There is nothing worse than getting into bed and feeling that you just can't sleep or the mind won't switch off. You are shattered and know you need sleep but something is preventing you from switching off properly and getting that good night's rest you know you need.
In my experience as a yoga teacher (and new mum) I know just how important good rest and sleep is but also for many how this is very tricky to achieve. I also know that yoga and other relaxation practices can help the body and mind to unwind properly before bed encouraging the proper re-charge that everyone needs. I spend a lot of time reading about sleep, researching deep relaxation, developing my yoga nidra practices, slow yoga styles and much if this I aim to share with others through these blogs, videos and special Facebook Groups.
So today what I want to share is a simple 6-pose yoga practice (I call this my SLEEP 6) that can help to encourage better sleep. It is a sequence that is suitable for most people including beginners and will take you just 10-15 minutes per night. Take your time with the poses, breathe deeply and spend time observing sensations. This is not a practice to rush, it is one to move through slowly with the breath and be kind to yourself. The slower you go, the more mindful you are with this practice, the greater benefits to your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system) and ultimately your quality of sleep. The pauses in between the poses are as important as the poses themselves.
Note: If you are pregnant I would avoid/adjust the poses where you are lying on your back and instead prop yourself up on cushions or a bolster so you are at a 45 degree angle rather than lying flat on your back.
I would suggest practicing these six yoga asanas (postures) before bed every night for at least a week. You will then start to form a habit and this can become part of your nightly routine as you unwind for bed. Do take a look at my previous blog article here on creating a bedtime routine as a way to help you sleep better.
I will explain each posture below and then at the bottom of the article you will find a 15 minute video to watch demonstrating the poses as a sequence.
Sleep well everyone!
Poses 1 and 2 - Cat and Cow Pose
Starting on the hands and knees (hands under shoulders and knees under the hips) use the breath to flow through these two postures that release the spine. Inhale to cow where you look slightly upwards, lift the chest and lift your tailbone behind - the tummy dips. Exhale to cat pose - push the floor away with your hands, look underneath yourself and lift/arch the upper to middle back. These two poses act as opposites. Slowly transition from one to the other going very slowly with the breath. Repeat at least 6 times and go as slowly as you can - like you are moving through treacle. You only reach the full pose when you have completed the inhale or exhale and as soon as you reach the full pose you immediately begin the transition back again. Keep the eyes soft or even closed and remain aware of any sensations you experience in the body.
Pose 3 - Childs Pose (Balasana)
After flowing slowly through cat and cow slowly sit the hips backwards coming into childs pose (balasana). Let the hips rest backwards and relax into it allowing your forehead to sink to the ground. The knees can be together or open leaving a little more space. The arms reach forwards softly. If your forehead doesn't touch the ground then bring your head down onto the forearms instead. Rest here for at least 6 full slow breaths giving your body permission to ground down into the flow with exhale. Keep your mind entirely focused on both your breath and any sensations in the body you experience. If at any point the pose feels uncomfortable, adjust yourself or use props such as cushions, blankets or bolsters to support your body. See my special video here on tips on childs pose or skip to the video below for more information.
Pose 4 - Supine Spinal Twist
Lying on your back, draw the knees into the chest. Bring your arms out to the side with the palms facing upwards. Allow the knees to drop to the right and the gaze to the left. Close the eyes and allow the body to sink into the twist using gravity to help you. Release everything. After several breaths draw the knees back to the centre and allow them to come down to the left and turn the head to the right. Release into this second side taking several big breaths.
Pose 5 - Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound angle pose)
Staying on your back, allow the soles of the feet to come together and allow the knees to drop to the side. The feet don't have to be too close to the body - you want to be able to lie in this for several breaths. This is a gentle release for the inner thighs, hips and groin. Support the knees with blocks or cushions if that feels more comfortable. Let the hands rest on the belly or the insides of the thighs and breath deeply for at least 4-5 breaths.
Pose 6 - Savasana (corpse pose)
Savasana is one of the most important poses that we practice in yoga and especially helpful in bringing the body into stillness ready for sleep. Lie on your back, let the legs extend out and become straight but with a little space between them. Let the feet flop to the side. Let the hands rest at the side of the body (4-6 inches away from your torso), palms facing upwards, letting the fingers curl in. Let the eyes close or soften the gaze. Lie here for as long as you want - at least several minutes. Either listen to the words on the video below, listen to a short guided relaxation or simply watch your breath as it flows in and out. Really allow the body to soften and relax. Sometimes just doing a body scan (allowing each area of the body to relax one at a time) will assist you in getting deeper into relaxation.
Once you have completed all six asanas, slowly either come back up to seated or close your eyes and go to sleep... zzzzz
Sleep 6 - A Yoga Sequence for Better Sleep
Here is the 15 minute video that I have recorded on YouTube demonstrating all these postures as a sequence.
Please follow the video for the first few times you practice this sequence and then when you are familiar with the movements you can simply practice and enjoy in your own time.
For more information about yoga for better sleep please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org