How Yoga Can Help You Sleep

Some of the best mini-naps I’ve ever taken weren’t on a luxurious bed or a comfy couch. They were on a yoga mat.

I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people who occasionally drifts off in yoga class during savasana, the few minutes in corpse pose at the end of a practice where my fellow yogis and I get the chance to rest and recover. My yoga instructor says that means I am doing it right. My mind is so clear and my body so at ease that sometimes the difference between being asleep and being awake seems so blurry, like one just gradually faded into the other without me even realizing it. By the time the instructor tells the class to come back from savasana, I wake up feeling like I’ve slept for hours instead of the few minutes it was in real time. If only every night of sleep felt like that!

I’m not the only one who has noticed the benefits of yoga on sleep either. Experts say yoga helps reduce stress and release tension, making it easier to sleep. A national survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics found that 55% of people who practiced yoga reported improved sleep. A 2013 study found that yoga is associated with fewer sleep disturbances. It has also been shown to reduce insomnia. If you’re part of the one-third of Americans who aren’t getting enough sleep at night, yoga could be worth a try to get some shut-eye.

Luckily, there are a few easy ways to incorporate yoga into your bedtime routine. With a few of these tricks, you might be able to fall asleep faster, sleep better, and feel great the next day.

  1. Legs Up the Wall Pose – Lay with your back on the ground (or a yoga mat) and your bottom just a few inches from the wall. Lift your legs so that your feet can rest on the wall. This pose helps relieve tension in your back and lower your heart rate. It’s great for people who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome.
  2. Child’s Pose – This is a classic rest pose in yoga. Why not use it as part of your evening rest as well? Sit on your knees and slowly fold over your legs, lowering your torso to rest on your thighs and your forehead on the floor in front of you. I like to keep my knees wide and my feet touching. It gives you a deeper stretch. You can also extend your arms past your head, like I do, or keep them by your sides.
  3. Rock from side to side – Right before savasana, many yoga instructors have students lay on their backs and rock from side-to-side while hugging their knees or holding their feet. It gives you a nice back massage while helping relieve stress and stretch your hips.
  4. Corpse Pose (yep, that’s savasana again!) – This pose isn’t just lying down. It’s lying down with intention! Lie down on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you and a bit wide. Roll your shoulders under you and let your arms rest at your sides, but not touching your thighs, with your palms facing up away from your body. Close your eyes and feel your body sink into the ground. Focus on your breath. If it’s done right, it should help calm your mind and help you focus on the present and how your body feels.
  5. Deep Breathing – If there’s one thing that’ll help calm you down for bed, it’s breathing. See if you can slow down your breathing in any of these poses. Hold your breath after the big, slow inhale and then slowly let it out, extending the time it takes to move from one breath to another. I like the 6-4-6-4 rule. In for 6 counts, hold at the top for 4 counts, exhale for 6 counts then hold for 4 counts. When you focus on your breathing, you might find that you’re much closer to sleep than you were a minute ago. No counting sheep necessary!
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