Crafting a Bedtime Yoga Routine to Help Catch Better Zzzs
In order to practice yoga for sleep, you don't need to memorize complex sequences or be able to contort your body into a pretzel. You don't even need to be particularly athletic or flexible to reap the benefits. Yoga can be done at any time of the day, but here we are focusing on a bedtime yoga routine that will hopefully earn you a longer and more restful sleep.
- Yoga is a traditional practice that aims to unite the body and mind.
- Using yoga to calm your mind and body before bed can wind you down for a good night's sleep.
- If you're having trouble sleeping, try one of the many yoga practices to calm down
Some info on yoga
The word ‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. When practicing yoga, the aim is to find harmony between the mind and body. Yoga has been practiced for over 3,000 years and is based on Indian philosophy, it is a practice that blends physical movements, mindfulness and concentrated breathing. Although there are many different schools or forms of yoga that use different postures and breathing techniques, sleeping benefits are thought to be due to the meditative properties.
Over 55 percent of yoga practitioners say their sleep has improved, and over 85 percent say their stress levels have decreased due to regular yoga practice. Yoga has been shown in numerous studies to improve sleep in a number of demographics including children, the elderly, the blind, those with autism, those with depression and more.
Basically yoga has shown to be universally beneficial. The studies that look at the relationship between sleep and yoga tend to focus on the quality of sleep rather than the quantity. This is because more sleep does not always equate to better sleep. Quality sleep is typically measured by an increased amount of energy throughout the day and a decreased amount of disturbances during the night.
Types of yoga for bedtime
While all types of yoga have been shown to be beneficial to our overall well being, it is important to remember that not every yoga tutorial should be used as your bedtime yoga routine.
For example, hot yoga and vinyasa (flow) are known to get your heart racing. You wouldn't want to do these before bedtime any more than you would want to go run a mile. A bedtime yoga routine will typically be either hatha yoga, or nidra yoga:
1. Hatha yoga
Slower paced yoga that focuses on body position, and breathing. While hatha yoga uses some of the poses found in vinyasa, you are not “flowing” meaning that you are holding poses or asanas for extended periods of time and more so focusing on smooth, even breathing.
Many poses used in hatha yoga tend to be more basic and do not require tons of strength or flexibility, a great place for beginner yogis to start. Here are some moves you can try right now:
- Tadasana (mountain pose) - Stand with your feet together, interlock your fingers, reach up as far as you can with your palms facing upwards and hold. Though this movement sounds simple, when done correctly, it engages all of the muscles and is great for your posture.
- Vrikshasana (tree pose) - Start with your feet together, and hands in a prayer position in front of your heart. Slowly lift one leg and place your foot on your inner thigh. Then reach your arms up while holding the prayer positioning with your hands, hold and then switch sides. If this is too difficult, try lowering your lifted leg so that it is resting on your calf or inner ankle, you can even modify it further to have the toes of the lifted leg on the ground. This pose will slowly strengthen the legs, open the hips and improve balance and concentration.
- Uttanasana (standing forward bend) - Start with your feet together and stand up straight. Place your hands on your hips and bend forward at the hip. Then reach toward the ground with your arms. Relax, let your head hang and hold. To come out of this pose, place hands back on your hips and slowly raise your torso. While seemingly simple, this pose will gradually build strength and flexibility in your hamstrings, calves and hips.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose) - Probably the most well known yoga pose, this asana is a favorite to many because not only does it work on strength and flexibility, it also promotes blood flow to the brain. To get into “down dog” start on all fours with a straight back ((table pose (hands and knees)), at first it might be helpful to look in a mirror to check that your body is aligned properly. Hands should be shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width apart, while in the pose. From table pose you are going to tuck your toes and then lift upward from the hip while simultaneously straightening your arms and legs. Push into the ground with your hands so that you can relax your neck and back. Then you can work on straightening your legs (this takes time!) do this by “pedaling” straightening one leg then the other in a smooth motion. You should feel the stretch in your hamstrings but not to the point of pain. Hold this inverted V shape with your body and you've done it. To release, bend your legs and drop back down to your knees.
2. Nidra yoga
Another slow form of yoga which focuses on breathing and more restorative poses. Nidra yoga focuses on both lying and sitting postures, perfect for your nighttime yoga routine.
- Balasana (child's pose) - Start by sitting with your butt on your heels and your knees on the ground straight in front of you. Then reach forward with your arms so your chest is resting on your legs and your forehead is resting on the ground. Relax and hold. This pose stretches out your neck, back, shoulders and chest and allows you to breathe fully. To get out of the child's pose, use your abdominals to slowly roll back up to the original seated position.
- Ananda balasana (happy baby pose) - Start by laying on your back, then bend your knees inward towards your chest with your feet straight in the air. Next grab and hold the outsides of your feet, rock slowly to the left and right, and there you have it, a happy baby. Remember to keep your shoulders on the ground the entire time to avoid neck strain. Happy baby pose opens the hips, groin, hamstrings, and thighs, helps to realign your spine and even can help with digestion. To get out of this pose, release your feet and bam you're ready for bed.
- Shavasana (corpse pose) - Lay on the ground, palms facing up and relax. This really is a pose and for many, it's their favorite. This pose allows for total relaxation and mindfulness and is often the final pose of a practice.
If you're looking for a video to lead you in your nighttime yoga routine here are a couple great options with varying times:
30 min hatha yoga :
20 min nidra yoga:
10 min hatha yoga:
Yoga is amazing, don't let it intimidate you. The health benefits from yoga have been proven over and over in scientific studies. Try your best and don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. Relax with a bedtime yoga routine and get the good nights sleep you deserve.
Written by Kiana St. Onge
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