You’ve tried sipping Sleepytime tea, turning off all your screens an hour before bedtime, and even spraying your pillow with lavender - but you still can’t sleep. And less sleep equals more stress, which increases our cortisol levels, negatively affecting the quality and quantity of sleep we get - so you need it.
Yoga can help. A Harvard study on insomnia found that when people practiced yoga for 8 weeks, their sleep improved significantly, including their total sleep time and quality of sleep.
Losing sleep can turn into a vicious cycle and it’s best to break it ASAP, so ditch the late-night Candy Crush, and instead try these five poses to catch a solid eight hours:
Practiced before bed, this yoga pose helps your spine release tension and relax to stress less and sleep more.
Lie on your back and hug your knees toward your chest. Bring your arms out into a T and lower your knees down to the right, keeping them in line with the navel to stretch the lower back. Hold for 1-5 minutes and repeat on the other side to ring out spinal tension.
This pose is known for helping to reduce stress while encouraging sleep, due to the forward folded position.
Start in a tabletop position with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips; big toes to touching. Shift your hips back toward your heels as you lengthen the hands in the opposite direction; gently creating more space in the spine. Rest your forehead on the floor, or on a block or firm pillow. Hold for 1-5 minutes to calm the nervous system and relieve stress. (If your hips don’t reach your feet, don’t worry, just go as far as you can until you feel a stretch).
Legs up the Wall with Extended Exhale
Bringing your legs above the head, in a restorative position, allows the nervous system to calm down and increase blood flow and circulation, combined with a breathing exercise, it’s the ultimate turn-down pose.
Sit with your right hip up against the wall or the headboard of your bed, with your hands back behind you for support. Slowly bring your legs up the wall as you lower onto your back with your, hands by your sides. If your hamstrings are tight, your hips may be a few inches away from the wall. Take a deep inhale through the nose, to the count of four, completely inflating the lungs. On the exhale, slow down the breath and empty to a count of eight until the navel contracts back into the spine. Stay here, continuing this breathing pattern, for 5-10 minutes to calm the mind.
Supta Baddha Konasana
Supta Baddha Konasana is a wonderful pose that helps you to reach a deep state of relaxation by improving circulation and calming your nervous system.
Start by placing a pillow or a bolster at the base of your back. Bend your legs and gently place the soles of your feet together, but don’t push – just relax. Lie your body back across the pillow or bolster, and allow your body to open up and relax into the position. Breathe slowly and hold the position for at least 5 minutes.
This is the final pose before you go to sleep, as it really helps your mind to relax.
Lie down on the floor, with either a yoga mat or other cushioning, letting your arms and legs relax, palms facing up to open your shoulders. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply, and close your eyes. Stay like this for at least 5 minutes. Come out of the pose by slowly drawing your knees into your chest, then lie down to sleep. (Alternatively, you can do this pose in bed and fall right asleep).
Think of these poses as a restorative meditation and focus the mind solely on the breath as you inhale and exhale. Resist any temptation to lie on your back, hold your phone in the air, and scroll through your social media feed - your sleep is more important than your friend’s latest selfie.
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