Sleep is the best meditation

Dalai Lama

Yoga and Meditation For Better Sleep

 

Do you sometimes find yourself thinking too much before bedtime, and unable to slow down your analytical mind?

Do you experience tensions in your physical body after a long day at work?

Would you like to create a routine at home that will help you slow down, unwind and prepare for a good night of rest?

 

I have prepared this collection of 5 poses that have a long list of benefits for your physical and energetic body, and that help you calm down, relax and get ready for sleep. In the end of the post, you will also discover a meditation practice for better sleep, and a link to download it.

 

These yoga poses assist you in shifting from active (sympathetic) nervous system (NS) that is associated with too much mental activity and stress, to parasympathetic nervous system. This shift will allow your mind to slow down, your body to ease into a more relaxed state conducive to relaxation, and let your whole system prepare for sleep.

On a practical note, one of the things that happen when you body makes the shift into parasympathetic NS, your body temperature may drop. So, to prepare for it, make sure you are wearing socks and have a blanket or a sweater ready should you need one. You will also need a bolster and a 2 pillows and/or blocks.

If you would like to complete your practice with a guided meditation, prepare it before you begin, so that you do not need to interrupt a peaceful state that has been created after your asana practice by searching for the right meditation on your phone or any other device. You are welcome to use this yoga nidra meditation as my gift to support your practice.

1. Tarasana - Diamond Pose/Star Pose

 

 

 

There are two variations below: one with elevated feet (you can use a block or a thick book) and one with open palms.

Benefits

  • helps to calm and slow down the mind
  • balances mooladhara (root) chakra that is associated with a feeling of safety, security and stability
  • grounding and stabilising

How

  1. Tarasana is a seated hip-opener that begins in butterfly pose (baddha konasana). To get into baddha konasana, sit with your sit bones firmly rooted into the mat, bring your feet together as you spread the knees wide.
  2. Then move the feet forward, so that the space between the feet, knees and groin resembles a square or diamond shape.
  3. Either extend the arms forward and open the palms as you lean over the legs and allow for the back to round, or hold on to the feet and open the inner soles.
  4. Alternatively, you can use a block to elevate the outer edges of the feet.
  5. Deepen and lengthen the breaths, and stay in the pose for at least 3 to 5 minutes. This applies to all other poses in this post.
  6. Come out of the pose slowly and mindfully. This also applies to all other poses in this post.

 

2. Ananda Balasana - Happy baby pose

 

 

Benefits

  • releases lower back and sacrum
  • opens hips, groin and inner thighs
  • calms the brain
  • relieves lower back pain and discomfort
  • stretches the hamstrings
  • stretches and soothes the spine
  • helps relieve fatigue and stress

How

  1. Lie flat on your back. Lift your legs up, bringing both your knees close to your chest.
  2. Catch the outsides of your feet with your hands (if you find it tricky to hold the feet directly with your hands, hold onto a belt looped over each sole). Alternatively, hold on to the big toes with your index and middle fingers.
  3. Press the lower back and the sacrum flat into the mat so that there are no gaps between the lower back and the floor.
  4. Open your knees slightly wider than your torso, then bring them up toward your armpits.
  5. Position each ankle right over the knee, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor.
  6. Flex the heels.
  7. Gently push your feet up into your hands as you pull your hands down.

 

 

3. Supta Baddha Konasana with Bolster Support - Supine Cobbler Pose

 

 

 

Benefits

  • helps relieve the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression
  • stretches the groins, inner thighs and hips
  • improves digestion and increases blood circulation
  • stimulates the abdominal and reproductive organs

How

  1. Come to sit in baddha konasana as described in the first pose of this post.
  2. Sit with your lower back pressing into round end of the bolster.
  3. Lower your back torso toward the bolster, supporting the back of your head with a folded scarf or a thin blanket.
  4. With your hands, grip the tops of your thighs and rotate your inner thighs externally.
  5. Lay your arms on the floor, angled at about 45 degrees from the sides of your torso, palms up.
  6. Feel free to support the outer knees with rolled up blankets, pillows or yoga blocks. Don't force your knees down, just allow them to relax.
  7. To start, stay in this pose for one minute. Gradually extend your stay to 5-10 minutes.
  8. To come out, use your hands to press your thighs together, then roll over onto one side and push yourself away from the floor.

 

 

4. Viparita Karani - Legs Up The Wall Pose

 

 

 

Benefits

  • allows the mind and the body to relax
  • relieves stress and tension
  • lowers the heart rate. This elicits a relaxation response and, in turn, helps lower stress, anxiety and insomnia
  • facilitates venous drainage and increases circulation
  • soothes swollen legs and feet
  • effortlessly stretches the hamstrings and lower back
  • relaxes pelvic floor

How

  1. Set up a cozy space around a wall, or you can choose to just lie in bed and extend the legs up the wall or up the head board.
  2. Bring your hips close to the wall, then start walking your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position.
  3. Make any adjustments that you need, perhaps placing a pillow under your head or a bolster or blanket under the lower back
  4. Let your arms rest on your belly or out to the sides.
  5. Focus on your breath. Taking a deep, slow inhale through your nose and a deep, slow exhale through your nose.
  6. Try to stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes.
  7. To come out of the pose, bend your knees, roll to the side and off the bolster or blanket. Come up to sit through your side.

 

5. Supported Belly Down Twist with a Bolster

 

 

 

Benefits

  • stretches the back
  • assist in massaging and cleansing the abdominal organs
  • facilitates deeper and calmer breath as it shifts the body into parasympathetic NS
  • helps to relieve stress and tension in the muscles along the sides and midsection of the torso

How

 

 

 

When you are done with the postures, use 15-30 minutes on practicing yoga nidra - one of the most effective meditations to help you fall asleep and empty your mind of thoughts and worries. This is actually the only meditation technique capable to shift your brain into delta brainwave state which corresponds to the deepest state of sleep that exist.

Let yourself fall asleep while you are listening to yoga nidra, and wake up rested and refreshed the next morning.

And to learn even more about yogic techniques for better sleep like pranayama, restorative yoga, yin yoga, meditation and many more (as well as practice them of course), join us for a Cloud Nine mini city retreat in Zurich in March 2019.