I have been known to wake up in the middle of the night and roll out my yoga mat…No, I wouldn’t choose to wake up in the middle of the night, but from time to time when it happens I have a protocol I do to get myself back to sleep. But perhaps what has been most helpful has been building an evening routine and practicing sleep hygiene to get a more restful sleep. One of the most important practices of this routine is my yoga for sleep sequence.
There are a multitude of reasons why you might be struggling with sleep. Maybe your mind has a tendency to race before bed, or perhaps you have some emotional trauma you are sorting through. Perhaps you’re dealing with some hormonal issues that are affecting your circadian rhythms, or maybe it’s just jet lag. Whatever it is, yoga can be incredibly helpful in putting you to bed and getting a restful night’s sleep.
Before I jump into these yoga poses for sleep, I do want to mention a couple other ways you can help promote good sleep hygiene. Things like decreasing screen time, and using blue-light blocking lightbulbs and glasses can all be helpful. Having some kind of routine leading up to bedtime can help your body wind down from a long day and clear your mind before bed. There’s a misconception that bedtime begins when you go to sleep, but in actuality you should be setting aside at least 1 hour to start your bedtime routine. Maybe your routine consists of sipping on herbal tea, or reading a book. Maybe you do a face mask or meditate. Or maybe it’s a yoga for sleep flow! Whatever it is, try to keep some consistency to help train your body to know it’s bedtime.
With that, here are 8 yoga poses to help you get a more restful sleep:
What it is: I can assure you that with any yoga flow, breath work will always be a part of it. One of the keys to a mindful yoga flow is beginning the practice by assessing where you are at and building the mind-body connecting. Breath work does just this. And yes, it’s as simple as it sounds, you focus on your breath.
Start by sitting up tall, or laying down on your back. Closing your eyes and placing one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Take a deep breath in and then exhale everything through your mouth. Repeat x 3. Then breathe in for 1, exhale to 2. Repeat x 10 or until you feel grounded. Place the emphasis on the exhale. Note: feel free to try 2-4 or 4-8 breath just so long as the exhale is longer than the inhale.
How it helps with sleep: 2-1 breath helps to calm your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Emphasis on the exhale helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the opposite is true of inhalation) which is why you focus your breath on the exhale.
Helpful tip: Try incorporating a mantra as you breathe. I like to say (to myself) “I invite in” on the inhale and “I release” on the exhale.
What it is: One of the classic resting postures, child’s pose is key to any yoga practice. On bent knees simply fold over with your arms in front of you laying flat on the floor (or bed). Sit back on your heels. Release your shoulders so they aren’t at your ears. Breathe for 10 breaths.
How it helps with sleep: Child’s pose helps to calm the mind and releases tension from the neck and shoulders.
Helpful tips: Place a pillow or two underneath your belly to make this posture more restorative.
Seated Forward Fold
What it is: In a seated position reach your legs out in front of you making sure they’re parallel to each other and touching. Begin bending at the waist focusing on bringing your chest to your thighs rather than reaching your toes. Place your hands wherever they touch on your legs or feet. Stay here for 10 breaths.
How it helps sleep: Increases circulation and helps to calm nerves by encouraging introspection.
Helpful tips: Place pillow under your head to make the posture more restorative. Don’t worry about touching your toes but instead try to reach your chest to your thighs.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
What it is: Laying on your back, bring your feet to touch and your knees splaying outwards. Place your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your belly. Stay here for 10 breaths.
How it helps sleep: This hip-opening pose helps to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate, decreasing tension both in the mind and the body.
Helpful tips: If the stretch in your hips is too intense, feel free to place pillows underneath each knee to make it more restorative.
What it is: Start by laying on your back and bend your knees. Bring your feet as close to your butt as possible so that your fingertips touch the back of your heels. Squeeze your glutes and lift them high towards the sky. Breathe for 10 breath cycles.
How it helps with sleep: Great for releasing lower back tension and pain, as well as stimulating the root chakra which can lead to more restful sleep.
Helpful tips: If you’re having trouble holding the posture or want a more restorative posture bring one or two pillows below your sacrum for a supported bridge.
Supine Spinal Twist
What it is: Start by laying on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Roll your knees, stacking them one on top of the other or one leg over and one leg straight to the right side of your body, keeping both shoulders firmly rooted on the ground. Turn your neck and head towards the left. Breath for 10 breaths. Bring your knees back towards your chest and twist to the other side. Hold for 10 breaths on the other side.
How it helps sleep: Twisting helps to encourage an even blood pressure and release spinal tension.
Helpful tips: The goal is not to bring both knees to the ground, but to twist from the hips while keeping both shoulders planted firmly. Tendency is to lift a shoulder to reach the opposite knee to the ground. Try not to do this.
Legs up the Wall
What it is: Sit sideways with one side facing the wall. Swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head down onto the floor or bed. Your butt doesn’t need to be right up against the wall. Stay there for 5 minutes allowing the blood to flow out of your legs.
How it helps with sleep: Allowing the blood to flow in the opposite direction (from your feet to your heart) can calm your nervous system and decrease high blood pressure associated with stress.
Helpful tips: This is meant to be a restorative posture so if you feel any stretching or areas of tension, ease your butt back from the wall.
What it is: I know, I know, this is an obvious one, but after getting some intentional movement in, it’s important to just let it all go. I like to combine savasana with a body scan to help induce sleep. What does this mean? I lay down on my back, as I would in a typical savasana and make my way up through my body focusing on different body parts and releasing tension i.e. I’ll start with my feet and intentionally focus on relaxing the muscles in my feet. I’ll then move onto my calves, my knees etc…all the way until I reach the crown of my head. Then I will allow myself to just melt into the mat or bed.
How it helps sleep: Savasana is of course, the closest posture to actual sleep. Doing it intentionally with a focus on body awareness and relaxation can help put you in a state that will lead to a more restful sleep.
Helpful tips: Get yourself as cozy as possible as there’s a good chance you drift off to sleep!
Pin this or download it to your phone the next time you’re having tummy trouble or you need some additional help with getting a restful night’s sleep.
Like this post? Check out some of my other yoga posts:
*Please consult your doctor before trying any new physical activity.
What does your nighttime routine look like? What types of yoga practices do you want to see next?
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