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Body / Wellbeing

Namas’tay in bed? Beat Insomnia With These Om-azing Asanas

By The Yoga School / August 27, 2018

The next time you find yourself struggling to fall asleep even after counting sheep, try some relaxing yoga poses in bed instead

Yoga incorporates meditative elements that can help us to calm our mind, create awareness of breath, and better manage everyday stresses — all of which support surrender to slumber and better sleep throughout the night.

Yoga connects you to your breath, which triggers your parasympathetic system and tells your body to unwind.

Adeline Tien, who teaches Restorative Yoga at The Yoga School shares, “In fact, a good practice for people with insomnia would be to consciously make their exhales longer before they sleep, whether in bed or sitting up.”

“Practice breath count,” she suggests. “Make your inhales last three counts, and double your exhales to six counts. Just don’t drag the breath so long that you feel like you’re running out of breath as that’ll instead send your body into a stressed state!”

Now if you’re ready to unwind, grab a bolster and some blankets and get ready to flow with these pre-slumber moves for better zzzzz’s…

Balasana (Child’s Pose):

A Harvard Medical School study identified this quintessential resting pose as one the most effective, thanks to the sense of calmness and stability it provides. This gentle resting pose stretches the hips, thighs and legs, while calming the mind and relieving tension. It not only helps to calm the nervous system, it also induces better sleep.

HOW-TO: Come onto your hands and knees, and drop your hips towards your heels. Keep your knees parted as you fold over until you feel your forehead resting on the bed. Focus on your breath as you stretch your hands out in front of you, or rest them along both sides of your body.

TIP: There are many ways to support your body with props in this pose. Place a bolster between your thighs and as you nestle into a Salamba Balasana (Supported Child’s Post), inhale as you stretch your spine upwards, and then exhale as you fold forward from the hips, gently settling your torso onto the support you’ve created in front of you. Turn your head to one side and rest it on the bolster as you drop your arms comfortably along both sides of it. You can also roll up a towel or place a pillow under your buttocks if your hips can’t quite reach your heels.

Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-wall Pose):

This powerful yet incredibly restorative pose fosters a meditative state and resets the nervous system. “I do it a lot especially when I’m travelling,” shares Adeline. Beneficial for your heart health, the pose also allows your heart rate to slow down. “You’re on the ground. Your body doesn’t have to work to hold you up. With your legs flipped up, blood rushes back to the heart more easily, so your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. You’re giving your body time to rest as there’s less tension to hold,” she explains. “Your barrel receptors are quickly activated when you elevate your legs. Your body senses the drop in blood pressure, automatically triggering a relaxation response.”

“The action of putting your legs up is also a conscious effort – so you’re consciously turning off the stress switch. These factors all work together to help you feel calmer,” she adds. “To make it more comfortable, you can also put a little pillow under your head, or slide a bolster under your hips. If you find it uncomfortable to keep your legs straight, you can do it with your knees bent.”

HOW-TO: Lie on your back and position yourself your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Lift your legs up in the air and lean them straight against the wall. Rest your arms by your sides with your palms facing up. Use a soothing eye pillow if preferred. If your feet begin to tingle in this position, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis. After about five minutes, bend your knees toward your chest and roll to one side to come out of the pose gently.

TIP: “Alternatively, elevate your legs on a pile of pillows,” suggests Adeline. “Any pose which has your legs higher than your head, turns on your barrel receptors so you lower your blood pressure.”

Savasana (Corpse Pose):

Easily everyone’s favorite chill-out moment to relax and reset, Savasana is the final pose that completes every yoga practice. This resting pose lets you bring in awareness as you center your mind, reconnect with your breath, tune in with your body, and let go of the day’s stresses.

HOW-TO: Lie on your back with your legs and arms stretched out. Relax your legs and let your feet fall open towards either side. Open your palms and face them upwards, but let your fingers curl in comfortably. Close your eyes and release all tension from your body, including your face. Let your breathing occur naturally and allow your body to feel heavy. Stay in this restful pose for five minutes or more (you might even find yourself entering REM in Savasana).

TIP: Adding a bolster or rolled blanket under your knees helps to release tension in your back and feels wonderful. A folded blanket used as a pillow under your head – with a little tuck in it to fill in the space behind your neck, feels supportive and comfortable. And if you’ve got extra blankets, try folding them up placing them on top of your thighs. The extra weight is grounding and feels great.