Yoga poses and exercises to help you sleep

The end of the day often comes too quickly, and many of us may not be quite ready to settle down. There may be last minute emails to send, meals to do, other members of the house needing your attention, or worries about tomorrow’s to-do list. All this buzz makes it hard to fall asleep.

This is where yoga comes in before bed. The gentle physical movement relaxes itself, and the principles that yoga is founded upon – gratitude, self-compassion, and contentment – when practiced before bed can also be soothing, helping to promote recovery. sleep, says Carol Krucoff, a certified yoga instructor by the International Association of Yoga Therapists and Yoga Alliance and a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.

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“Restorative yoga is becoming more and more popular, especially as COVID-19 has people on edge,” says Krucoff, who has a gentle yoga class on YouTube. A review and a meta-analysis published in May 2020 in the journal BMC Psychiatry looked at 19 studies of nearly 2,000 women with sleep issues and found that, overall, practicing yoga (any time of the day) improved sleep quality compared to not practicing yoga.

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Before trying these poses, set the stage for sleep by centering your mind. Krucoff recommends doing the “Three Good Things” exercise. “The intention is to think of three good things that happened to you that day. It can be as little as having a really good cup of coffee that morning, ”she says. (For details, find this user guide from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.) It helps relieve worry and put you in a positive frame of mind that helps you relax. .

Then try these five gentle poses and exercises to get ready for sleep:

1. Yoga belly breathing

“If there is only one thing you can do to prepare for sleep, take a few minutes to practice your breathing,” says Krucoff. It refers to relaxed abdominal breathing, also known as “yoga belly breathing”. During the day, you are probably used to breathing shallowly from your chest, but deeper breaths completely fill the lungs. “It sets off a cascade of physiological changes. Your heart rate slows down, your blood pressure goes down and muscle tension goes down, ”she explains.

How to do Lying down, place one hand under your navel. Inhale through your nose to fill your lungs (your belly should rise). Exhale through your nose. Repeat for a few minutes.

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2. Range of motion sequence

Here you will bring your joints through their full range of motion. “It’s something that calms, releases tension and tension and is practical because it can even be done lying in bed,” says Krucoff. Plus, it helps draw attention to bodily sensations, prompting you to consider not only what happened with your family or at work, or what made the news during the day, but also how your body actually feels. Are some muscles sore? Are some muscles tired? “A lot of us spend a lot of our day in our heads,” says Krucoff. “This practice guides you through your body, which is a good way to prepare for sleep.”

How to do Lie on the floor or in your bed. Circle your ankles. Extend your legs for a long time then bend your knees. Lift and lower your hips in circular motions. Bend your elbows, then extend your arms out along your sides. Shrug your shoulders and circle your shoulders. Repeat as needed and if you feel well.

3. Knee hug

If you have back problems, the knee hug will be especially nourishing, says Krucoff. In fact, low back pain is one of the most common reasons to see a doctor; it also prevents people from working, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Hunched over at a desk all day can cause pain. This pose will relieve him.

How to do Lie down and hug one or both knees to your chest. (Whether you do one or both depends on your physical ability.) If you can squeeze both knees to your chest at the same time, swing from side to side to massage your spine.

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4. Shoulder shrug

It’s common to maintain tension in the neck and shoulders, says Krucoff. It is even more common for oppression and pain to set in here if you spend your day working on a computer or looking at your smartphone.

How to do Sit on your bed, sitting up straight with good posture. Inhale and bring your shoulders up to your ears and firmly squeeze your arm and shoulder muscles. Exhale and release your shoulders, pulling your shoulder blades down. Repeat several times.

5. Corpse pose

If you practice yoga, you know it as Savasana, which is the final pose of the class. “It seems extremely easy to lie down and do nothing, but it is one of the most difficult poses to master as it requires you to release all physical and emotional tensions and let go of mental thinking,” explains Krucoff. But you don’t need to stress to master Savasana well: just lie down, stay still and try not to think of anything in particular and it will help you relax. Krucoff calls this “relaxed alertness” – which may sound contradictory, but it’s really about noticing the thoughts and feelings that arise without dwelling on a single one in particular.

How to do Lie down with your arms at your sides, palms up and relaxed. Close your eyes and focus on raising and lowering your breath. If you have trouble with intrusive thoughts, acknowledge their presence and imagine them flying away.

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