If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, you are contributing to the 30% of Americans who currently have problems with sleep disruption. Better Sleep Better Life explains that people who suffer from sleep related issues tend to suffer from fatigue, poor memory and concentration, and mood disturbances, all of which can affect their performance at work or school, as well as their relationships with others. Luckily, this article focuses on how yoga can help combat insomnia.
Yoga and Insomnia
The Sleep Health Foundation states there are a number of way to treat insomnia which focus on behavioral, psychological, and medical solutions. But although clinical methods are important, daily activities like exercise have been used effectively to counter sleeplessness as well.
In fact, sleep and exercise are very much related in the sense that the former is necessary to ensure a relaxed state at night. Fitness expert Jim White stated in a blog post on Leesa that having enough rest maximizes the effects of exercise. Of course, it’s also true the other way around too, and certain workouts have been found to be viable remedies against insomnia. One such fitness regime is yoga.
The 5,000-year-old form of meditation has been proven to boost the body’s immune system, regulate blood pressure, and lower blood sugar. But these are just some of its benefits as mentioned in a previous Doron Yoga post.
To understand how yoga can help you fight insomnia, let’s look at its other positive effects, as well as a few tips, to ensure a good night’s rest.
The reclining bound angle pose is one of the simplest yoga positions that can help you relax for a deeper sleep. Start by sitting with the soles of your feet pressed together in front of you. Gently lay down on your back with support from your elbows, then focus on pulling your shoulder blades together and rolling your shoulders back. Keep your arms neutral and your palms up.
The bridge pose can also help you alleviate stress. Although doing a backbend doesn’t sound quite as relaxing, a simple bridge pose can help your mind calm down in preparation for sleep, especially if you follow some of the safety tips enumerated in another Doron Yoga article. Start by lying on your back, then bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor near your buttocks. During your next breath as you inhale, raise your bottom off the floor by pressing down with your feet and arms, using your inner thighs to keep your legs from falling out. Clasp your hands together from under your torso and squeeze your shoulder blades together gently. Breathe for about 10 slow breaths, before releasing the pose and laying back down.
To relieve leg and foot soreness on top of alleviating stress, you can try the legs up the wall pose. As its name suggests, begin by lying on your back with your sitting bones as close to a wall as you can. Extend your legs up the wall so that the backs of your thighs and calves are resting fully against it. Breathe and stay in this calming position for as long as you like. For more advanced yoga practitioners, shoulder stands work, too.
Better digestion contributes to improving nighttime rest as well, especially if stomach problems tend to wake you up in the middle of the night. Yoga poses like the seated forward bend and cat-cow stretches can help improve your digestion.
Begin your forward bend by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out, keeping your back straight. When you inhale, raise your arms over your head and dive forward, flexing your feet. Don’t worry about how far back you go, as long as you feel a gentle stretch in the backs of your legs. Hold on to your feet, ankles, calves, or thighs and breathe.
Cat-cow stretches, on the other hand, improve gut function. Start with your hands beneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Inhale as you drop your belly button and lift your chest up to stretch your back. Exhale as you round your upper back towards the ceiling and drop your gaze to your navel. You can do this for 10 breaths before sleeping, or even as an opener for your Vinyasa warm up as shown previously here on Doron Yoga.
Prepare your brain for rest and relaxation
A separate post on Doron Yoga mentioned that breathing exercises have been known to aid in managing conditions like asthma. But it doesn’t stop there, as the practice can help you overcome insomnia as well.
You can conclude your nighttime yoga routine with a Savasana pose. We stated in the article ‘Have a Good Nothing’ that it lets your brain relax and gets it ready for sleep. Begin by lying on your back with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your arms neutral and palms facing up. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Do you have any favorite yoga poses for better sleep? Feel free to share them in the comments section below!
Thanks for reading! Come practice yoga in nature with us in Tzununá, Guatemala at the Doron Yoga and Zen Center.