If you're into yoga, you know that there are practically as many reasons to hit the mat as there are yoga poses (and that's quite a lot!). Maybe you're looking for a way to keep your stress levels in check, or maybe you're trying to improve your flexibility or get toned in a way that doesn't involve weights or the treadmill. Or maybe, like so many hopeless insomniacs out there, you're hoping that yoga will be your ticket to a restful night (at last!). But are there any yoga poses that can help you to sleep better?
Plenty of yogis swear by their regular practice as a means to sweeter slumber; in fact, a National Health Interview Survey on the uses of complementary health approaches in the United States found that 55 percent of yoga practitioners reported improved sleep. It makes sense, of course. "There's a pretty strong case to be made that having an active/dynamic lifestyle that incorporates regular vigorous exercise can improve overall sleep patterns," advanced certified Jivamukti yoga teacher Jessica Stickler tells Romper. "Regularly getting any kind of vigorous movement into your day improves heart, lung, and muscular health and tends to help us get better rest at night. Unfortunately, that doesn't help in the moment of experiencing insomnia or troubled sleep. So, get that daily dose of yoga in for overall deeper sleep."
Of course, a high-energy workout right before bed could be the opposite of relaxing, she adds. "The body needs time to settle down and switch gears," she explains. So a pre-bedtime yoga routine should include poses designed to relax both the body and the mind.
"While doing these poses, feel the breath in your body," says Stickler. "Don't contemplate the breath or analyze it, but just feel the natural movement of the breath. If the breath feels agitated in any way, try to extend the exhale. Let the exhale be long and also soft. Don't force it but let the exhale help the mind to expel the thought patterns."
Give these yoga poses a try before turning in for the night. All of these are suitable for beginners, too.
"First, do some slow cat/cows for gentle movement to tire you out for sleep," Powerflow Yoga teacher Kristen Kemp tells Romper.
This super easy flow from cow tilt to cat stretch is known for increasing flexibility in the spine and releasing stress from the back (and the mind), according to Do You Yoga.
Next, Kemp says, "Do some forward folds to cool down the central nervous system. I recommend pashimotonasana and janusirsasana."
For the layperson, janusirsasana is also known as "head-to-knee" pose and pashimotonasana is called a "seated forward bend", as described by Yoga Journal. If you can't reach your feet in these poses, try using a strap to help.
"Wide-knee child’s pose is another great pre-bed pose," Allegra McBane Sanchez, a certified yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, tells Romper. "It calms the mind and body and you use gravity to do the work so it doesn’t require any effort."
It's also a great way to gently stretch the hips, according to Yoga Journal.
"Another wonderful pose to practice is viparita karani, sometimes referred to as 'legs up the wall' because you lay on your back with your legs up the wall," says Stickler.
"Having the legs elevated helps to settle the mind and put the body in a relaxed state. Be in the pose for 5-15 minutes."
"It's reversed blood flow and is very calming, soothing and relaxing," agrees Kemp.
Perfect for beginners and experienced practitioners alike, Sanchez suggests the reclined spinal twist (lying on your back with your arms out in a "T" shape, knees bent and resting together on one side while you gaze over the opposite shoulder).
"Spinal twists are great for neutralizing the spine, cleansing the organs, and generally relieving any aches and pains in your back which lots of people have by the end of the day," says Sanchez.
Sanchez calls supta baddhakonasana (or reclined "goddess pose") "an ideal pose for settling the body down and helping to calm the mind."
"The pose is done laying on the back with the knees bent out to the sides and the soles of the feet together," she explains.
"Support the knees with pillows or some other support between the knees and the floor," she adds, and try to stay in the pose for 5 to 15 minutes.
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