Every two weeks, our resident Yogini will answer any questions regarding yoga that you, our readers, have. Today she’ll talk about yoga for sleep. Kristin is a 200-hour registered yoga instructor. She was first introduced to yoga in 2008, and had an intermittent practice until late 2014, when she began to crave more. She favors fun, stretchy and fast-paced Vinyasa, and relaxing Yin classes. While she is a certified yoga teacher, she is not a medical doctor. Consult your MD if you are concerned about pre-existing conditions about you and your yoga practice.
Yoga For Sleep
For those of you who experience insomnia, or who sometimes have difficulty sleeping, yoga can help with that. How? Yoga stills the mind, helps you to focus on the breath, and lowers both physical and mental fatigue and stress. A flowing sequence paired with deep and slow abdominal breathing can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which essentially halts stress and calms you done. Even chronic insomniacs benefit from regularly practicing yoga, according to this study. Here is a sequence to incorporate into your nightly routine to put you in a relaxed frame of mind before settling into a peaceful slumber.
*An asterisk is next to the recommended poses if you prefer a shorter sequence
Start with a *Wide Legged Forward Bend, or Prasarita Padottanasana. Bring your feet wide, so that if you stretch your arms out to the side, your ankles are underneath your wrists. Engaging your thighs, and making sure you are rooting down in your feet (the toes can point forward, or maybe you bring your toes in a bit), inhale deeply, and exhale and begin to fold from the hips. Release your hands to the ground. You can leave your hands down, or walk them underneath the body. Breathe fully for one minute.
From Prasarita, very slowly begin to roll up to a standing, and then come to a seat on the ground. Stretch your legs out long in front of you, and move into Head to Knee Forward Bend. Note: just because it says head to knee, it doesn’t mean you need to get there. If your head is about a thousand feet away from your knee, that’s OK. Don’t force yourself and remember that you are looking for a gentle practice to prepare you for sleep. Make sure you are relaxed, breathing fully and deeply, and roll your shoulders away from your ears.
Once your legs are gently stretched out, find your way onto your back body, so that you are laying down. You’ll bend your knees, and bring feet close to your sit bones. Make your way into Bridge pose, breathing with deep inhales and long exhales, and hold for a minute. Use your hands or a block for support. When you come out of it, just hug your knees close to your chest, and gently rock from side to side.
From here, you’ll move into your basic *Balasana. Stay here for up to 5 minutes and breathe in and out fully and deeply. Once done, bring yourself up to a seat with the soles of the feet touching, and knees wide for your Bound Angle Pose or Baddha Konasana. On your exhale, fold over as much as you can. Since this is a gentle practice, don’t worry if your spine isn’t straight. Just relax into this, and breathe deeply. Hold for 20 full deep breaths, or about a minute.
After the appropriate time, gently roll your spine all the way up, and release your legs straight out in front you you. You’ll want to make sure your sit bones are rooted into the mat, and the true Seated Forward Bend is with straight legs. However, for this sequence it may be more appropriate to bend the knees, a lot or a little. You can even place a rolled up blanket to place under your knees. When you’re ready, gently bend over your legs, letting your head be heavy and relaxing the neck. Breathe very deeply, so you feel you back body expanding with breath. Stay here for at least a minute.
Begin to roll up with a straight spine, and then move towards a wall, if you aren’t close to one already. You’ll be moving into *Legs Up The Wall, and it is up to you if you want support in the form of a blanket, pillow, bolster, or block. Stay here for at least five minutes.
Following Legs Up The Wall, bring your legs back down, so that you are laying down completely. Bring the soles of the feet together, knees wide, so that your legs form a diamond shape. Your feet should be far away from the body. Relax the hands on the belly, on your thighs, or on your mat close to your hips. This is *Reclining Goddess pose or Supta Baddha Konasana, and besides being my absolute favorite pose, it gently opens the heart, thighs, and calms the central nervous system. Be here for at least a minute, but up to five.
Gently hug the knees into the chest, and maybe rock slowly from side to side. For a gentle massage to the organs, and to relax the spine, move into a *Reclining Spinal Twist. Keeping the knees stacked, or crossing right over left, just carry the legs to the left and open up your chest by opening up to the right with your right arm. Pause on this side for a minute, and then do the opposite for the other side.
By now, you should be feeling relaxed, and ready for sleep. If you would like, you can be in your corpse pose for a few minutes before moving to your bed for sleep, or you can head straight to bed.
Sleep well! If you have any yoga related questions, be sure to comment, below or on Facebook or tweet @LitDarling!
Wide Legged Stance by: Nicholas A. Tonelli
Viparita Karani by: kellinahandbasket
Baddha Konasana by: yoga mama
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