Anyone who suffers from insomnia, anxiety, or poor sleep in general can tell you the powerful effects it has on one’s mental, physical and emotional state. Surely everyone has, by now, fallen victim to a person who snaps at him or her only to have that person pause and say, “I’m sorry, I really didn’t sleep well last night” and we nod in understanding. We’ve all been there.
Imagine if it was every night in a row for a week. Or a month. Or a year.
… Not a pretty picture at all.
Thus, it’s best to combat sleep issues before they become a swirling vortex, gaining strength with the vicious circle of not sleeping well — barely making it through a day — anxiety about if you will sleep well that evening to make up for it — resulting in more sleeplessness — and so on it goes.
Yoga, with its many proven benefits, can also be wonderful for the person in need of better/more restful sleep. With its long soothing breaths that lower adrenaline to its meditative style movements appropriate for every level, yoga before bed time can make a world of difference to an insomnia sufferer or someone just going through a bad sleep time.
Please note that this routine is not meant to be in place of a doctor’s care for a sleep disorder. As always, please check with your physician before beginning any physical routine.
To begin, choose if you’d like to do the following poses actually in your bed or simply in the bedroom on a yoga mat. Either works but you do want to be close to where you sleep as the routine is meant to slowly help you drift away. Another idea would be to put on soft, soothing music or nature sounds such as ocean waves or rain. There are many free apps for smart phones that mimic these noises solely for sleep problems.
Pose 1: Sukhasana (Easy Pose, Cross Legged Seat)
Purpose: Grounding, center, transitioning from day to night/ sleep time
Instructions: Sitting cross legged, comfortably (you could place a pillow or block under your seat to help with stiff hips), close your eyes and begin to notice your body, breath, and mind. If it helps, come up with a phrase to repeat to yourself during this routine. For example, inhale thinking “let”, exhale thinking “go”. You could also simply count in your mind your breaths. Spend 1-5 minutes here in meditation (1 minute for beginners, working up to 5 minutes, about 10 breaths per minute).
Pose 2: Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall)
Purpose: Calming of breath/mind, reverses blood flow to brain and heart, calms nervous system and adrenal glands
Instructions: Slide your legs up the wall by either twisting or “scooching” in your rear end towards the wall or headboard of one’s bed. Legs can rest comfortably on the wall (no need to squeeze them together), feet are relaxed, arms are relaxed. Close your eyes. Spend 1-5 minutes here in meditation (1 minute for beginners, working up to 5 minutes, about 10 breaths per minute).
Pose 3: Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Purpose: Recovery of legs from previous pose while continually calming heart rate and stretching muscles that could cause sleeplessness (tight lower back, shoulders)
Instructions: Gently roll out of Pose 2, Legs up the Wall, and slowly turn over onto hands & knees. With your big toes together and your knees apart in a v-shape, rest your hips towards your heels and your chest towards the ground with your eyes closed. Breathe deeply into your lower back and belly. Spend 1-3 minutes here in meditation (1 minute for beginners, working up to 3 minutes, about 10 breaths per minute).
Pose 4: Makrasana (Crocodile Pose)
Purpose: Safe space to ground, meditative, encourages closed eyes and feeling of rest, breath awareness
Instructions: Slowly stretch out to lay belly down from your Child’s Pose. Place one hand atop the other and then rest your forehead on your hands. Eyes are closed and you are breathing so deeply that you can gently feel a pleasant stretch on the lower back. Spend 1-5 minutes here in meditation (1 minute for beginners, working up to 5 minutes, about 10 breaths per minute).
Pose 5: Spinal Twist
Purpose: Final tension release, preparing the body for bed and a good night’s rest with lower back/ chest stretch
Instructions: Gently roll over onto your back from Crocodile Pose. Hug your knees into your chest and then release the arms in a T-shape out to the sides, palms face up, and gently drop the knees to your right side with your chin turned left (opposite ways). Spend 10 breaths here and then switch sides. Spend 10 breaths on the opposing side.
Pose 6: Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Purpose: To lead into sleep or into a meditative pose that mimics sleep, calming of all physical systems and the mind
Instructions: Lay on your back in a relaxed position, legs naturally apart and arms comfortable. The eyes are closed and with each breath, feel yourself drifting off into sleep. Spend as much time here as needed, a minimum of 5 minutes.
Just remember to try not to get frustrated with sleep. Weather changes, stress, and many other things can impact your sleep. A humidifier or dehumidifier, a white noise machine and clean/soft bedding can also impact your rest. Ensure your mattress is 5 years old or less as well for spinal health. Remember, there’s no harm in seeing a doctor to rule out any medical reason your sleep is suffering and to ease your mind. That might be all you need… and some yoga.