Have you ever thought about exercise as a means to helping you sleep better? BSC’s wellness spokesperson, Lissa Coffey, gives us a few tips on how to do a little yoga to help relax the mind and body.
The Sanskrit root of the word “yoga” means “to unite.” The Sanskrit word for sleep is “nidra.” We can use the practice of yoga to bring our mind and body into a beautiful, restful state of alignment so that we can get a great night’s sleep. I’ve put together five yoga poses, or “asanas” that you can do as a pre-bedtime ritual to prepare your mind and body for sleep. This simple yoga routine helps to relax the muscles, and de-stress the mind so that you can fall asleep easily, and sleep deeply throughout the night.
You can do these poses on the floor with a yoga mat, or you can do them right on your bed. The idea is to be comfortable, and gentle with yourself. This is not a work-out, just relax into the poses, and feel a nice stretch. While you’re on your bed, this is a good time to check your mattress for any lumps, bumps, or valleys. If your mattress is more than 5-7 years old, chances are that you need a new one. A mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep, so evaluate the condition of your mattress frequently.
1) Cat Pose, “Marjanasana”
Start out on your hands and knees. Hands should be under the shoulders, knees should be hips width apart. Arch the back, tucking your chin to your chest, like a cat. Exhale as you pull the stomach towards the spine.
Then, as you inhale, arch the back down, chin up, like a wolf howling at the moon. Pull the shoulder blades back and towards each other.
Repeat three times. This pose massages the internal organs, improves both digestion and circulation, and relaxes the mind.
2) Butterfly Pose, “Baddha Konasana”
Sit up tall. Spine straight. Bend the knees and put the soles of the feet together as close to the body as is comfortable. Bend forward at the hips gently.
As a variation, you can keep your legs straight out, as far apart as is comfortable, flexing the foot. Bend forward at the hips gently. After sitting most of the day it feels good to open up the hips in this way.
3) Legs Up Wall Pose, “Viparita Karina”
Lie on your back with your bottom toward the head of the bed. Extend one leg up the wall in front of you, and then the other. If you need to make the stretch easier scoot back away from the wall a bit to get more of an angle. This is an inversion pose, meaning we are a bit inverted, or upside down. This helps reverse the effects that gravity has had on the body all day. Extend your arms open to your sides, palms up. Close your eyes, breath and relax.
4) Child’s Pose, “Shishuasana”
Sit up on your shins, your bottom resting on the heels of the feet. Roll your torso forward, bringing the forehead to rest on the mattress in front of you. Tuck the arms behind you to the side, or extend the arms in front of you for more of a stretch. This pose relaxes the back and calms the nervous system.
5) Corpse Pose, “Shivasana”
With your head on your pillow, lie down on your back. Hands to the side, palms up. Feet relaxed, breathe slowly and gently, and close your eyes. This is traditionally the pose that is done for relaxation at the end of every yoga class.