Many of us suffer from poor sleep habits that drain our energy and make us feel sluggish. You may have heard that yoga is an excellent tool to help you achieve a state of relaxation, but did you know that yoga can also help you sleep better? Aside from improving your flexibility and strength, yoga can aid even the most desperately sleepless night owls get some quality rest.
The American Sleep Association reports that 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder, with close to 40% of US adults falling asleep during the day. Signs that you are sleep deprived include feeling tired during the day, experiencing brain fog at work, or needing to reach for caffeine to stay awake. Then, at the end of the day, the stress and anxiety make it difficult to fall asleep.
Yoga helps reduce stress levels, relieve physical tension, and calm the body and mind. Not surprisingly, yoga also helps improve sleep quality through relaxing poses that facilitate deep breathing.
Practicing yoga is both free and highly effective. A national survey found that over 55% of people who practiced yoga slept better and experienced less stress. Additionally, whether you are a beginner or a fitness enthusiast, yoga can be practiced at all levels of fitness.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Routine
Pay Attention To Your Breathing
It’s important to use the right breathing techniques while doing yoga. When you exhale, you help release stress and tension from your muscles. Inhale through the nose for 5 counts, and then exhale through the mouth for five counts. Once you’ve fully exhaled, pause before inhaling. Breathe slowly and steadily.
While practicing yoga, you will engage with deeper breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing allows you to take in more air and more fully expand your lungs. In addition to improving your yoga practice, diaphragmatic breathing you will also help you experience more relaxation, higher levels of energy, and a stronger immune system, especially if you carry this breathing over to everyday life.
Modify Poses For Maximum Comfort
If a yoga pose is too difficult for you, bend your knees or modify the pose. Don’t force yourself to continue the pose as prescribed: yoga is not a competition; it’s about feeling good. Do what you need to to alleviate tension and bring the pose to a manageable level of difficulty. You can also use cushions, blankets, or yoga blocks to help facilitate and hold the stretch without straining yourself. You should experience a gentle stretch, not pain.
Do These Exercises At The End Of Your Day
To experience the most benefit from yoga for sleep, try the yoga poses described below at the end of the day. Certain types of yoga such as Vinyasa yoga will energize you rather than relax your body, so as a beginner, focus only on the following types of yoga right before bedtime.
Yoga Poses That Help You Sleep Better
The child’s pose begins on your hands and knees. Elongate your body and lengthen your spine, keeping your back straight and your head aligned with your shoulders.
On exhalation, bow forward, draping your torso between your thighs. Your heart and chest should rest between or on top of your thighs. Gradually lower your forehead to the floor as you keep your arms extended, palms facing down.
Press back slightly with your hands to keep your buttocks in contact with your heels. Lengthen from your hips to your armpits, and then extend even further through your fingertips. Allow your back to soften and relax as the tension in your shoulders and neck melts away. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds, and then gently walk your hands back to your torso until you are back in the starting position.
Upper Forward Fold
The upper forward fold pose is a gentle pose that is easy for beginners, and relaxing for all fitness levels. For the least amount of strain, perform this exercise while sitting on top of a small pillow.
Sit on the floor with a tall straight back and with your legs straight out in front of you approximately shoulder width apart.
Extend your body as close to the floor as possibly, moving your upper body towards the floor. Gradually lower your forehead to the floor and hold as you breathe through the stretch. Hold the pose up to 60 seconds, and then slowly raise your upper body to an upright position.
The forward bend opens up your body and gently stretches the hip and groin area without too much strain.
Legs Up Against The Wall
With your body perpendicular to a wall, lie on the ground on your back, and slowly raise your legs up against the wall. Your body should be in an L-shaped pose. Keep your legs as straight as you can up against the wall and relax into the position. Allow the wall to support your legs, and hold for at least 60 seconds while you focus on taking long deep breaths. You will experience better circulation and an overall feeling of centeredness as you lower your legs to the floor.
The lying butterfly pose will help release tense muscles in the hip and groin area. If you experience tightness in your hips or groin area, slip a pillow or cushion under your knees for comfort.
Lie on the ground on your back. Bring your feet together and press the bottoms of your feet against each other, allowing your knees to part and your legs to gradually extend out on both sides in a diamond shape. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for 60 seconds, observing as you inhale and exhale each breath.
The corpse pose helps you observe and recognize any tightness in the body as you lie in a straight relaxed position. To perform this yoga pose, lie on the ground on your back with legs straight. Your arms should be relaxed on both sides, and your palms should be facing up.
Focus on the length of each inhale and exhale as you let all the muscles of your body relax. You can hold this position for as long as you want to achieve a state of relaxation, usually up to 10 minutes.
Standing Forward Bend
To perform this pose, stand with the feet about six inches apart and fold the torso to the ground, reaching toward the ground or bending the arms and grabbing the opposite hand to the opposite elbow. Next, bend at the waist as much as possible without strain. As you bend forward, you will feel the tension in your legs and hips release. The standing forward bend not only feels good, it also lengthens the spine and stretches the backs of the legs and the back muscles.
Lie flat on your back with your arms along the sides of your body, with your palms facing down. Bend your knees, and place your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. As you press your palms and feet firmly into the ground, raise your hips up. As you raise your hips, extend your arms while keeping your palms on the mat. To modify this pose, you can bend your elbows and rest your hands on your lower back. Hold the bridge pose for 10 deep breaths, lifting your hips as high as you can. Bridge pose helps stimulate the lungs, thyroid glands, and abdominal organs. It also calms the brain and central nervous system.
Supine Spinal Twist
Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides. Place a pillow under your head, if desired. Hug your left knee into your chest. Inhale as you place your right hand on the outside of your left thigh and reach your left arm to the left. Exhale fully as you gently twist from your mid-back to bring your left knee across your body to the right. You can also try bringing both legs up and then over to each side. Take two more long, deep breaths and hold for 60 seconds. Release and repeat on the other side. As an added bonus, the supine spinal twist will help ease your lower back muscles, and also increase blood flow in the pelvis and abdomen area.
There are many changes you can make to your lifestyle which can add to the effectiveness of these yoga poses. Eat foods that induce sleep. Establish a routine with your sleep patterns by getting up and going to bed around the same time each day. Avoid napping longer than 30 minutes, especially as you get closer to your bedtime. You can read more in our blog post about everything you need to do for restful sleep.
Ideally, sleeping in the afternoon for about half an hour and for a minimum seven hours at night is good practice.
Be gentle with yourself as you ease into your bedtime yoga practice, and soon you will quiet your mind and experience deep relaxation. As with any routine, be consistent with your bedtime yoga practice, and you will sleep well and feel refreshed the next day.