I get this question often: “How can I use yoga for sleep?”
Sometimes we get all wound up and sleep becomes elusive. Insomnia isn’t fun, nor is it helpful for health. We need to be able to rest well so the body can repair and heal, and so the mind wakes up refreshed. Stress levels and busy lifestyles leave many people unable to sleep when they really need it.
The good news is this: Yoga can help you get to sleep and rest more comfortably through the night. Here are a few ideas on how to use yoga for sleeping more contentedly.
One of the main reasons people have a hard time getting to sleep is that the mind is still going when the body says “That’s enough for one day, thanks.”
If you find your mind keeping you awake at night, I offer these suggestions for you to try:
- Be Kind. When we’re hard on ourselves it creates more stress, and none of us need more of that. Treat your mind like an overactive child – with love, patience, and belief that it can learn to find balance.
- Breathe. Ah yes, the ever present breath is one of our greatest tools for making change. Try ‘even breathing‘ to calm the mind, or simply direct your focus to your natural breath which will give your mind a task. Breathe into your whole self, relaxing your body as you breathe.
- Meditate. Often we go to sleep without taking time to transition from the realm of doing to the practice of simply be-ing. Even just a few minutes of meditation can make all the difference. You can even do it lying down in bed by directing your attention to your breath. Here’s a free yoga meditation for you. You may also find working with an affirmation or mantra helpful.
- Be Grateful. Moving into a state of gratitude bring such beauty and grace. It shifts the internal dialogue to a higher, pure vibration and clears out the clutter of worry or stress. Settle into your bed or meditation posture and acknowledge your blessings. This will also help bring you out of your mind and into your heart space with your focus.
The movement and postures of yoga, asana, can also help out by relaxing the body and calming the mind.
Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Do more active yoga and exercise during the day. Regular exercise (at least 3 times a week), including challenging yoga, can really help keep your body healthy so sleep comes more easily. Backbends, handstands, and more invigorating yoga play are great to balance the body (including the hormones), but can make it difficult to sleep if you do them in the late evening. Time your practices so they are appropriate for the energy of the moment.
- A meditative, mellow yoga practice can be a great way to wind down from your day. Hip openers and forward bending postures are generally calming; just make sure you do them with optimal alignment so you aren’t rounding in the lower back. If you’re not sure what that alignment looks like, check with your teacher. A restorative practice can also be super nurturing at night.
If you don’t know the following postures already, ask a yoga teacher to show you how to do them. As with any physical program, use your discernment and make sure to keep yourself safe by using alignment and listening to your body.
Here’s a mini-practice you can use to prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep:
- Child’s pose
- Downward Dog
- Lunge on both sides
- Standing forward bend
- Simple seated twist
- Legs up the wall pose (5 min)
When you go to bed, relax every part of your body like you would in savasana, except you also give yourself permission to go to sleep. Relax from your toes to the tips of your fingers and head. Invite your breath to breathe you. Let the bed cradle you. Ask your body to rest well.
- Let me know if you find this helpful or if you have questions by commenting below!