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  • Mara Olney

Yoga for Better Sleep!


Yoga can be hugely beneficial to improving the quality of your sleep! When you think about yoga practice, you may picture a heated room with intense yoga flows and people doing handstands. But you don’t need to practice intense Vinyasa flows to reap the benefits of yoga. There are many styles of yoga, and most of these styles could be categorized as either a Solar or Lunar practice. Your Solar practices are the invigorating, fast paced flows that are meant to energize and invigorate. Your Lunar practices are restorative and calming. Yin Yoga is a Lunar style of yoga that you may be familiar with. Lunar yoga postures are typically held for extended periods of time while you focus on breathing deeply and relaxing the muscles in your body. In these calming poses, we are working on letting go, surrendering and relaxing the body. If you are struggling with falling asleep or getting quality sleep, try these calming postures before bed and wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day!

1. Wide Leg Forward Fold: Forward folding postures create a calming effect throughout your central nervous system, so they are perfect at the end of the day. I love a good standing forward fold.

Cues:

  1. Step your feet wide apart

  2. Open your heels a little wider than your toes (slight pigeon toe)

  3. Bring your hands to your hips and hug your elbows back a bit and keep

  4. Stamp your feet firmly into the earth and fold your ward with a flat back

  5. Once you are folded take an arm variation of your choice. Hands can be placed on the earth between your feet. Option to grab hold of your ankles and guide yourself in deeper. Or take clasped hands behind the back.

  6. Lean your weight forward into your toes

  7. Tilt your tail bone up

  8. Let go of the weight of your head and relax your neck

  9. Stay for 5-10 full cycles of breath

  10. To exit the pose; bring your hands to your hips, engage your legs and come up with a flat back.


2. Garland Pose: Garland Pose is a yogi’s squat. In yoga we have energizing and uplifting postures and we have grounding postures to create balance in our practice. A yogi squat is a grounding posture, and is wonderful for releasing tight hips. If you have tightness in your hips, there is a good chance that you wake up with lower back pain. Try this posture before bed to help you ease your back pain and to feel grounded.

Cues:

1. Separate your feet about 2 1/2 feet apart, toes turned out

2. Squat down and press your knees out. This is a deep squat so come down as low as you are able

3. Bring your palms together for prayer hands, and plug your thumbs into the center of your chest

4. Lift through the crown of your head

5. Relax your legs and hips. Let go of any gripping or squeezing and soften into your squat

6. Stay for 5-10 breaths

7. To exit the pose: turn your toes straight forward and forward fold before slowing rising up to standing

*Your heels should be grounded. If you are unable to keep your heels grounded in your deep squat, lift up out of your squat enough plant your feet flat, and rest your forearms on your thighs with your palms together.


3. Head-to-Knee Pose: Another calming forward fold. This fold is great for stretching your hamstrings, and can help relieve sciatic pain.

Cues:

1. Begin seat with both legs extended forward.

2. Bend your left knee out and rest the sole of you left foot against your right inner thigh

3. Breath in and reach your arms over head, exhale and fold forward and deeply as your body allows without forcing the stretch.

4. You can place your hands on either side of your extended leg, or if flexibility allows, draw yourself in deeper by grabbing hold of your ankle or foot.

5. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and lengthen the back of your neck

6. Stay for 5-10 breaths and then repeat on the second side


4. Reclined Bound Angle Pose: This pose is deeply relaxing and beneficial to improving your sleep. This pose will improve your circulation, help relieve stress, and also provides a wonderful inner thigh stretch.

Cues:

1. Lie on your back with the soles of your feet planted and your knees bent

2. Allow your knees to open like a book and bring the soles of your feet together to a touch

3. If this is too uncomfortable because you inner thighs feel too tight, place pillows or yoga blocks under your thighs

4. Close your eyes

5. Place your hands on your belly and connect to your breath. Feel the rise and fall of your belly with each breath in and each breath out.

6. Stay for at least least 10 breaths. Longer if you like.


5. Waterfall Pose: This is a restorative inversion that will lower your heart rate, and bring you into a relaxed state of being almost instantly. This posture is also wonderful if you experience swollen feet or ankles after a long day and will help relieve swelling in your lower extremities. And the best part is, this pose is so simple!

Cues:

1. Lie on your back

2. Arms can be over head clasping opposite elbows, or cactus your arms, or extend them out wide with open palms

3. Send your legs straight up to the sky

4. Close your eyes and imagine your blood flowing energetically inside of your body like a waterfall beginning at your feet. Visualize this waterfall hydrating and nourishing your vital organs, see it swirling around your heartspace and your brain

5. Stay for at least 10 breaths



6. Happy Baby: Our final before bed pose is Happy Baby. I love this posture at the end of a yoga class or the end of a long day. It is the perfect finale pose before rest and will leave you ready to soak in all the benefits your yoga practice while you sleep.

Cues:

1. Lie on your back

2. Bend your knees and separate your knees wider that your torso with the soles of your feet facing the sky

3. Press your arms against the inside of your calves reach up and grab the outside of your feet with your hands

4. Align your ankles over your knees

5. Rest your head, back of neck and shoulders on the earth and draw your shoulders away from your ears

6. Draw your tailbone down

7. Stay for 5-10 breaths

Sleep well, yogis!


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