In an article for the Huffington Post, mystic and yogi Sadhguru states:
“Yoga is not an exercise; it is an ancient technology towards wellbeing and ultimate liberation.”
While downward dog and other classic poses are believed to have been established in the early 1800s, many yoga philosophies that guide one down a personal path of self-realization have been passed down from nearly 5,000 years ago.
Yoga has seen a tremendous boom in the Western world in recent times. This ancient practice has many of us striving to reap its numerous benefits. In fact, the number of Americans practicing yoga grew by 50 percent between 2012 and 2016. And one of the driving factors that encourage people to take up yoga is stress relief.
Benefits Of Yoga
As a culturally mainstream activity, it’s important that we stop, at times, to remember that yoga isn’t designed for torching calories or improving our physical physique. Though these benefits might accompany our practice, yoga is meant to bring attention to the breath while encouraging relaxation, focus, self-inquiry, and meditation.
This practice is embarked upon to calm the mind and connect spirituality with physicality. In fact, research shows that yoga decreases anxiety, stress, and even helps with insomnia. If you have ever taken a yoga class, then you know the feel-good effects are almost immediate: a refreshed mind and body, a more serene state of mind, and a general detachment from the pressing problems life seem to serve up continuously.
But, wouldn’t it be amazing to tap into that sense of serenity just before going to sleep? Instead of laying awake for hours with a head full of thoughts, employ a bit of yoga to disconnect from your daytime troubles and to prepare your mind for the impending peaceful sleep that awaits you.
Relaxing Yoga Poses
It’s typical for our daily stressors and those cyclical, negative thoughts to creep up just as we close our eyes to sleep. As it turns out, a nightly yoga session right before hitting the hay can help assuage your nighttime woes and worries.
Unlike breathing exercises and meditation that usually takes place within yoga practice, asanas are the physical poses that make up our modern-day practice. The blending of body and mind is hard won, but by following these simple asanas, you can tap into a deeper serenity for sounder sleep ahead.
- Begin with breathing. While this may not be considered a specific yoga pose, many yoga classes begin focused entirely on breathing. Sitting straight up, legs folded beneath you, begin taking a deep breath, one hand placed on your chest, the other on your stomach. Feel the deep inhalations go in and out, and focus solely on your breathing for ten to fifteen minutes. (Set a timer so that you don’t disrupt your relaxation by checking your clock!) Due to the incredibly relaxing effects of breath awareness, we recommend starting every bedtime ritual with a session of deep breathing.
- Stretch that spine. Next, lay flat on your back in bed or on another padded surface to protect your spine. With your knees held up to your chest, hug them in tightly. This will stretch your back and allows for a moment of calm and deep breathing. Continue to stretch as you breath in and out for a few minutes, focusing on the tightness of the knee-grasp and the lengthening of your back and spine.
- Supta what? “Supta Matsyendrasana,” or reclined spine twisting pose, is done while lying down. Gently stretching out the spine, back muscles, and glutes, this asana is believed to help hydrate the spinal disks, massage the abdominal organs, flush toxins, and encourage blood flow to the digestive system. In this pose, one leg crosses over the other while laying completely on one’s back, the shoulders never leaving the floor. Bending at the knee, one leg is stretched across the other, in turn stretching out the back. Alternating legs, this pose is especially effective if deep breathing is incorporated, inhalations done at the peak of stretch.
- Corpse pose. To end, enter into Savasana–aka. corpse pose. Due to its incredibly relaxing nature, this pose typically ends most yoga classes and is a perfect way to slip into better sleep. As it solely entails lying on your back, eyes closed, in utter relaxation, this pose should have you ready for bed and ready to fall asleep in minutes! While it may be difficult to relax in this pose with a flurry of racing thoughts, after finishing a sequence of other poses, this one is much easier to embrace as the body and mind are already primed to enter into a state of peace and deep serenity.
Yoga has some of the best relaxation techniques, and for anyone feeling stressed by the chaos of modern life, there’s nothing like it. The combination of breathing and asanas help to create a calmness that our minds desperately need to handle life’s daily affairs and sleep without interruption.
Have you tried incorporating yoga into your nightly routine? How has it changed your sleep cycle?
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Published on Friday, May 4, 2018
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