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Stretch Yourself to Sleep: 5 Yoga Poses for Better Sleep
We all know how the next day feels when we don’t sleep well. Missing out on the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep nightly does more than just make you grouchy, it can affect your physical and mental health. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Practicing Yoga before bed to wind down is a better option than stimulating the mind with your computer, television or smartphone.
There are different types of Yoga for different goals. The best option to promote sleep is a sequence of gentle, basic postures at a slow pace. Bedtime is not the time for an energizing practice, save that for morning or mid-day. *It is not unusual to fall asleep in the final pose, Savasna, so you might want to set your alarm before you start the sequence!
Try these 5 Yoga Poses tonight for better sleep (they can all be done IN bed):
Happy Baby Pose: Lie on your back, bend your knees and reach for big toes or the outside edges of your feet with your hands. Gently pull your knees down towards the bed. Head, neck and shoulders stay down for this pose. Hold the pose for five deep breaths – option to rock your body side to side if it feels good. *If your toes or feet are not available you can reach anywhere along the outside of your legs.
Bridge Pose/Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back, both feet flat on the bed with knees bent. Place your arms at your sides with your palms down. Press into your felt and shoulders (not neck) and slowly lift your pelvis up toward the sky. If you are feeling unstable, move your feet back closer to your seat. Head, neck and shoulders stay down for this pose. Enjoy holding this pose for five deep breaths. *Option to take the hands to the low back to provide support.
Butterfly Pose: Sit up with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. First, practice sitting up tall, spine straight. Take five deep breaths here before folding forward over your legs. You might like to grab hold of your toes/upper feet and slightly pull them towards your face. Stay here for an additional five deep breaths.
Supported Child’s Pose (with blanket(s) &/or pillow(s): Experiment with a combination of blankets and pillows for this gentle pose. Place a pillow vertically on the bed or roll up blanket and place it on top of the pillow for more height. Start in a tabletop pose with your belly above the pillows/blankets. Spread your knees a little more than hip width apart and slide the edge of the pillows/blankets towards you. Rest your belly and chest on the pillows/blankets. You also want to allow your head and neck to relax by either placing your forehead on the pillows/blankets or turning your head to one side and resting your check down (If you do this option then turn your head and switch to the other check half-way through). Allow your arms to drape down to your sides. Stay here approximately five minutes.
Savasana/Corpse Pose : This is typically the final pose of a Yoga sequence, the importance easily overlooked. Lie down on your back with your legs long and arms long at your sides. Palms can face up or down or you might want your hands to rest on your stomach. Allow your feet to fall apart in opposite directions. Allow your back body to feel heavy and sink into the bed. Relax your face and jaw, allow your lips to separate. Close your eyes and focus in on your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Just observe the breath and any activity of your mind. No need to cling to any thoughts that may arise, just acknowledge them and move on. Option to add a body scan where you scan your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Take your time and notice if you are holding any tension anywhere. If you find a spot of tension, see if you can focus your breath on that particular area. Breathe into the specific area and breathe out from that same area. Breathing in relaxation, breathing out tension. There is no time limit for this pose.
Enjoy this bedtime Yoga sequence to help counteract stress and promote relaxation, make it part of your nightly routine for self-care.
Written by: Julie Christy, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Registered Yoga Teacher
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