Dealing with sleep deprivation or just have bad sleeping habits?
Well you’re not alone, in fact, insomnia and bad sleeping habits are one of the most common reasons why people in todays society seek medical treatment. Now, before one resorts to pills and other external complex substances, why not first try some good ol, all-natural yoga techniques and poses. These exercises were designed to help relax the body and mind and in doing so priming you for a better night of sleep.
If you’re wondering, why should I care so much about sleep? If I sleep great, If I don’t, well.. then I don’t.
The fact of the matter is that not only does lack of sleep make it hard for you to function optimally during the day, studies have shown that, individuals that have had long-term sleep problems have showed signs of ageing faster and also have a higher risk for certain array of diseases.
If you’re up for it, there are as mentioned, a set of yogic techniques, exercises and tools that can help you master your sleep, like for example breathing exercises known as pranayama, meditation techniques, relaxation techniques and last but not least, a set of effective yoga postures specifically for improving your sleep.
Before we begin it is worth to point out that these are not techniques that necessarily has to be done in a chronological order, some prefer to do the poses first and then the breathing techniques, while others the opposite. Try to find your own rhythm and preference. Also to really allow these yoga techniques to work best it is important to cut away distractions, so make sure your phone is not going to disturb you, have no noisy items lying near and dim the lights around you.
Lets begin at the beginning, namely breathing exercises:
Pranayama (breathing exercises)
Pranayama is the breathing component or branch of yoga and is excellent to use when wanting to calm down your senses and racing thoughts. Moreover, the process of breath control has for a long time been a effective way of calming the monkey mind that so often is responsible for our lack of sleep at night.
There are many different pranayamas, or breathing exercises, but here are the instructions for the two techniques we’ve decided to be best suited for calming both the body and mind for optimal sleep:
This pranayama is our own creation and is designed to mimick the sound of the wind and breeze in order to soothe your body and mind, here’s how it goes:
- Lie down on your bed in a silent room
- Begin the pranayama by breathing in through your nose, these in breaths should last between 3-4 seconds.
- Start breathing breeze now by breathing slowly out through the mouth, these out breaths should be prolonged and last 8-12 seconds.
- When the out breath is complete, let your lungs stay relaxed and relatively empty by neither breathing in nor out, and try to keep this state of non-breathing for 2-3 seconds.
- Do 10+ of these breathing breeze breaths and notice how you become more relaxed as you listen to the sound and sensation of your breathing.
Helpful tip: To achieve the breeze-like sound effect, make your mouth circle shaped when breathing out.
Left-right nostril breath
Another great breathing technique, this one an established ancient yogic one, is to alternate between breathing through each nostril. This pranayama supposedly activates the parasympathetic nervous system and really allows you to wind down and relax fully, body and mind.
There are a couple variations of this specific technique, ranging from only breathing from one nostril to alternating after each breath.
Our following exercise is a modification and here’s how to do it:
- Lie down on your bed with a relaxed posture
- Close the right nostril with your right thumb.
- Inhale and exhale slowly through the left nostril x 3 times
- Switch to the right nostril by closing your left nostril with your left thumb
- Inhale and exhale slowly through the right nostril x 3 times
- Continue and alternate as long as you need to in order to fully relax.
Helpful tip: Close your eyes and focus on the sensation of your breath and nostrils
Viparita Karani – Upside Down Pose
Viparita Karani or the upside down pose is a great pose to begin with when wanting to prime yourself for a good night sleep. It’s an excellent pose that helps relieve the legs and feet from the stress and weight that they’ve been carrying during the day. Not to mention how gravity gets clogged veins to open up and allows the blood to flow more efficiently.
How to do it
- Sit down on your bed facing a wall or the headboard with your butt about 6-7 inches away from it.
- Lie down and extend your legs up the wall.
- Have your hands rest by your side or on your belly.
- Depending on your flexibility you can choose to move further away from the wall or closer.
- Hold the position for 45+ seconds.
Balasana – Child’s pose
Our second pose is balasana, also known as the child’s pose. It’s one of the simplest yet most effective poses to stretch out the muscles and tendons of almost your entire body. The back and shoulders plus knees, thighs and hips all get a good stretch when maintaining this pose for 30+ seconds.
How to do it
- Kneel down on your bed or on the floor and start the pose by sitting on your heels. (have your big toes touch each other for proper form)
- Take a deep breath in from the belly.
- Exhale and bend forward while positioning your belly and torso between your thighs.
- Have your forehead touch the bed/floor and place your hands either in front of you palms down or at your sides palms up.
- Maintain this asana for 30+ seconds
Nighttime Goddess Stretch
This is the last pose we’ll mention for better sleep, though there definitely are more, some of which we may add in the future. This goddess stretch is really good for opening up your hips and lower tailbone.
How to do it
- Lie on your back on your bed or on the floor
- Stretch and straighten your body fully out.
- Proceed then by bending your knees and having the soles of your feet touch each other.
- Your knees should stay open creating a diamond shape with your legs.
- Let your arms rest either by your sides on your bed our above your head.
- Maintain this pose for as long as you feel comfortable.
If the yoga poses weren’t enough to get you zzZzing, Yoga nidra, our last resort, will definitely get the job done.
Yoga nidra is a powerful yogic tool for inducing sleep naturally, the mechanics of yoga nidra are quite similar to the body scan technique though yoga nidra is most often done through guided instructions and specifically for sleep induction.
The essential idea of yoga nidra is to turn your minds eye and attention towards the natural workings of your own body. To find tensions and tense knots in your body and with awareness relieve them.
Some of the techniques involved in yoga nidra is scanning the body, being aware of the coming and goings of your breath, visualization techniques that aim to make you feel weightless and fully comfortable.
There is a variety of different videos and audios out there on the internet that focus on guided yoga nidra for better sleep, however this one below is one of our favorites:
The ancient wisdom contained in the yogic tradition has really made its impression here in the west. For the last couple of decades now yoga and meditation have become integrated and absorbed into the western way of life in many regards.
We find this to be a good and healthy sign.
That being said, hopefully these yogic techniques and poses will help you sleep better whenever you just can’t seem to relax before bed.