How did you sleep last night?
Was it restful, delicious, and stuff that dreams are made of (literally)? Or was it fitful, filled with waking periods, and left you wanting more?
Before popping a sedative, which can alter your mood and ability to concentrate for days after taking it, it’s best to first take a look at your daily habits.
Are you drinking enough water, nourishing your body with wholesome foods, moving your body, and getting plenty of sunshine?
(Wait, are we all just plants??)
Next, think about what the last thing you do before you go to bed is?
Did you slip into a luxurious bedtime routine filled with lavender, an Epsom salt bath, and candles? Or did you scroll through meaningless images on your smartphone until you finally got bored enough to try to sleep?
(Trust me, we’ve all been there.)
Research shows that people who are most active on social media before bedtime have disturbed sleeping patterns compared to others. Many of us choose to mindlessly scroll through our phones right before we hit the sack. Before we know it, hours pass and we find ourselves alert and wide awake even if it’s way past our bedtime.
This happens because blue light from electronic devices hampers our natural biological clock called the circadian rhythm. Lack of quality sleep has many physiological and psychological repercussions like chronic stress, anxiety, lack of appetite, fatigued mind, slow metabolism and quick aging…
...to name a few.
Well, it’s time to put the phone down and consider a new bedtime routine.
Sleeping well everyday helps the body to recover and heal while maintaining all bodily functions at an optimum level. This is why sleeping well for at least 7-8 hours everyday is imperative to leading a healthy life.
For those of us who have trouble sleeping, yoga is a great answer to get a good night sleep. You don't need to be an experienced yoga practitioner to do these poses in your daily bedtime routine.
In fact, some of the most restorative, basic and simple stretches are the best yoga poses for sleep and can be done right in the comfort of our bed!
Here are a few poses that will help you get your much required 8 hours of sleep so you can wake up feeling fresh and rejuvenated!
1. Uttanasana (Rag Doll Pose)
A simple variation of forward fold, this poses decompresses the spine and helps to relieve the neck, back and shoulders.
Try it: Place your feet hips distance apart and slowly lower your torso to hang over your knees. To release the muscles in your lower back, keep a slight bend in your knees. You can let your hands dangle to the floor or you can grab your elbows with your hands. Let your head hang so that your entire spine can gently be pulled by gravity.
2. Upavishtha Konasana (Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend)
This pose helps stretch out the legs and lower back. It gently stimulates the internal organs, especially detoxing the kidneys.
Try it: Sit on top of your bed and open your legs as wide as possible with your feet flexed. If your knees are bent, that’s okay. Feel free to place a small pillow under each knee to take the strain off of your legs. Grab a few larger pillows and place them between your legs and then fold over on top of them. Rest here for a few minutes to let your legs and back release tension.
3. Parva Sukhasana (Seated Side Bend Pose)
This poses releases tension from the neck, shoulders, back and obliques. It also helps to relax the mind.
Try it: Extend your right leg out and bring your left foot to your inner right thigh. Sit up straight so that your sits bones are directly seated on your mattress. Drop your right elbow to your right thigh and slowly reach your left hand up and over your head. This will stretch your entire left side, from your hips to your shoulders, giving your tired, used body a delicious release just before tucking yourself into bed. Repeat on the other side.
4. Modified Gaumukhasana (Modified Cows Face Pose)
A good stretch for the outer hips, glutes and back, this pose aids in the treatment of sciatica and backaches. It has a calming effect on the body and mind.
Try it: Bend your left leg and place your heel next to your right hip. Place your right leg over the top and place your right heel next to your left hip. Your knees should be aligned on top of one another. Grab a few big pillows and place over your knees, then rest your body on top of the pillows. Hold the pose for a few minutes to release tension in your hips and back. Repeat on the other side.
5. Balasana (Childs Pose)
A gentle stretch for the hips, thighs and ankles, this pose has many variations. Try to support the head on a pillow to relax the neck and back and enjoy the pose’s calming effect on the mind. Folded blanket underneath the knee helps to stay longer in this pose.
Try it: Begin on your knees, opening them as wide as feels comfortable to you. Bring your toes together and then sit back on your feet. Grab a few large pillows and place them just in front of your knees, then gently lower your torso to rest on the pillows. You can reach your hands forward for a deep back stretch or bring your hands back toward your feet for a gentle release of the back. Hold the pose for a few minutes to let your back relax.
6. Badhha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Especially helpful for female reproductive system, this pose improves the overall blood circulation in the body. A deep stretch for the groin and inner thighs, this pose improves hip flexibility and helps reduce fatigue and stress.
Try it: Begin in a seated position and bring the soles of your feet together, about a foot away from your groin area. Grab a few large pillows and place them over your feet, then gently lower your torso onto the pillows. Rest here for a few minutes.
7. Supta Badhha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
A restorative version of the bound angle pose, this pose stimulates blood circulation to the heart and lungs. When done for longer duration it can put the mind in a deep state of relaxation while opening up the hip flexors and hips.
Try it: Staying in the previous position, move the pillows to behind you so that they support your lower back as you lean back. Gently lower onto the pillows behind you and rest for a few minutes.
8. Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
This poses increases blood supply to the pelvis and abdomen and relaxes the back muscles. It's the perfect way to end the day right before bed.
Try it: Stretch your legs out before you and lay all the way back. Then take your right leg and cross it over to the left side of your body, keeping your leg bent. You can place a pillow under your knee to reduce the tension in your hip and release the muscles in the back. Stretch your arms out in a “T” shape and rest for a few minutes. Repeat on the other side.
9. Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
Not only does this pose open up the hips, but it also relaxes the sacrum and back. Additionally, it gently massages the internal organs of the digestive system, thus promoting cleansing of the body during sleep.
Try it: Begin by laying on your back and then bring your feet into the air. Bend your knees and grab the outer edges of your feet. Try to flatten your back and shoulders into your mattress and pull your feet towards your body. Sway back and forth if it feels good. Hold this pose for a few minutes.
10. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Modify this relaxing pose by keeping a cushion or bolster under the knees and allow your body to sink into your bed.
Try it: Lay on your back with your legs outstretched before you. Place a pillow under your knees to release tension from your lower back. Bring awareness to every part of your body, beginning with the right pinky toe and working your way up and around your body until you finish with your left pinky toe on the other side. Slip into a deep and restful slumber.
Apart from a regular yoga practice, it’s important to ensure complete darkness before going to bed so avoid looking at any electronic device at least 90 minutes before your bedtime (otherwise, your brain thinks it’s still go-time and will not shut itself down until you do).
It also helps to have a daily night regime, which will train the body and mind to wind down before its time to turn in for the day.
Here’s hoping you have a good night sleep for your physical and emotional well being. Tomorrow, wake up as a renewed version of yourself!