It’s 1 a.m. and you’re staring at the clock on your bedside table, aching for the much-needed rest that has yet to come. You start thinking back to the events of the day, analyzing how much coffee you drank or how your dinner maybe had gluten in it, grasping for a reason for why you’re still miserably awake. The truth is, you’re not alone: over 60 million Americans struggle with insomnia in some form, and just over half of people report having some kind of difficulty getting a good night’s rest on a regular basis. We’re a country of hyped-up, over-stressed, and under-rested individuals, but luckily there are natural, drug-free tools to help us get better sleep, and yoga is my favorite of the bunch.
There are a few postures that can really soothe your nervous system and allow you to release some of the day’s worries that often get stuck in your muscles and joints. Carving out a few moments of mindful, quiet movement before you nestle under the covers is a great habit to get in to, and can bring you both short- and long-term sleep benefits. You don’t need any yoga experience to take advantage of these three poses, and they can be practiced anytime during the evening, or in the middle of the night if necessary!
Uttanasana (Standing forward fold)
Don’t underestimate the power of this simple pose- it can unlock tight hamstrings, lengthen a cranky lower back, and soothe your brain from all those hours spent staring at a screen. When you let go of the goal of touching your toes, you can freely experience the deep release that this pose provides.
Start with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, and hinging from the hip joint, lean your upper body forward until you are hanging freely. Keep your knees soft, release your neck and shoulder muscles, and close your eyes (if you don’t get dizzy easily) to really sink into this pose. I personally love to sway gently side to side to get the kinks out of my back and hips. Hold for 10-15 breaths, depending on your comfort level.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose- supported)
This pose often gets the reputation for being activating and awakening, but when you add the element of a block or bolster, it becomes quite nourishing and restorative. Dropping into supported bridge can help ease headaches, tight hips, and encourage better blood flow to the heart, lungs, and brain. The incorporation of “cactus arms” in this posture can help open the chest and unwind the shoulders, which is a great bonus, since we’re all so hunched over all the time!
Lying flat on your back, bring your feet onto your mat just below the buttocks, in line with your knees. Lift your pelvis into the air, and tuck a yoga block squarely under the sacrum, where you feel balanced and supported. Bring your arms into the cactus position, and breathe deeply for 2-3 minutes.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-wall pose)
This delicious pose has earned the nickname of the “nervous system reset button”, and for good reason- there’s something magic in the way it can take you out of your fight-or-flight response and usher you into a place of calm and quiet. If you are someone who is on their feet all day or deals with poor circulation, this is an especially nice posture for preparing the body for sleep.
Place a pillow or folded blanket up against the wall, and sit on top of it, as close to the wall as possible. Lie back and scoot your buttocks towards the wall, and extend your legs upwards. Choose an arm position that feels comfortable for you- cactus arms, lying flat by your sides, or folded gently on your belly. If you are familiar with belting the legs for this pose, feel free to do so, because you will want to hold this pose for several minutes. Focus on bringing the breath deep into the abdomen, and rest here for as long as you like.
Practicing a few simple yoga poses before bed can help quiet an overactive mind, and balance out some of the physical stress that our daily lives put on our bodies. Remove distractions, dim the lights, and listen to nature sounds or your favorite chill-out music while you wind down for even deeper tranquility. So give these three poses a try before you crawl into bed this evening, and get ready to drop down into sweet, restful bliss!
For an extra relaxing evening experience, consider incorporating some essential oils either in a diffuser or in a soothing eye pillow. You can purchase BBEO, our monthly essential oil, healing crystals and mediation box for only $15.95 HERE.
Guest Blog post by Melani Schweder, A Brighter Wild
Melani is an intuitive holistic health professional with a background in health sciences and has lived with ME/CFS for over 6 years. Through her blog, she hopes to inspire and educate others on her journey. Visit her blog HERE.