Yoga for sleep
When I struggle with sleep, I become a different person. It makes me more irritable. I become pessimistic. I have difficulty speaking, performing at work, and I am more impulsive with my behaviors and my speech. Physically, I become tight, achy, more clumsy, and I find it difficult to balance and work out. Just two consecutive nights of poor sleep makes it difficult for me to even function in daily life.
Only a third of U.S. adults report that they regularly get the recommended seven hours of sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not getting enough sleep is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. It can lead to motor vehicle crashes and mistakes at work, which cause injury and disability each year.
Benefits of yoga for sleep
In November, 2015, the CDC surveyed over 34,000 adults. Of those who practiced yoga, over 55% found improved sleep and over 85% report reduced stress.
“Yoga is an excellent way to improve sleep, especially for those who have insomnia and many other sleep disturbances,” says Dr. Kellie K. Middleton, a physician at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. “Not only does yoga increase flexibility and strength, but it also helps decrease stress and anxiety, both of which can contribute to poor sleep. Studies have shown that people who practice yoga regularly report improved sleep quality and length of time asleep.”
According to Middleton, movement, stretching, deep breathing exercises and meditation are aspects of a yoga practice that can help to improve mental health, reduce stress and lead to better sleep. Additionally, yoga helps regulate the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as serotonin and melatonin, hormones that play an important role in sleep cycles. Yoga also helps restore healthy sleep patterns by regulating these hormones.
Knowing that yoga is proven to help with sleep gives me more confidence that I will sleep well. When I prepare for sleep, I often mentally repeat to myself, “I will sleep, easefully and deeply.” This helps to prevent a cycle of anxiety around sleep.
Develop a regular yoga routine to significantly improve your chances of getting quality sleep. Practice these restorative yoga poses before you lie down in bed or even while you’re in bed to help calm your mind, eliminate discomfort and attune to your breath for a restful night’s sleep.
Legs up the wall
How: Scoot your hips close to a wall and swing your legs up the wall. Adjust so that you are just far enough away from the wall that your pelvis is on the floor and tilted slightly up to create a natural arch in the low-back. Slide your feet hip-width apart, relax your legs and allow your feet to turn out. Place your arms at your side with your palms facing up.
If your back is tight, flex your feet and aim them towards your face. Move them wider apart and move your hips further away from the wall for more space. Hold this position for ten, deep breaths or as long as you do not feel any discomfort.
Why: We are on our feet a lot throughout the day, which makes our legs tired and tight. This pose takes all weight and tension off of our legs and feet and helps to recover from standing and walking all day. It is a position that helps to connect to and deepen our breath, decompress and fully relax while moving into sleep.
How: Lie on your back with your legs extended out flat on the floor. Move your feet hip-width apart, with your feet and knees pointing straight up towards the ceiling. Bend your right knee into your chest, and hold your right knee with your hand.
Only if your hips stay square, reach to the inside of your right knee with your right hand and hold the outer-edge of your right foot. Aim your right sole of foot towards the ceiling, engage your foot as you bend your right knee to the outside of your right ribs. Only bend your knee as much as your hips do not turn to the right. Hold for ten breaths and repeat on the second side.
Why: Supine lunge stretches your inner thigh, outer hip and it-band, which helps to eliminate knee pain. By engaging both feet in this position, it creates a natural, slight, lordotic curve in your low-back that also helps release tightness. Back and knee pain are the most common discomfort people feel while lying down to sleep.
Supine hamstring stretch
How: While supine, bend both knees and place them hip-width apart. Then, lift your right knee into your chest and hold the back of your thigh with your hands. Flex your feet and press your leg back against your hands enough to tilt your pelvis up. As far as you keep that lift out of your pelvis in your low-back, straighten your right leg. As your hamstring opens, walk your hands up the back of your right leg and draw your shin towards your face. Make sure you do not turn or point your right foot to stretch your hamstrings evenly. Hold for five breaths and continue on the left side.
Why: Stretch your hamstrings in this posture to feel comfortable and relaxed in your legs during sleep. This will help prevent interrupted sleep from tired, overworked, achy, restless legs and uncomfortable leg twitching through the night.
Supine, figure-4 twist
How: Lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart. Hook your right ankle across your left thigh and flex your right foot. Move your left foot to the right edge of your mat, about ten-inches. Let your legs fall to the left, until your right, sole of your foot hits the floor. Flick your right toes up off of the floor, and draw your right knee away from your face. Reach your arms out towards the side walls, with your elbows bent and palms facing up. Look to the right and root your right shoulder down. Hold for five breaths, and switch to the left side.
Why: This gentle, supine twist helps to alleviate back pain and eliminate tightness in your lower back. It also provides a restorative hip-opener that is helpful to gently stretch your hips and avoid tightness and pain in the knees and legs. These benefits will help you stay comfortable while preparing for sleep.
How: Come to lie on your back, bend both knees into your chest and hold your shins just below your knee-caps. Move your knees apart wide enough to cradle your torso, and flex your feet, push your knees against your hands until you feel a slight arch in your low back. Keep the back of your head down on the floor with your chin perpendicular to the floor and neck neutral. Hold still or rock side to side slowly if it feels like a release in your low-back. Practice this pose for five breaths.
Why: Low back pain is one of the most common complaints among yoga students as they lie down on their back. Dead bug position promotes a healthy arch in the low back along with some safe movement to release the low back before you move into sleep.
How: Extend out on your back with your legs long and flat on the floor, with your feet just wide enough from your body they turn out comfortably. Extend your arms out at your sides and far enough away from your body that your palms rotate up easefully. Take five deep breaths in through your nose and long, complete breaths out through your mouth. Relax your jaw, close your eyes and relax your whole body down against the floor or bed. Hold still, return to your natural, effortless breath and allow your mind to do wherever it wants. Simply receive the blessings of deep rest and relaxation, completely.
Why: Deep breathing, a meditative state that allows you to fully let go, helps promote relaxation and restful sleep. Savasana is a great way to ease yourself into and prepare for sleep.
Top yoga poses for sleep:
— Legs up the wall.
— Supine lunge.
— Supine hamstring stretch.
— Supine, figure-four twist.
— Dead bug.
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6 Best Yoga Poses for Sleep originally appeared on usnews.com