When you first think of yoga, you might not associate the practice with rest and relaxation, but in fact, there's more to those few minutes in savasana (commonly known as corpse pose) at the end of a class than just lying on the floor.
"A daily yoga practice, with all of its many benefits in helping to regulate and balance the nervous system and calm the mind, has been found to not only enhance the quality of sleep but also positively affect the duration of sleep," says Alison Sager, a yoga instructor at Om Namo Center in Cambridge, MA.
And certain types of slow-paced yoga, like Restorative Yoga or Yin, are especially beneficial for improved sleep. Sager explains that these varieties of yoga can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates sleep.
"A restorative yoga practice is a wonderful prelude to bedtime and can be done even moments before getting under the covers," says Sager. "It’s a way to decompress and offer a point of transition between being actively awake and heading into sleep mode."
Sager recommends doing a little gentle yoga up to an hour before hitting the hay, concentrating on grounding postures and simple stretches as a way to decompress and release tension. Sager also advises refraining from inversions, fast flows and deep heart openers prior to bed, as these practices will increase heart rate as well as levels of energy and alertness within the body.
A few accessories can enhance the bedtime yoga experience, such as a blanket for lower back support and warmth, or candles to add ambience. Sager says an eye pillow can be hugely beneficial in helping to calm the nervous system.
Bedtime Poses for Better Sleep
Child’s pose (Balasana) with a block underneath the forehead on the lowest end to support the cervical spine and neck.
Head-to-the-Knee pose (Janu Sirsasana) with the option to use a strap around the foot.
Reclining Big Toe pose (Supta Padangusthasana) with a strap around the foot.
Happy Baby pose (Ananda Balasana) Lie on your back and bend your knees into your armpits, reaching for your big toes.
Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana) Lie on your back bringing your right knee towards your chest. Use your left hand to guide your right knee across your body, keeping you right arm out wide. Repeat on with the left leg.
Reclining Butterfly (Supta Baddha Konasana) using blocks on the second highest end underneath the knees for support.
Supported relaxation pose with a bolster underneath the knees and a folded blanket supporting the torso from hips up to the head.
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