If you find it hard to relax after a long, busy day at the office, let yoga help.
The last thing you need after a busy day is to deal with trouble sleeping at night. In an always-on world, it can be hard to relax and get a solid eight hours, even though you know the regeneration that happens to your body and mind at night is incredibly important. Luckily, there’s something that can help — yoga. Even if you’re not a budding yogi master, a few calming yoga moves may promote just the relaxation you need to prepare your body for sleep.
Here are five poses that focus specifically on deep breathing to get you relaxed and ready for bed. Spend two to three minutes in each of these poses for a 10- to 15-minute introduction to slumber.
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose, or Balasana, is a central relaxation pose. Using conscious breath, Balasana allows an opportunity for you to breathe into the back of the torso and release tension with each exhale.
To get into child’s pose, begin by kneeling on a yoga mat and bring your seat to your feet. Spread your knees as far as your hips and exhale, reaching forward so your torso is resting on your thighs and your forehead touches the mat. Continue reaching your fingertips forward as you feel a deep stretch in your lungs and side body.
As Peter Sterios of Yoga Journal says, “Balasana is a very simple pose to begin with physically, yet it requires patience and the ability to surrender to gravity and a state of non-doing.” In this case, non-doing equates to sleep.
2. Cat-Cow (Marjariasana)
Cat-cow is a familiar yoga pose that calms and relaxes through breath.
Begin in tabletop position – on hands and knees, with a flat back. Engage your abdominal muscles and round your back, much like a cat stretching. Keeping your abs engaged, arch your back and lift your head while holding in your abdominal muscles, like a cow. Repeat this pose – avoiding hyperextension – a few times for full benefit.
This is truly a full-body pose. Finer Times reports, “the slow arch of the cow stretches your neck and the front of your torso, while the curve of the cat helps to relieve stress by lengthening the spine and improving the circulation to the discs between the vertebrae.” The complete stretch offered by cat-cow focuses on breath control. The bedtime benefit is the repetitive motion that encourages winding down through rhythmic sequence. Transition slowly from cat to cow (going fast will make you dizzy). Focus on the stretch and the breath. Shorten this sequence to one or two minutes if you’d prefer.
3. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Inversions are fantastic, whether it’s bedtime or just a mid-day office slump. As Ali Washington of DoYouYoga states, “inversions can help to reverse the effects of gravity on the whole system, help regulate blood pressure, help move stuck fluids, and even help to improve your digestion.” The best part for insomnia sufferers is that Legs Up the Wall calms the nervous system and quiets the mind.
To do the pose, lie on your back with your seat as close as possible to the wall, and lift your legs so that they rest comfortably on the wall, while your torso lies mostly flat on the floor. If your legs or back are uncomfortable, use a towel or block under your hips.
4. Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
The perfect pose to end your day, the supine spinal twist cleanses your entire body and really makes you feel rejuvenated. Claudia Cummins of Yoga Journal states, “supine spinal twists can improve breathing, ease back and neck tension and soothe frazzled nerves. Its reclined position lets us linger in the posture’s curves and spirals, inviting the twist to penetrate deep into the spine.”
For the spinal twist, lie on your back with arms outstretched from your sides, and bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Bring both knees to one side and turn your head in the opposite direction, feeling the stretch as you lengthen your arms. Notice how your back feels, and elongate your spine by relaxing your shoulders and creating space between your neck and ears and along the side of your back. Make sure you keep both of your shoulders on the ground during the twist. Switch sides at the halfway mark.
5. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Oh, Savasana; it’s the pose of complete relaxation, from your eyes, to your tongue, your hands and of course, your torso. This pose marks the end of your practice and encourages a meditative state for both the body and mind.
When in Savasana, lie on your back in a comfortable position. Focus on relaxing every part of your body, starting with your face. Just by thinking about relaxing these tense, often-ignored muscles, you begin the process of turning off your racing mind. You’ll find you want to spend a lot longer than three minutes in this position; and at this point in your practice, that’s a good thing.