If you’re struggling to get some shut-eye, read on to discover the best yoga poses for improving sleep quality…
By Eve Boggenpoel
More than a third of Brits struggle with sleeplessness every week according to new research, and half of us have insomnia every month. If this sounds familiar, yoga can help. It just takes a bit of forethought…
Yoga to try in the early evening: prepare yourself for sleep
When you’re struggling to get enough sleep, you can’t just slip under the covers at 11pm and hope for the best. To get a good night’s rest, you need to prepare in advance. If you’ve been out and about, let go of the day’s energy when you arrive home with simple moves to help you transition into a restful evening.
Before your meal, spend 10 minutes in leg’s up the wall pose, then rest deeply with one or two restorative postures such as reclining butterfly(using pillows or bolsters beneath your trunk, head and knees, plus a weighted eye pillow) or mountain brook, a version of savasana with bolsters crosswise beneath your chest and knees.
Take your practice outdoors
Worked at home all day? Shift out of work mode by practising in your garden or local park. Try brain refreshers(downward dog, wide-legged standing forward fold, hand-to-toe pose and headstand), hip-flexor stretches such as runner’s lunge, lizard and pigeon, and shoulder openers (puppy dog, bridge and camel). And make sure you take some time to breathe deeply to takein all that rejuvenating fresh air.
Yoga to try an hour before bed: winding down
Moon salutation sequence
A beautiful way to slow down before bed is with a moon salutation sequence. Rather than awakening your system as sun salutations do, moon salutations are calming and cooling (your body temperature needs to drop slightly in preparation for sleep).
There are several different versions available, but for a particularly serene one, with lots of opportunity for free movement that allows you to stretch and move your body in the way it needs, try Shiva Rea’s gentle flow.
Afterwards, finish with a few rounds of luna breathing, another cooling practice in which you breathe in through your left nostril and breathe out through your right to encourage your vagus nerve to instruct the brain to relax.
In a comfortable seated position, bend your right index and middle finger to your palm, leaving your ring and little finger extended. Press your right thumb to your right nostril and inhale through your left.
Then release your right thumb and take your ring finger to your left nostril, exhaling through your right nostril. Repeat the sequence for three to five minutes or until you feel the soothing benefits.
Yoga to try when you wake in the night: fall back to sleep
Whether you managed a few zzzzs or still haven’t even closed your eyes, no-one wants to be wide awake at 2am, but there are still a couple of yoga tricks you can try. Doing some simple postures in bed is a great way to experience the benefits of yoga without enlivening your system as much as by getting on your mat in the spare room.
Try a yoga twist followed by child’s pose
Focus on twists to release unnecessary tension in your spine and forward folds to deactivate your nervous system. For example, lying flat on your back, gently move into a reclining twist, dropping your knees in one direction and your head in the opposite.
Repeat on the other side, then roll over into child’s pose, knees wide and your torso resting over one or two pillows placed lengthways on the bed. You may even find you drift off in this position.
If this doesn’t do the trick and you’re still awake, have your phone near your bed so you can tune into a guided yoga nidra practice. Also known as yogic sleep, one hour’s yoga nidra is said to be as rejuvenating as four hours’ sleep. We love Jennifer Piercy’s guided yoga nidra meditations, available on Insight Timer (free, app store).