This post explores the benefits of yoga for better sleep and offers four easy yoga poses and a 5-minute bedtime meditation to help you get better sleep. These yoga poses can all be done in your bed and are designed to help you shift into the "relaxation response" and calm your body and mind.
Yoga allows both our body and mind to settle down and relax!
If your mind is racing and you feel stressed out at night, you are most likely in “fight or flight” mode. It’s very challenging to get good sleep when we’re in this state. Feelings of stress and anxiety disturb the sleep cycle. Yoga helps shift you into the parasympathetic nervous system (sometimes known as the “relaxation response”) which calms you down and helps you get better sleep.
Yoga has also been proven to improve circadian function, increase melatonin levels and reduce sleep disturbances.
We're all different when it comes to our needs and our sleep patterns, so what works for one person may not work for another. If you're interested in doing yoga as part of your bedtime routine, it's best to experiment with different practices and see what works best for you. And remember, yoga works best as a whole system, and no yoga pose in itself is magic.
That said, these four yoga poses are a great starting point on the way to build a bedtime yoga practice. What's even better is that these poses can all be done on your bed!
Sometimes it’s challenging to slow down after a busy day and it can be helpful to move our body before settling into stillness. Cat/cow provides a way to connect movement to breath, gently stretch the spine, and release any built-up tension from our day.
How to do it:
This supine spinal twist will mobilize the spine and increase circulation. It can reduce stiffness and discomfort in the back and help release any aches and pains that may have built up during your day, making it easier to fall asleep.
How to do it:
Reclined butterfly is soothing for the nervous system and allows your body to be fully at rest in order to induce sleep. It also gently opens up the hips, which can become tight when sitting all day.
How to do it:
Spending a few moments breathing deep in Legs up the Wall will quiet the mind and encourage the body’s “rest and digest” mode. By elevating the legs, this pose helps to improve circulation, which can reduce swelling and discomfort, relieving tension from your lower body and making it easier to fall asleep.
How to do it:
When you're done with your yoga poses for sleep, listen to this 5-minute meditation to help you drift off into dreamland!
Waking up in the middle of the night is something I personally struggle with quite a bit. Over time, I've found myself repeatedly coming back to the same yoga tools that help me fall back asleep. Give these a try:
A body scan meditation involves focusing your awareness on different parts of the body, noticing any sensations or tension, and relaxing that body part. You can start from your head and work your way down to the feet or vice versa.
Affirmations are positive statements that can help to rewire your brain and promote feelings of calm and relaxation. Find one that resonates with you such as "I am calm and at peace" or "I release all stress and tension." The one I'm currently using is "As my body sinks into bed, my worries melt away and my mind settles."
One simple breath technique that you can try when you wake up in the middle of the night is counting your breaths. To do this, simply focus on taking slow, deep breaths. As you inhale, count to four, and as you exhale, count to four. Repeat this process for several minutes, keeping your attention on your breath and letting other thoughts drift away. If that feels comfortable, then begin to extend the count of the exhale (for example: inhale for four, exhale for six).
Tonight, try these yoga techniques as part of your evening routine before going to bed and start discovering how yoga can help you sleep better, feel better, and live better.
If you feel like you could benefit from a little more guidance, I have on-demand yoga videos in Lifelong Yoga Online specifically designed for rest and sleep that you can follow along with. Join us inside anytime!
And in the meantime...sweet dreams.