Sleep is necessary, there’s no getting around that fact. Better sleeping patterns make for better lives in general. Sleep helps enhance memory, stimulate creativity, reduce stress, manage weight, and heal one’s body from pain and injury. In fact, getting a good night’s rest can actually help some have a longer lifespan. (1)
Sadly, most people do not get enough sleep. Most tend to burn the candle out at both ends. In today’s society, we work many hours, study endlessly and/or are always on the go. Repeating this pattern over time can damage the body. Lack of sleep can weaken the immune system and leave one vulnerable to infection and other serious health problems. Low sleep amounts also causes stress increases and depression. People lacking sleep are more likely to make judgment errors and experience serious, if not fatal accidents.
Yoga can help prepare for a better night’s sleep. When practiced during the day, yoga energizes the body, but relaxes both the body and mind when it is time to sleep. How does yoga do this?
Yoga Soothes the Mind
Many yoga poses that involve bending are designed to soothe the nervous system, reduce stress and calm the body at the end of a hectic day. Yoga prepares the mind for sleep by enhancing calmness throughout the body and releasing stress and nervous energy.
Yoga Eases Physical Pain
Aches and pains can be common culprits that keep bodies awake at night. Yoga can help alleviate this problem because many poses stretch the various muscles and joints, relieve tension and increase blood flow to problem areas.
Yoga Enhances Focus
Our minds need to be trained to know when it’s time to be active and when it’s time to rest. Yoga helps sharpen one’s focus for doing what comes naturally as nighttime approaches and the head hits the pillow.
Yoga Helps Quiet Thoughts
Mental noise can be distracting. Thoughts racing through the mind a mile a minute can lead to endless tossing and turning. Yoga can help quiet this chatter. It offers a time and place to reflect and meditate-outside of sleeping hours, so minds can be clear before bedtime.
Yoga Allows Surrender
Resisting sleep at night is easy to do- especially when it feels like there is still so much left to be done. Yoga works the body and mind in a way that once a practice is completed, it feels good to simply surrender and let yourself relax.
Yoga Poses for Sleeping
Several yoga poses are useful for preparing the mind and body for a better night’s sleep. While these poses only take minutes to do, they can lead to several hours of peaceful slumber.
Begin with upside-down relaxation. Sit facing a wall with your bottom about 6 inches away from the wall. Lie back and extend your legs up the wall. Rest your arms at your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently.
Next, progress to a winding down twist. Sit cross-legged and exhale as you place your right hand on your left knee and left hand behind your tailbone. Gently twist your torso to the left and look over your shoulder. Breathe deeply, return to center and repeat on your right.
Follow with a diamond leg stretch. Lie on your back and bend your knees. Place the soles of your feet together and open your knees into a diamond shape while resting your arms.
Next, move into a child’s pose. Sit up on your heels and reach your torso forward. Lower your chest as close to your knees as you can comfortably and extend your arms in front of you. (2)
Lastly, conclude with a happy baby pose. Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Open your knees wide towards the sides of your body. If possible hold onto your feet or toes with your hands and gently roll your body side to side relaxing.
1) “Why Better Sleep = Better Health” Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/railroad-sleep/problems/sleep-health
2) “8-Minute Workout: Yoga for Better Sleep.” Fitness Magazine, http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/yoga/poses/yoga-routine-before-sleep/?page=1