Best Bedtime Yoga Poses
If you are having difficulty falling asleep or getting a good night rest, instead of popping a pill to get some complete shut-eye, you might want to try yoga. A study was done at Harvard Medical School on the effects of practicing yoga on a daily basis and how it impacted sleep quantity and quality. They gathered participants that have type 1 insomnia, or insomnia that develops on its own and type 2 insomnia, which is a by-product of previous cause such as ailments, conditions, and/or substance use. The participants were asked to record their sleep as they continued to practice yoga daily. The research found a significant improvement in the participants sleep efficiency, the total amount of time asleep, sleep onset latency, and wake time.
So, how does yoga help in getting a good sleep? Well, yoga helps reduce stress. It reduces stress by managing the stress hormone cortisol. Stress is one big factor that hinders good sleep and often leads to anxiety and depression. So, when cortisol, our stress hormone, is at bay, our minds will be more at ease making it easier to drift off into dreamland.
In addition to decreasing cortisol levels, yoga also soothes the nervous system. After a long day, you may feel tired but find your mind is still in “working” mode, which makes it challenging to fall and stay asleep so that you can wake up refreshed. Yoga taps the parasympathetic nervous system, the one who tells you to stop and chill, and it takes over your mind and set you to sleep. All in all, yoga tells your brain to quiet down. Breathing exercises done in yoga are a great tool for helping bring the mind and body into a more restful state.
There are a lot of yoga poses to choose from but for bedtime, it is rather advisable to pick poses that are soothing and calming, and that will promote steadiness. Ashtanga and vinyasa yoga are generally not recommended because of their stimulating and rigorous nature. Since what we are after is to be calm and steady then the best bedtime yoga may be gentle or restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is believed to be an effective way of relaxing the mind and the body through its slow breathing or pranayama and its supported poses. Restorative yoga is usually practiced with supplemental tools like yoga blocks, straps, and bolsters in order to provide assistance as the practice requires resting into poses for quite some time.
With these things in mind, here are some great yoga poses for bedtime:
Cat Cow Pose (Majaryasana Bitilasana)
This pose opens the chest allowing the breath to be deep and relaxing. The movement stimulates spinal flexibility and strengthens the core muscles. The combination of the movement and breathing allows the brain to be relaxed and calm.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by coming to tabletop position on your hands and knees, align the hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Start the series with cow position. As you inhale, lengthen your stomach towards the floor as you gently tilt your head up towards the ceiling creating a curve that makes your tailbone up and out.
- As you exhale to cat position, gently drop your head towards the floor as you arch your back towards the ceiling making your tailbone tucked.
- Repeat the series for about 10 breaths before moving between each of the positions with your breath.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
In more vigorous classes this is often used as a resting position in between difficult poses. Child’s pose is a therapeutic posture for relieving stress and regaining balance and equanimity of the body. As the body stretches through this pose, it reduces stress and fatigue in hips, thighs, and ankles and soothes the muscles in front of the body and torso.
Here’s how to do it:
- From tabletop position, spread your knees about mat width apart with your toes touching one another.
- Gently move back and rest your chest in between your legs as your tailbone sits on your toes.
- Gradually make your arms reach a bit further to straighten the back and release muscle tension.
- You can make a variation of this pose by placing a stack of pillow underneath your head and between your legs where your upper body can rest upon.
- Remain in this position for about 10 to 15 slow breaths.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svasanasa)
In this pose, your heart is higher than your head making it a mild inversion which is beneficial as relief for a headache, fatigue, insomnia and even mild depression. The course of blood to the brain creates a calming effect on the nervous system, relieves stress and improves memory and concentration.
- From tabletop pose, walk your hands about 6 inches forward, exhale as you tuck your toes, lift your knees from the mat and press your hips up towards the ceiling.
- Gently straighten your legs as if your body is making an A shape.
- Push your palms and feet against the mat as you lift your pelvis up and stretch your arms, back, and legs.
- Align your ears in between your arms and maintain this pose for about 10 to 15 breaths before going back to your hands and knees.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
A restorative pose that is known to have all benefits from other restorative poses such as lowers blood pressure, decrease muscle tension, reduce the frequency of headaches, relief from fatigue, anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia, reduce stress and upturn energy levels.
- From a seated position with legs extended in front, bend the knees and draw the heels towards the pelvis. Press the soles of your feet together and gently drop your knees outward to each side.
- As you lean back, support your upper body with your elbows and gently lower your back to the mat.
- Adjust your position by shifting your behind side to side to lengthen your spine and maintain your lower back’s natural curves.
- Rest your shoulders by gently pulling your shoulder blades inward as your arms relax with palms facing up.
- Close your eyes as you let your whole body feel relaxed. You may feel heavy as you stay in this position, let it be as it is the usual result of this pose.
- Stay in this position for 1 to 10 minutes.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
This is usually the last pose in any yoga series because the pose itself is simple and neutral. Just like the reclining bound angle, it has all the benefit of other restorative yoga poses. It is also believed to be one of the most important and challenging poses in yoga because a lot of people find it hard to stay down and still while being fully aware of and unattached from the present moment takes time and practice. It is believed the most important pose because it is the culmination of all poses and breathing and, letting all the negativities fade away in order to be rejuvenated and reborn. To get to the pose:
- Lie on your back with your legs extended and about hip apart.
- Arms should be extended with palms up or down, whichever you are comfortable.
- Head should be facing towards the ceiling, you can either close your eyes or keep them open.
- If you feel tension in your hips or low back, you can use a pillow as support under your knees.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and feel the muscles soften or ease up.