For those of us who struggle to achieve an adequate amount of health-restoring sleep, a natural approach to addressing the issue is the first step to greater wellbeing. An evening Yoga practice that targets relaxation and calm can improve the quality and quantity of our sleep. The following brief sequence of asanas (poses) has been shown to provide a significant reduction in insomnia. Ideally, the practice should conclude 30 minutes prior to retiring for the night to allow the body to adjust and absorb the full benefit.
Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
This posture opens the hips while stretching the hamstrings, and to a lesser extent, the calves and feet.
- Sit with your legs extended in front of you, your spine erect, and your sitting bones firmly connecting with the mat. If it is difficult to keep your legs straight, you can bend them slightly, or sit on a cushion or folded towel to give you a less strenuous angle.
- Place the sole of your left foot on the inside of your right thigh and flex the right foot.
- Inhale, and as you exhale, hinge forward from the hips, keeping your spine straight, your neck long, and your eyes focused on your big toe. (Once you enter the pose you can close your eyes if that feels more natural and relaxing). Your hands can land on the floor on either side of your extended leg or catch the sole of your right foot.
- Hold the pose for at least eight slow breath cycles and repeat on the other side.
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
This posture stretches the inner thighs, groin and knees, is restorative to the legs and feet, and is considered beneficial to digestion.
- Sit with your legs extended in front of you, your spine erect, and your sitting bones firmly connecting with the mat.
- Place the soles of your feed together forming a diamond shape with your legs. Pull your feet toward your body as far as possible without discomfort.
- Inhale, and as you exhale, extend your torso forward toward your feet, bending from the hip joint and keeping your spine straight.
- Continue breathing and relaxing into the pose for at least eight breath cycles.
Reclined Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
This posture stretches the back and gluteals, strengthens the lower core, and detoxifies the abdominal organs.
- Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest.
- Extend your left arm out to your left side with your palm facing up.
- Place your right hand on your left knee, and gently pull your legs to the right until your feet land on the floor. (If your knees do not comfortably reach the floor, place a cushion or folded towel under them).
- Focus your eyes at the ceiling or in the direction of your extended left hand (or close them).
- Hold this pose for 8 breath cycles.
- Repeat on the left side.
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
This pose, a gentle and restorative inversion, reduces swelling and water retention, calms the body, quiets the mind, and stretches the backs of your legs. It is considered the ideal conclusion to a pre-bedtime Yoga practice, and warrants particular focus and time before ending your session.
- Lie perpendicular to the wall with your buttocks touching the wall, or as close as you can come.
- Place your legs up the wall, straightening them if possible.
- Allow your arms to fall where they are most comfortable; straight out forming a “T”, half upright like a “cactus” or by your sides. Palms should be face up to open the shoulders and express a receptive attitude to positive, calming energy.
- Hold this position for at least 16 breath cycles.