. You can also do this one in bed with the help of some pillows, or you can do this on the mat if you prefer.
Start by sitting upright. Hold your legs out in front of you, a hip-width apart. Relax your legs and let your knees and feet flop to the sides naturally; don’t hold them stiff. Place a bolster or pillow between your legs so that you can curl your body down and rest your forehead on it.
Avoid exerting, or it’ll wake you up more and keep you from settling down. While bent down, let your arms alongside the pillow. You shouldn’t be feeling any tension in your body, and soon enough you ought to be dozing.
ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz!!!! Now it’s time to sleep! Good night!