Ah sleep. When we get enough of it, it can help us maintain a healthy weight, lower stress and anxiety, and even boost creativity and athletic performance. I think we’d all like to get in on those benefits! Unfortunately, there’s a vicious cycle. Stress, anxiety, poor eating habits, and changes in schedule can cause insomnia. As military spouses dealing with long-term separations, single parenting, frequent moves, inevitable schedule changes, and lots of worry can make those precious seven to nine hours of shut-eye seem out of reach.
The good news is, yoga before bed can help you prepare your mind and body to rest. A full, calming practice can provide a fantastic transition, with low lights, no eating or drinking, and no stimulating screen time. But, even if you don’t have time for that, you can do these three poses to lower your heart rate, reduce tension, and calm your breath. You can even do them in bed. No mat required. Try one or all three for a better night’s sleep.
Sukhasana – Easy Pose
Sitting cross-legged with a long spine creates lots of space to breathe. When you slow your breath you can slow your heart rate, creating a sense of calm.
Sitting cross-legged in bed, extend the top of your head toward the ceiling, creating a long spine. Bring your ears in line with your shoulders, and relax your shoulders down your back
Rest your palms on your knees, in a gesture of releasing energy from your body.
Gently close your eyes, and let your breath slow down.
Rest here for 5-10 minutes, or try Three Part Breath if you feel agitated or your mind is particularly busy.
Baddha Konasana – Bound Angle Pose
Forward folds are soothing to the mind and body, relieving anxiety and mild depression, and preparing the body for sleep. Bound Angle Pose is often practiced sitting up straight, or folding forward with a flat back. For purposes of relaxing before bed, practice with a rounded back, and use pillows, blankets, or towels under the thighs, chest, or forehead if necessary so you can fully sink into the pose.
Sitting in bed, bring the soles of the feet together. Use your hands to rotate each thigh outward, away from the center. If your knees don’t comfortably reach the mattress, place a pillow or rolled towel under each thigh for support.
Wrap hands around your feet, thumbs remaining on the top and fingers wrapping around the outside edges and underneath.
Inhale, extending your spine long.
Exhale, rounding your back, releasing your forehead toward your feet. If this is uncomfortable, rest your torso and head on a folded blanket or pillow.
Relax for 5-10 minutes.
Viparita Karani – Legs Up the Wall (or headboard!) Pose
This pose is fantastic for relieving fatigued legs, whether from a run or being on your feet all day. It also calms the mind so you can begin to let go of your day before trying to fall asleep.
Lie on your side and scoot your bottom close to the wall or headboard.
Rotate onto your back, extending your legs up the wall.
Let your arms lie slightly away from your body, palms up, or on your belly, palms down.
Maintain just enough effort through the legs to keep them from sliding down.
Extend your neck long and relax your throat.
Let your eyes be heavy and closed, and let your tongue fall away from your teeth.
Relax for 5-10 minutes.
Do you have a favorite bedtime ritual that helps you rest better?