Yoga for sleep
Find out more about how yoga can help you unwind at the end of the day and sleep better through the night.
Thu, Mar 24 2011 at 3:11 PM
Yoga in the evening can be a wonderful activity to help calm your mind and body. (Andrew Kalat/Flickr)
Are you a busy beaver suffering from insomnia? Here, we offer a few yoga poses to help you sleep and explain why yoga is such a wonderful activity to help calm your mind and body.
Yoga, or any exercise routine for that matter, doesn’t have to be a two-hour ordeal. In fact, just 10 minutes can be extremely beneficial for a variety of factors, including helping you sleep better.
With its 5,000 year-old tradition of emphasizing focusing on the breath and clearing the mind of negative thoughts, yoga is one of the best ways to help you “cool the engines” so to speak before slipping into bed.
Adding a yoga routine most days of the week will also, among other things:
- Help detoxify the organs
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve circulation
- Increase flexibility and strength
- Boost immunity
Choose the right kind of yoga for your type
There are many types of yoga styles to choose from, if you elect to attend classes or perform along with a DVD.
For those who have trouble sleeping and have hyper dispositions, it’s best to avoid a rigorous style of yoga like Ashtanga later in the day, although Type-A personalities who require a challenge and are in good physical shape might do well with Ashtanga earlier in the day.
To achieve better balance and calm the mind, however, it would be best to incorporate a mellower form of yoga. Many local gyms and YMCAs offer gentle yoga classes, perfect for those with little or no previous yoga experience.
Don’t worry if you have no flexibility. You don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel to reap the benefits of yoga, including making your body more relaxed and sleeping better.
If you are interested in taking a yoga class, try to talk to the instructor and tell them that you have trouble sleeping at night and ask them if the style that they teach will help you relax at night.
Keep in mind that our body’s main stress hormone — cortisol — tends to naturally slow down production after 6 p.m. In other words, try to avoid physically-stressful activity in the evening.
3 yoga poses to help you sleep if you don’t take a class
Any pose that has your head below your heart will increase blood flow to the brain and help you achieve a more relaxed state of being.
A forward bend is perhaps one of the easiest poses to perform. You don’t have to touch your toes or be anywhere close to touching your feet for this pose to be effective. Simply inhale, bring your arms overhead, reaching for the sky and then exhale, rocking back on your heels slightly and let your arms relax and travel down the front of your legs until you feel a safe stretch in your lower back and hamstrings. Knees can be bent. Let your head and neck become totally relaxed. Inhale for 2-3 seconds. Exhale for 2-3 seconds. Repeat 5 cycles of breath. Try to increase the stretch by a half-inch on every exhale. Come back up slowly uncurling your spine one vertebra at a time until standing. Repeat forward bend twice more.
Downward dog, one of yoga’s most popular poses, also helps with calming the mind. For this pose, start on your hands and knees with hands directly under shoulders, your back flat and knees under your hips. If possible, lift your knees off the ground and lift your hips up and get your body into an upside-down “V” position. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees. Remember to cycle your breath 3-5 times. Repeat the pose 3 times.
And finally, a simple relaxing yoga stretch is commonly known as child’s pose. Place your knees wide (not too wide as you’ll feel this stretch in the groin) and sit back on your heels. Stretch your arms in front of you and slightly out to the sides. Inhale and reach your arms out further. You’ll feel the stretch also in your lower back. Cycle the breath 3-5 times. Repeat the stretch 3 times.
Judd Handler is a health and lifestyle coach and freelance writer in Encinitas, CA. He has been an avid yoga practitioner for 12 years and sleeps much better because of it.
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