Sleeping is a building block for a better life. It plays a role in enhancing memory, stimulating creativity, reducing stress, managing weight and healing the body from pain and injury. Getting enough sleep every night has even been linked to creating a longer lifespan. And it keeps us in a positive, strong frame of mind.
Most people do not get enough sleep, especially when it counts. Burning the candle at both ends is a valued trait. We work, study and play around the clock. This 24-hour cycle can damage the human body. And that is just when one needs to be rested and strong.
Insufficient sleep can weaken the immune system and leave a person vulnerable to catching diseases and developing other serious health problems. It can also enhance stress and depression. People who sleep less than needed are more prone to making errors in judgment and experiencing serious or fatal accidents.
Yoga can make getting enough sleep easier. It energises your body during the day, and can relax your body and mind when it’s time to sleep.
How does Yoga help you sleep?
Yoga can enhance your ability to sleep better in five distinct ways:
1. Soothes your mind
Many bends and poses are designed to soothe the nervous system and replace stress with calm at the end of a hectic day. Yoga prepares your mind for sleep by enhancing calm through releasing stress or nervous energy.
2. Eases physical pain
Aches and pains can be a culprit in keeping bodies awake at night. Yoga can relieve this problem. Different bends and poses stretch out muscles and joints, relieving tension and increasing blood flow in affected areas
3. Enhances your focus
Your mind needs to be trained to know when to be active and when to rest. Yoga helps sharpen your focus for doing what comes naturally when your head hits your pillow.
4. Quiets your thoughts
Mental noise can be distracting. Thoughts racing a mile a minute can lead to endless tossing and turning. Yoga helps quiet this chatter. It gives you a time and place to reflect and meditate, so you can clear your mind before bedtime.
5. Permits surrender
It is easy to resist sleeping at night, especially when it feels like so much is left to be done. Yoga works your body and mind enough so it feels good to simply surrender and let yourself relax.
Yoga poses for sleeping
Several Yoga poses are useful for preparing your mind and body for a better night’s sleep. These poses only take a few minutes to do, but lead to several hours of peaceful slumber.
Start with upside down relaxation. Sit facing a wall with your butt about 6 inches away from the wall. Lie back and extend your legs up the wall. Rest your arms at your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently.
Progress to a winding down twist. Sit cross legged and exhale as you place your right hand on your left knee and left hand behind your tail bone. Gently twist your torso to the left and look over your shoulder. Breathe deeply, return to center and repeat on your right.
Follow with a diamond leg stretch – Supta Baddha Konasana (or Reclining Goddess). Lie on your back and bend your knees. Place the soles of your feet together and open your knees into a diamond shape, placing your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your belly.
Move into a child’s pose from there. Sit up on your heels and roll your torso forward. Lower your chest as close to your knees as you can comfortably and extend your arms in front of you.
Conclude with a happy baby pose. Then lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Cross your ankles and wrap both arms around your shins with clasped hands. Inhale and push your body up to sit. Exhale and roll back.
(1) “Why Better Sleep = Better Health” Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/railroad-sleep/problems/sleep-health
(2) “8-Minute Workout: Yoga for Better Sleep.” Fitness Magazine, http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/yoga/poses/yoga-routine-before-sleep/?page=1