Yoga has so many benefits mentally, physically, and emotionally. Feeling stressed and overtired can be the inability to sleep soundly. At the end of the day we expect our bodies to shut down instantly and fall asleep. After a full day of energy-charging our bodies, it can be tough to wind down automatically. Television and computers do not help either with slowing down the nervous system.
Many researchers claim that not getting enough sleep has many negative health consequences, such as raising your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and even obesity. In addition to those, it also has an effect on energy levels and alertness. Yoga can help bring some balance to the mind, body and spirit. The gentle stretches and deep breathing help to relax the mind, clear the body of toxins, increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain,Â and relax the muscles and nervous system. Here are a few great yoga poses to practice right before you head off to bed.
Seated heart opener – Vajrasana
Sit in a kneeling position. If this bothers your knees, extend your legs straight out in front of you. Place your hands behind you, as you inhale lengthen your spine, as you exhale lean back lowering your head between your shoulder blades. If your neck feels tight keep your chin parallel to the floor. Relax close your eyes and take five deep breaths.
Balasana – Childs Pose
Sitting on your knees, open them about as wide as your hips or keep the knees and feet together. Try and feel which variation feels good in your body. Take a deep inhale to lengthen your spine, exhale as you lower your chest to your knees. You can extend your arms forward or rest them beside your body. If you can, rest your forehead on the floor, or stack your forearms and relax your forehead on your forearms. Relax and stay for five to ten breaths. Balasana is a resting pose. It helps to open the hips, shoulders and lengthen the spine. Relaxing the head below the heart brings fresh blood flow to the brain.
Folded Butterfly – Supta Baddha Konasana
Sit with your knees bent and the soles of your feet touching. Inhale to lengthen the spine as you exhale place your hands on your feet and fold forward. Stay and breathe deeply for 30 seconds to a few minutes. This pose helps to soothe and release the lower back and hips.
Ardha Matsyendrasana – Seated Spinal Twist
Sit on the floor with your right knee bent and the sole of your foot in front of your right knee. If both hips do not touch the floor extend your right leg out straight. Place your right hand on the floor behind you to lengthen your spine. Cross your left elbow over your right knee. Look over your right shoulder twisting and rinsing your spine. Take five deep slow breaths; repeat this pose on the other side. Gentle twists help ease digestion before bed, open the hips, shoulders and stimulate the nervous system.
Pigeon Pose – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Bend the right leg and bring the right knee to the floor outside the right hand while releasing the left leg to the floor directly behind your left hip. The right shin may angle back towards the left hip or be more parallel to the front of your mat, depending on your flexibility. Flex your right foot protecting your right knee. Square the hips towards the front of your mat. Slowly walk your hands forward. Gently release your belly, chest and forehead towards the floor. Relax and take deep breaths into the hips for a few minutes. Repeat this pose on the other side. At the end of the day this pose helps to open the hips, stretches the thighs, groins, and psoas.
Bhujangasana – Cobra pose
Lay on your belly place your hands under your shoulders. Keep your hips and legs resting on the floor and your shoulders relaxed away from your ears. Inhale and lift your chest off the floor using your lower spine and back muscles. If it feels comfortable, lower your head back between your shoulder blades to stretch the front of your neck. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths. This is a beautiful backbend to strengthen and release the lower back. Stretches the shoulders, neck and abdomen.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana – Bridge Pose
Lay on your back, bend your knees, reach and touch your heels. Place your feet hip width and parallel. Â Press into your feet, lifting your hips off the floor. Relax your glutes and reach for your ankles, or place your hands under your lower back. Â Relax your neck by pressing your head into the floor. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths. This pose will increase flexibility in your spine while stretching your shoulders and neck.
Ananda Balasana – Happy Baby Pose
Lay on your back, bend your knees, and hold onto your feet, ankles, or backs of the thighs. Gently pull your legs toward the floor. Lengthen the spine and tailbone onto the floor. Relax and close your eyes. Stay and breathe into the hips and spine. Hold as long as it feels good. This pose will relieve tightness in your lower back and hips. Prepares the body for sleep or savasana. This pose is an amazing hip opener.
After completing the poses you can make your way to bed. As you lie in bed you can practice the final pose Savasana. Lie on your back close your eyes, open your arms by your side palms facing up. Open your legs and allow your feet to relax. Let the whole body relax with awareness of the breath. Consciously scan the body for any tension and then use the breath to relax that area. Stay in Savasana until you naturally fall asleep. You should wake up re-energized, revitalized and relaxed!