Guest post by Sarah Cummings
Insomnia keeping you up all night? I hear ya.
The thing is, even though sleep is supposed to be a lovely and relaxing time, sometimes it’s anything but. Nights are spent wide-eyed and frustrated, tossing and turning in a prison of sheets and sleeplessness. Mornings are spent bleary-eyed and exhausted, barely able to function without coffee and snapping at anyone who happens to get in your way of it.
It’s no way to live. And fortunately, you don’t have to live this life any longer!
Now, I know that yoga may not be everyone’s bag. But everyone can benefit from a better sleep, right? And there are a few simple yoga poses that have been proven to help both the mind and body relax for a great night’s sleep.
So if you’re having trouble sleeping, give these poses a try:
1) Child’s pose
One of the most soothing and comforting poses you can do, I find this one particularly useful after a tiring day. It calms the mind, helps with digestion, soothes any back ache and opens up the hips … it also reminds us that it’s OK to take a break once in a while!
Simply sit back on your heels, with your toes touching (you can widen your knees, if that feels more comfortable). Now bring your forehead gently to the ground or to a yoga block. Finally, instead of extending your arms in front, place them down by your sides – it can feel even more soothing to hold your feet here. Hold this posture for 3-5 minutes and focus on a soft, slow inhale, followed by a long and gentle exhale.
2) Reclining butterfly
Any inverted postures, especially supported ones, are great for stress relief – for calming the mind, relaxing the body and increasing blood flow for an enhanced feeling of wellbeing. This pose is great for the evening time as it sends the blood from our weary feet back down to the heart, which has a very soothing effect.
If you have a bit of wall space, scoot your hips up against it before swinging your legs up on the wall and lying down (so your body forms an L shape). Next, bring your heels together and allow your knees to fall out to the side in a diamond shape. If they don’t reach the wall, that’s ok; just let gravity do its work! Bring one hand to your heart and the other to the belly, observing the breath and the movement it makes. Stay here for at least 5 minutes. Drape an eye pillow or small towel over your eyes, if you like.
3) Forward bend
This is a simple, but very effective way to calm your mind before bedtime, while stretching out any tension you might be carrying in your back and shoulders from the day. It also opens up the hips to create an overall feeling of ease in the body.
The key to this one is not to push yourself (that applies to all yoga postures!) because you could do yourself damage if you strain too hard. Plus, straining agitates the mind - pushing sleep farther away. So before bedtime, do a very gentle version of the forward bend. Sitting with your legs straight out in front of you, and a pillow or blanket tucked under your knees, bend forward from the hips. Don’t try to go straight for your toes; simply place your hands on your thighs or shins and let gravity, plus your breath, bring your chin closer to your knees for the next 2 or 3 minutes. Make sure you don’t hunch over – you’ve done that at a computer all day, after all – and simply enjoy the gentle stretch.
4) Supine spinal twist
I just adore this pose! It makes me feel so relaxed, whatever time of day I do it… but especially if I’ve had big meal that day, or have been slipping into unhealthy habits recently. Its detoxifying nature makes me feel like I’m healing my body from all that bad stuff; and because of this, I can sleep a lot better!
Lying down, bring your arms out to either side and your knees into your chest. Slowly lower your knees to the left side and turn your head to the opposite direction, keeping both shoulders on the ground. If your knees hover from the floor, that’s ok… again, let the breath and gravity guide you down. Stay here for 2 minutes and repeat on the other side. De-licious!
This is probably the Daddy of relaxing yoga poses … I mean, can’t you tell by its name?! It caps off any yoga session and it’s what helps your mind and body to recharge after a workout. Simply lie on the floor with your legs and arms apart (around mat’s width), your feet splayed out to the side and palms facing up. Focus on the breath moving in and out of your belly. Here’s when you can practice a mediation exercise, or simply enjoy the feeling of your body sinking into the floor, setting you up for a great sleep.
Well, hopefully these easy poses will help you battle the insomnia demons! In the meantime, enjoy all the benefits that a regular yoga practice will bring to your life, your health, and your sleep.
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