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Sleep. Everyone seems to be obsessed with sleep (or perhaps with the lack thereof). Sleep has such enormous power over how we feel, how we act, and how productive our days are. With this all being said, an astonishing 50-70 million adults in the United States have some sort of sleep disorder according to the American Sleep Association. This number absolutely blows my mind, especially now that I have a better understanding of the role yoga/meditation can play in relation to sleep.
Yoga’s numerous benefits extend into helping your body and mind prepare for sleeping. The meditative aspect of yoga (such as when you focus on your breath) is particularly powerful, especially when combined with the slow-moving flows of yoga poses. There are numerous benefits to participating in bedtime yoga, and many poses to try out! Try a few on for size and see how they suit you.
Benefits of Bedtime Yoga
1. Redirect the Energy Flow
It is no surprise that the majority of us spend our days behind desks and in seated positions. By doing this, we are restricting the flow of energy – especially if we don’t take movement breaks throughout the day. This being said, the stagnate nature of the energy within our body can impact us physically (muscle aches), mentally (trouble focusing or calming down), and emotionally (mood changes). Through leading our body and breath through gentle movements we are reopening our energy channels, allowing a better flow to occur.
2. Increase Parasympathetic Activity within Your Body
The parasympathetic nervous system is often known as the rest and digest system, increasing the activity of the digestive tract, slowing the heart rate, and calming our minds in preparation for sleep (rest). This relaxation system is activated through our yoga practice (specifically the slowed breathing, mindfulness, and gentle movements). By activating the parasympathetic nervous system, we are signaling to our body that it is time to rest and digest, deactivating the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the fight or flight response (also known as the stress response). Through guiding our body, breath, and mind through a gentle bedtime yoga routine, we are communicating to our body (through our nervous system) that it is time to be calm, and rest.
3. Unplug and Unwind
Please, please, please tell me I’m not the only one who’s on her laptop, phone, or tablet in bed right up until the very second she falls asleep. I know being on electronics is bad (cue long lecture on how the light from our screens messes up our sleep cycle), but…it’s just SO hard not to do. Well, if you do yoga right before bed you’re giving yourself (and your brain) a much-needed screen time break right before bed! To take this one step further, I would recommend just moving through poses on your own, cutting out the need to look on YouTube or your phone for relaxing poses (better yet, just print out this post for your own screen-free version)! By unplugging from your technology and plugging into your mat, breath, and practice you are setting yourself up for a great night of sleep.
4. Count Breaths, Not Sheep
As we’ve discussed before in previous posts, connecting with our breath can cultivate a sense of mindfulness within ourselves. This mindfulness not only decreases our perceived and actual stress levels within our bodies (one common reason why individuals have trouble sleeping), but impacts how we interpret sensory input as well. While sensory input may not seem like a big deal, this same input is what keeps us from feeling comfortable at night. It’s what makes one toss and turn trying to find a better position, that feeling of restlessness, and agitation. By placing the focus on our breath during bedtime yoga, stress and sensory input can be better addressed within our bodies and minds.
5. Helps to Rid the Body of Muscle Aches and Tension
Stress not only keeps our mind awake, but can detrimentally impact our body as well. In the body, stress may present itself as muscle tightness, tension, or even joint pain. By moving your body through various poses (such as the ones listed below), your muscles are letting go of any stress that has accumulated throughout the day. In addition, these stretches (accompanied with a controlled breath), increases circulation throughout the entirety of your body. This increase in blood flow to the muscles of the body helps to clear any tightness due to impurities (such as a buildup of lactic acid).
Top 10 Sleepy-Time Yogi Poses
- Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
- Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
- Seated Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
- Ragdoll Pose (Uttanasana)
- Reclining Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana)
- Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
- Cat and Cow Pose (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)
- Supine Spinal Twist Pose (Supta Jathara Parivartanasana)
Time to Catch some Zzzzz’s
Maybe I’m in desperate need of a nap, but I swear just reading about all the benefits of yoga and sleep is actually making me yawn. Yoga is one of those beautiful blends of meditation and movement, and therefore can be applied to a number of different situations. From helping you to wake up in the morning, to helping you fall asleep at night, there is a yoga pose and yogi practice for everything! I might be biased, but yoga’s ability to help people relax and fall asleep can rival some pharmaceutical sleep aids (plus its easier on your body). With the numerous benefits sleepy time yoga can have, try out a few instead of counting sheep next time you’re having trouble falling asleep!
Do you have a bedtime yoga routine you swear by? Any one specific pose bliss you out for a great night of sleep? What other yoga/meditation practices do you use before bed?
I’m so excited to read all of your responses, especially being back in grad school, sleep can be somewhat elusive at times. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks so much for reading, I hope this post helps you have a blissful night of sleep.
Occupational Therapy student Mandy Fabry always had a passion for yoga. Trading in her traditional role as a student to begin her journey as an instructor and blogger. She projects an air on lightness and celebrates each body, breath, and movement. Her background not only nourishes the physical body, but restores the soul as well. Appreciating the body as a whole is Mandy’s main focus, and will bring awareness and balance to all aspects of your life. She is excited to take this next step with you, and hopes that the benefits and lifestyle of yoga can be accessed by all.