Insomnia is a common problem with many causes, including hormone imbalances. But as common as it may be, there’s still nothing more frustrating and lonely than watching the clock tick into the late hours of the night—or early hours of the morning. If you’re struggling to fall and stay asleep, knocking out your insomnia naturally can feel like a dream. But it is possible, and yoga can help. One survey by the National Institute of Health said yoga and sleep can absolutely go together. In fact, 85% of people who do yoga reported less stress and 55% got a better night’s rest.
In honor of those stats (and some shut-eye!), take a peek at 4 simple, accessible yoga poses that relax the body and mind—and are the perfect antidote to insomnia.
Yoga and sleep: 4 poses to try
An asana that can help you cross over to quality sleep is bridge pose, or setu bandhasana. Bridge is a fantastic and gentle full-body pose, opening the chest, strengthening the glutes, and stretching the back. Chest-openers like this one help alleviate stress and provide a good counterbalance to everyday desk and device posture. Plus, you’ll notice your breathing naturally become less shallow and more even.
Getting into bridge pose, or setu bandhasana
- Come on to your back, with the knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor.
- Let the arms rest alongside the torso, palms down.
- Walk the feet in closer to the pelvis. A good rule to follow: you should almost be able to touch the back of your heel with one of your fingertips.
- Pull the belly button in, press down through the length of the arms, and ground through the feet.
- Lift the hips up and hold for several breaths.
- Gently lower the back to the floor. Repeat.
Reclined bound-angle pose
A version of this pose made our top two picks of yoga poses all women can benefit from. (Read more on that here.) But reclined bound-angle, or supta baddha konasana, also helps kick insomnia to the curb. This pose gently opens the inner thighs and hips. With the soles of the feet together and knees out to the sides, the pelvis can relax. In yogic philosophy, it’s believed that the hips hold and store stress and emotions. Stretching and releasing tension in the area can help restore quality sleep.
Getting into reclined bound angle
- Sit on the floor with the knees drawn into the chest and the soles of the feet on the mat.
- Use your hands to help you lower the spine and back of the head fully onto the floor.
- Let the knees fall open to the sides and allow the bottoms of the feet to come together. If your knees or hips are uncomfortable here, modify by putting yoga blocks or rolled towels under the outer thighs. For some people, it may be helpful to scoot the feet further away from the pelvis.
Accessible and inviting inversions like dolphin pose belong in any pre-bedtime yoga practice or stretching. While more complex inversions stimulate the body and increase energy, simple inversions do the opposite.
Inversions literally put us in a position we’re not used to being in: upside down. As a result, the sympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of stress response, downgrades or dial downs. The parasympathetic system, our “rest and digest” center, activates. As our bodies experience the difference, our mindset follows suit—helping us feel clearer and calmer.
Getting into dolphin pose
- Come into a table top position on all fours. Your hands should be directly under the shoulders, with the fingers spread wide. The knees should be right under the hips.
- Gently lower down on one forearm and then the other. The wrists can stay in line with the elbows.
- Tuck the toes. Keeping the knee joint soft or a small bend in the knees, start to move the hips up and back (like you’re coming into down dog).
- Breathe. If you’re not used to inversions, hold the posture for about one minute. Then, gently lower the knees.
Here’s where yoga and sleep really look like a match. Sometimes students are so relaxed here, you start to hear soft snores in class. But the thing is: even though it looks like you’re doing nothing in this pose, that’s not entirely true. Savasana is a form of meditation, and you need to be awake to reap the benefits. Meditation relieves anxiety and helps with depression—two things that keep you from getting enough rest. Also, because chronic insomnia and other conditions are linked to hypertension, savasana comes in handy by reducing blood pressure.
Getting into savasana
- Recline on your back with your legs stretched out. For low-back pain, bend the knees so the feet are flat on the floor. Step the feet out wider than the hips, and let the knees knock together.
- Bring your arms alongside the torso with the palms facing the sky. Close your eyes.
- Follow the breath, noting each inhale and exhale.
- Say “inhale” and “exhale” softly to keep the mind from wandering to other thoughts. This is also a good place for a soft mantra, like “I am calm. I am here.” Or, maybe best of all: “I love sleep.”
- Continue for a few minutes before gently turning to the left side and coming out of the posture.
Working yoga into your bedtime routine
These calming, sleep-inducing postures don’t need to take up a lot of time. Work your way up to practicing each pose for a maximum of 3 to 5 minutes each—that means you can be done in about 15 minutes. Focus on your breathing throughout, taking in nice, deep breaths in and out through the nose. Then, call it a night.
- How to clean a yoga mat during COVID + what to bring - September 18, 2020
- Hot yoga and fertility: what to consider - September 2, 2020
- Yoga with a mask on? Words from an RYT and MD - May 18, 2020