We’ve all had those nights when sleep just doesn’t seem to come. But for many, it’s chronic. About 60 million Americans have insomnia with more women suffering from it than men. Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania did a study that showed 25 percent of Americans have acute insomnia every year. 75 percent recover without experiencing chronic insomnia. While that’s certainly good news, it’s important not to leave things up to chance. There’s no one treatment for insomnia, but there are things that can relieve stress and relax the mind to make it easier to sleep such as listening to soothing music and using a well-designed mattress. Yoga is another. The ancient practice relaxes the body and calms the mind to help you sleep better. If you have insomnia and want a holistic solution to your sleep woes, give these yoga poses a try.
The standing forward bend is a yoga pose you can practice to help you sleep. It releases tension in the neck and gently stretches the hamstrings and hips. It also increases blood supply and is said to lower stress, which can keep you awake at night. While the pose is fairly easy to do, it can be a little difficult if you have back pain or tight hamstrings. You can modify it by using blocks under your hands in case your back acts up, and you can’t touch the floor. You can also bend your knees a little if tight hamstrings prevent you from keeping your legs straight.
The gentle twisting motion of the supine spinal twist is a wonderful way to get rid of tension in the back and aid in digestion. Sitting for long hours can create uncomfortable stiffness and pain that can make it hard to sleep at night. With this pose, you give your body a good de-stressing that prepares you for sleep. If it’s your first time doing this, you might feel some muscle tightness that prevents you from twisting your torso properly and placing your shoulder completely on the ground. What you can do is bend your arm at the elbow for support.
This pose is a variation of the supine spinal twist but offers a deeper twist that people with more range of motion may prefer. Like the former pose, it stretches the spine to get rid of uncomfortable kinks that can prevent you from sleeping properly. You can do it with the legs bent or place one leg outstretched. Keep in mind that since the twist is more intense, you shouldn’t perform it if you have a back or hip injury.
The bridge is a great wake-up exercise. But when used with support like a yoga block or bolsters under the lower back, it turns into a relaxing pose that can help you sleep. It can also be adapted to suit different mobility levels. For instance, if you have trouble supporting your hips off the floor, you can place a bolster or a block to rest the pelvis. If you can do the pose without difficulty, you can deepen it by lifting your heels and pushing the pelvis higher. The posture is ideal for beginners, but you might want to avoid it if you have a neck injury.
Corpse pose is a resting pose and is usually done after completing other yoga poses. It requires you to lie flat on your back with your arms and legs stretched out so that your body is in a neutral position. The aim is to relax while being alert and let the tension release from your body. Feel your breath flow in and out. With some practice, you’ll see that your mind quietens from the chatter and awareness sets in. Since the corpse pose focuses on relaxation and releasing stress, it’s a great pose to encourage sleep.
Yoga stands apart from other exercises because it doesn’t just focus on strengthening the body. It places heavy emphasis on relaxing the mind, which can sometimes become overwhelmed with distracting thoughts and worries. What’s more, yoga can be modified to accommodate all levels of mobility and flexibility. Once you start mastering a pose, you can take it up a notch to challenge yourself a little more and get closer to winning the fight against insomnia. We’ll be back for part 2 of our yoga poses for insomnia series. Stay tuned!