Quality sleep is essential for health, healing and productivity yet poor sleep plagues many. While occasional sleep issues are normal, chronic insomnia can seriously impact well-being. Fortunately, yoga is a natural and effective way to unwind the body and calm the mind for better slumber. Certain poses, breathing techniques and routines target where we hold tension to lull you into a deep, restorative sleep.
Gentle stretches 1-2 hours before bed allow muscles to relax so you can drift off easily. Try child’s pose, cat-cow, happy baby, legs up the wall and gentle twists from standing or seated. Hold 5 breaths in each to release tension from the day.
These supported poses passively stretch tight areas while inducing relaxation. Prop yourself up in seated forward fold, legs up the wall, or savasana with bolsters. Stay 5-10 minutes to unwind.
Inversions like shoulder stand and plow pose get fresh oxygenated blood to the head. They also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which counters stress hormones keeping us awake. Limit to 2-3 minutes maximum.
Gentle backbends like cobra and cat-cow counter fatigue from hunching over technology all day. They open the chest and lungs for deeper breathing before bed.
Slow, diaphragmatic breathing relaxes the nervous system. Try 4-7-8 breathing – inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, exhale for 8 counts through the nose. Or alternate nostril breathing to balance the hemispheres of the brain.
Guided sleep meditations or simple awareness of the breath trains the mind to disengage from thoughts and let go of the day. Start with 5 minutes and work up to 15-20 minutes.
Incorporate some of the above into a pre-bed routine like:
- 5 minutes gentle yoga flow
- 10 minutes restorative poses
- 5 minutes pranayama
- 10 minutes meditation or reading
- End in savasana 15 minutes
Stick to it daily for at least a few weeks to establish the mind-body connection for better sleep. Consistency is key to reaping yoga’s relaxing benefits for enhanced zzz’s.