Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

Yoga for Sleep: Left Nostril Breathing
Left Nostril Breathing

Before you begin the physical yoga practice, do a few rounds of Left Nostril Breathing. 

Sit in any comfortable position or lie down on your right side. Close the right nostril with your thumb and take 10-20 slow, deep breaths through the left nostril. Breathe into the belly, letting the abdomen soften and expand. This technique allows the calming, cooling, reflective energy of the left side to take over. The body and mind are taken out of “flight or flight” mode and into the resting, restorative state of the parasympathetic nervous system. Entering into this state is an absolute sleep necessity.
Yoga for Sleep: Downward Facing Dog
Cat/Cow into Downward Dog

From a hands and knees position, gently arch and round your spine, coordinating your breath with your movement as you simply fell the suppleness of your spine. In general, the inhalation goes along with expansion (the backbend), while the exhalation accompanies the forward bend (when you round you back, tuck your tailbone, and draw your chin towards your chest). After several rounds of this, come to neutral and then lift your hips into the air, pressing back to downward facing dog. Peddle out your feet, release your head between your arms, and along with the release of your head, release your mind and your thoughts from the tension of the day.

Yoga for better sleep: Seated Forward Bend
Seated Forward Bend

If you do not like Pascimottanasana, any seated forward bend will do. If you are stiffer and forward bends are more stressful than relaxing, take it easy. Sit up on a pillow or bolster, stretch your legs out as straight as possible, and fold forward over your legs. The most restorative version of this would be to support your head on a pillow or bolster as well, so use as many props as you need on your legs so that when you fold your body forward your head finds a resting place.  Stay here about one minute, breathing smoothly and deeply through your nose.

Yoga for better sleep via alignyo
Legs Up the Wall Pose

Lie on your back with your hips either right up against the wall, or if you are a bit tighter, several inches away. Extend your legs straight up the wall. Rest your arms by your sides with the palms of your hands face up. Close your eyes and follow the movement of your breath. This is an amazing restorative posture and is also a gentle inversion, and is specifically prescribed for insomnia.

Yoga for sleep: Savasana
Final Relaxation (Savasana)

You can either do this on your yoga mat or better yet, set up savasana in bed in preparation for sleep. Be sure that your pillow encourages a neutral position of the neck, to promote easy breathing and reduce snoring. The chin should not be pushed toward the chest with a flattened neck, nor should the head be tipped too far back. It may be helpful to have your partner or a friend check out your Savasana and look at the position of your neck. Close your eyes and watch your natural breath, flowing in, and flowing out. 

If the mind feels very busy or distracted, continue to return your attention to your breath, letting thoughts come and go without giving them so much of your energy and attention. Remind yourself gently that it is time to rest and release. Those same thoughts, that same to-do list, will be waiting for you tomorrow. The best thing you can do at this time is to allow yourself the release and rest that the body and mind so desperately need. Let go, soften, release, relax.

Yoga for Sleep: Left Nostril Breathing
Yoga for Sleep: Downward Facing Dog
Yoga for better sleep: Seated Forward Bend
Yoga for better sleep via alignyo
Yoga for sleep: Savasana
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