Hopefully you were able to try out some of the tips in our last post about getting in touch with and resetting your circadian rhythm. But if you tried all the suggestions and are not sleeping soundly, no worries. I’ll bet that you can improve your sleep with the lovely yoga sequence I have for you below.
Yoga is an effective, enjoyable way to address the root of your sleep issues and induce a pleasant snooze. In a national survey of 35,000 households, 55% of people who practiced yoga reported that it helped them sleep while 85% said that it helped them reduce stress.
Remember that approach is key, since how we do our yoga practice is just as, if not more important that what we do. We have to be conscious of our breathing and back off when a posture becomes too exciting or stressful.
Not all forms of yoga are relaxing either (no vigorous vinyasa or heated yoga classes before bed!), so a calming, more restorative approach is necessary to get the body ready for sleep.
The following sequence is an essential part of my nighttime routine. It melts away any muscle tension accumulated throughout the day and reduces stress. When done in a meditative way with mindful breathing, it also helps to tame obsessive thoughts, calm the mind, and prepare it for sleep.
Hold the following postures for 5-8 slow, deep breath, perhaps emphasizing the exhalation to help let go of tension. It’s best to do this immediately before retiring, so you can climb right into bed afterwards.
Yoga Sequence for Better Sleep
1. Standing forward bend (Uttanasana)
This posture is great for relieving tension in the back. Crossing the forearms makes the upper body heavier so there’s greater traction along the spine. Blood and energy is directed toward the head to calm the mind.
Bend the knees if tight hamstrings are pulling your low back, causing discomfort.
2. Headstand or rabbit (Sirsasana or Sasangasana )
If Headstand is already part of your practice, doing it at night can activate the endocrine glands and calm your nervous system. Contraindications to this pose include neck injuries, high blood pressure, heart conditions, and menstruation.
Like Headstand, Rabbit pose is therapeutic due to it’s direct effect on the brain. But this posture is more approachable since you can control the pressure placed on the head and ensure that the neck is not compressed.
3. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
Shoulderstand is a counter pose to Headstand variations. It regulates any hormonal imbalances and soothes the nerves. This pose should be skipped though if you have a neck injury, high blood pressure, or are menstruating.
4. Bound angle w/ neck extension & open chest (Baddha konasana)
This posture (as well as #5-8 below) relieves tension accumulated in the hips, chest, and neck from long periods of work in front of a computer.
5. Seated twist (Ardha matseyandrasana)
6. Neck stretch, simple seated posture
7. Eagle (Garudasana) arms, simple seated posture
8. Reclined Figure-4 Stretch
9. Legs-up-the-wall-or-bed (Viparita karani)
This inversion is necessary to ease tired legs and reverse blood flow to the heart and brain, especially if you were not able to include headstand and shoulderstand in your routine. It reduces anxiety, calms the mind, and helps regulate blood pressure. It can even calm crazy 7-year-old boy energy!
Most of you will be yawning before you complete this series! If so, hop in bed and have a wonderful night’s rest!
Still needing extra help? You may also want to check out my Yoga Nidra meditation on my Meditation Page. Yoga Nidra (Yoga sleep) is a very effective meditation to induce a relaxed state of mind and is also effective with changing mindset and habitual patterns.
Well wishes to you all…
Read Part 3: Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture for sleep issues