If you’re sick and tired of tossing and turning for hours to no avail in an effort to fall asleep, now is probably a good time to incorporate a yoga practice into your bedtime routine.
Nighttime exercise might sound a little counterintuitive — after all, working out late at night is very often a reason that so many people have a hard time falling asleep to begin with! But the gentle movements of a relaxing yoga session, combined with the relaxing breathwork and recentering of your body and mind, are actually highly effective for helping you drift off.
Here’s why yoga might become your new favorite sleep aid, plus a couple of relaxing poses to try to get you falling asleep faster.
How Yoga Can Help You Sleep Better
According to results from this study, people who practice yoga reported that they experienced better sleep.
Yoga can look like a lot of different things, which is why it’s such a good exercise for so many different people. It can be high-energy and stimulating, like what you would find in a power yoga class. It can be sweaty and calorie-torching (hot yoga, anyone?). But it can also be gentle, relaxing, and releasing, especially after a long day.
While many other kinds of exercises put your body on high alert and get your heart racing, many practices of yoga actively promote relaxation. This is because, at its core, yoga is about more than movement: it’s about mindfulness. Rather than running through all the events of your day and stressing out about all the things on your to-do list, practicing yoga allows you to disconnect from the constant stimuli of your busy life and stay in the moment — and this is one of the best things you can do to fall asleep faster!
The secret to doing yoga before bed is to put the focus on your breathing. Deep breathing, or pranayama, forces you to stay present and in the moment, which calms both your body and your mind. It’s also highly effective at helping you regulate your nervous system (the system responsible for that “fight or flight” stress response that keeps you awake all night long).
On a related note, meditation is an excellent tool for falling asleep faster, and for many of the same reasons that yoga is. Studies have found that meditation can help decrease stress and increase relaxation in your body, both of which are crucial for getting a better night’s sleep. Combining your restorative and relaxing yoga practice with bedtime meditation can give your body and mind the tools they need to let go of the stress of the day and fall asleep faster.
7 Of The Best Yoga Poses For Better Sleep
Before you hit the hay tonight, turn off all the screens and distractions that keep you tossing and turning and instead try doing these yoga poses in a slow and gentle flow. Remember, proper breathing is everything in a sleep-promoting yoga practice, so make sure to pay special attention and breathe deeply.
The best part? For many of these poses, you don’t even have to get out of bed to do them!
Child’s Pose (or Balansana), is one of the best positions you can get into to rest during a particularly strenuous flow, which makes it an excellent candidate for relaxation before bedtime. It’s also a great stretch for your backs, hips, and legs.
- Get on your hands and knees, with knees spread wide and shins and feet flush to the mat or bed.
- Slowly fold your torso forward, bringing your belly to rest between your thighs and forehead to the ground.
- Rest your arms by your side, or reach them forward for a deeper back stretch.
Seated Forward Fold
Practicing a forward fold can be a challenging stretch, especially if you have tighter hamstrings and legs, but it’s a great foundational pose for any yoga practice.
- Sit up with your legs extended straight out in front of you.
- Slowly fold forward at the hips, draping your upper body over your legs and reach forward with your arms.
As the name suggests, this pose is a relaxing reclining pose that still gives you a good stretch in your hips.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Reach for the bottom of your feet with your hands.
- Try to get your ankles straight over your knees and hold. You should be creating resistance by pushing your feet into your hands and pulling down slightly at the same time.
This inversion pose is a great way to get some tension off of your core and legs, and it also helps you slow down your heart rate to get ready for a night of more deep and restful sleep.
- Lie on your back with your arms at your side and your feet on the ground.
- Slide a block or a firm pillow beneath the very bottom of your spine.
- Raise your legs gently off of the ground and point them straight up towards the sky.
Legs Up On The Wall
Similar to the Waterfall Pose, putting your legs up on the wall can put you into a relaxing inversion pose that takes some of the pressure off of your lower body and slows down your heart rate.
- Lie on your side with your tailbone as close to a sturdy wall as possible.
- Use your core to flip over so that you’re lying flat on your back with your legs straight up and flush with the wall.
- Use a pillow or blanket for more support if necessary.
Reclined Bound Angle
This pose is a gentle and restorative way to stretch out your hips while in a reclined position.
- Lay down flat on your back with your legs extended.
- Bend your knees out to the side and bring your feet together so that they are touching.
Finally, end your yoga practice with the “corpse pose,” aka the most restful and restorative yoga pose there is!
- Lie flat on your back. Extend your legs and arms and find your most comfortable position.
- Do a body scan and find any tension you’re holding on to; release it.
- Hold this pose, breathing deeply and allowing your weight to sink into the ground or your bed.
Sleep is one of our most important daily needs, but many of us tend to ignore those needs until the consequences of sleep deprivation start taking effect. Doing yoga before bed is one of the best ways to turn off all the chatter and stress in your mind so that you can catch up on those much-needed hours of rest, restoring and recharging your body so it can perform at its absolute best each day.
Featured image: Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA from Pexels