All sleepy photos via
Has holiday stress impacted your sleep schedule? Here are some tips for easing into deep sleep, plus a lovely at-home yoga practice for you to try. Beginners through advanced students can incorporate a restful nighttime routine for better Z's.
Before I get into any specific postures, I highly recommend you try some
and schedule yourself a
. Guided relaxation has saved me on many nights when I felt restless, anxious, or unable to wind down. And for the long-term, it's important to incorporate rest and relaxation into your life on a regular basis so that you can give yourself time to cope with the ups and downs.
Yoga Practice for Soundless Sleep
When you practice yoga before bed, incorporate these tips in order to create a safe, comforting environment leading up to when you crawl under the covers.
- Practice in a quiet, warm space.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing -- preferably layers if it's chilly in your house.
- Move slowly between postures. Hold each asana for a bit longer than you might normally, and think about letting your body rest within a pose. Let the pose find you.
- Back off if you experience pain or discomfort. This isn't the time to push yourself as hard as you can.
- Rest in between postures. Child's pose is a great spot to return to for a few breaths before you try the next asana.
- Concentrate on your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply from your abdomen.
Postures for Relaxation and Restoration
on Flickr and
- Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend: Stand with your feet three to four feet apart. Turn your toes slightly inward (pigeon toed). Lean forward from your hips. Cradle your elbows in each other and let gravity hold you. When you stand up, engage your core and leg muscles strongly before hinging up from your waist.
- Standing Forward Bend: Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Hinge forward at the waist and let your arms hang toward the floor. If you are less flexible, letting your weight rest on your thighs is a good starting place.
- Downward Dog: From hands and knees, push into your widespread palms and lift your knees away from the floor, sending your tailbone up and back. Lengthen your tailbone up and away, lifting your sitting bones toward the ceiling as your body takes a triangle shape. Keep a soft bend in the elbows and knees as you work to draw your shoulder blades down your back.
- Seated Forward Bend: Sit on the floor or on a folded blanket with your legs stretched out in front of you. Sit tall on your sitting bones, spine straight into the air. Reach your arms overhead and slowly bend forward, keeping your spine long. With each exhale, fall a little deeper into the pose. With each inhale, picture your body becoming more still.
- Reclining Bound Angle: Think of this as doing a butterfly stretch while you are laying on the ground. Start in bound angle pose (seated). Sit with your legs out in front of you (add a blanket if your hips are tight). Exhale, bend your knees, pulling your heels toward your hips as you drop your knees to the sides and press your soles of your feet together. Now place your elbows on the floor and lower yourself all the way down onto your lower back. You can place blankets under your knees or a bolster under your torso for added support.
- Crocodile: Lay on your stomach with your arms above your head, bending at the elbows so that you stack your forearms on each other. Rest your forehead and take slow, deep breaths, letting the floor hold you and melt away tension.
- Legs Up the Wall: Start with your hips about 4-5 inches away from a wall. If you like, you can place a bolster or rolled up towel under your low back for extra support. Sit sideways on the end of the support, or just on the floor, and swing your legs up onto the wall. Lay your shoulders and head down on the floor. Keep your legs steady and your gaze soft. For info on alignment in this posture, see Yoga Journal's post.
- Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet parallel on the floor next to each other and pulled in as far as is comfortable. Press into all four corners of your feet (feeling pressure in your big toes) and exhale as you lift your hips slightly off the ground. Scoot your arms under the body, interlinking fingers and pressing down with your forearms. Feel your weight grounded in your shoulders as you arch your low back. Strength in this pose comes from the inner thighs and arms, not the buttocks. And be sure to keep your knees from splaying out or coming close together.
- Shoulderstand: Lay on your back with your arms alongside your body. Bend your knees and set your feet parallel on the floor, heels close to sitting bones. Exhale, pushing with your arms to raise your knees up into the air and toward your face. Stretch your legs into the air, and your arms along the floor. Press down through the arms, then bend the elbows so you can walk your hands up the back for support. For details on getting into this pose safely, check out Yoga Journal's post.
Here are a few short-term sleep aids to try in addition to yoga:
- Taking a low dose of melatonin. It's a naturally-occurring compound that can help regulate sleep cycles and has been used to treat a variety of disorders, including insomnia. Melatonin is sold as a dietary supplement (you can find it in the vitamin section at Whole Foods). Please be sure to consult your doctor before beginning use of melatonin, and of course follow the instructions about its use (large doses can be counterproductive).
- Use lavender lotion or hair conditioner before bed.
- Drink a mug of warm milk or chamomile tea as you wind down. I also recommend Yogi Tea in the Calming or Relaxed Mind flavors.
Sleep well, yogis! xoxo