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Get better sleep, feel your best tomorrow (Yoga for Sleep) | Sarah Studebaker, Yoga Instructor & Health Coach

Better sleep now, be your best tomorrow (Yoga for Sleep)

IMG_36761_2We all sleep better some nights than others.  Who knows why?!  It could be an endless variety of factors, some that you may not even have control over (hello, nocturnal children).  I haven’t been sleeping well lately and have decided to be proactive about it and develop a bedtime yoga routine to help my body wind down from the day and prepare for the stillness and rest of sleep.

Sleep is hugely important to our overall health.  When your body is sleep deprived, you’re much more likely to not just make poor food and fitness decisions but also your brain just flat out works slower and you have a much higher risk of developing some scary diseases (heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes, etc).  Having enough sleep allows you to be at your best, smartest, and fittest and who doesn’t want that?!  Whether you’re currently experiencing sleep issues or you just want to prevent any future problems, try out these poses before you hit the hay next time-

  • Twists (either seated or laying).  The idea is the have this be a very relaxing practice so don’t worry about how far you go, just twist to wherever you’re comfortable.  Remember to turn your head into the twist too to get your entire spine involved.  Twists relieve tension from the spine (allowing you to sleep more comfortably) and aid in digestion (to help with any heavy or late dinners).
  • Forward folds.  Whether it’s simply folding over your legs or hanging out in child’s pose, just make sure that your head is below your heart.  This will help to slow down the brain, relax your lower back, calm the mind, and also improve digestion.
  • Legs up the wall.  This magical pose has been known as a ‘cure-all’ in the yoga world.  It has even been credited with preventing grey hair, wrinkles, and even death.  Hmmmm, as much as I do love yoga, I haven’t quite found the exact study that links immortality to this practice.  Whether you believe those benefits or not, I can tell you that this pose does definitely relieve back pain and soreness in the legs and feet, calms the nervous system, and fights insomnia.  It is done simply by laying on your back with your hips a few inches from the wall (depending on the flexibility, or lack of, in your hamstrings) and your legs straight up the wall (legs either a few inches or a few feet apart, whatever’s comfortable).
  • Deep belly breathing.  OK, so this isn’t a pose, it’s something that can be done either during the other poses or anytime that you find yourself awake at 3am.  Put a count to your inhales and count twice as long for your exhales.  I like to inhale to 3 and exhale to 6.  Feel your belly move out with your inhales and in with your exhales.  This slow deep breathing will literally slow down your heart rate and imitate a sleep-like, stress-free state.

The best place to practice these poses is in bed right before going to sleep.  They can all be done from the comfort of your mattress rather than hassle of having to roll out your mat, then put it away in a half asleep state.  Hope these help you as much as they’ve helped me.  ‘Night night!’ (-as my toddler would say).


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