Often have trouble sleeping? You’re not alone – and it could be costing you more than just a restless night and sleepy day, according to recent research, which showed that people with insomnia are much more likely to experience associated health problems such as anxiety, depression, diabetes and congestive heart failure.
But don’t despair – a good night’s sleep really is within reach. One oft-recommended treatment is to establish a relaxing bedtime routine. A good place to start? A pre-bedtime yoga practice.
“Yoga gets you in touch with the breath,” says Canadian yoga instructor Darcie Clark. “When you slow down and stay in a pose you can feel different areas of the body that are tense and holding on from your day and gradually let that go as you sit and breathe through the pose.” And stretching in general has a calming effect, making bedtime the best time for it.
Ready to begin? Ideally, says Clark, do each pose in the sequence for one to five minutes, holding each position gently without strain or pain. Can’t manage the full sequence? Pick your favourites and build them into your routine as you can – even in bed, if that works for you. And remember: always listen to your body, don’t push yourself past your comfort zone and don’t do anything that hurts. Speak to a yoga teacher for further modifications to these poses that will work with your body.
1. Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee pose)
- Sit on the floor without slouching, legs extended straight in front of you and knees bent if necessary to keep the spine from rounding.
- Bend the right knee and open the hip, bringing the sole of the right foot into the inner left thigh and the right knee toward the ground. If it doesn’t reach, support the right knee with a cushion.
- Inhale and lengthen the spine.
- Exhale as you bend forward from the hips over the left leg, keeping the spine and neck long, and place the hands on either side of the left leg. Gaze at the big toe of the left foot as you focus on the breath moving in and out.
- Repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: Those with tight hamstrings will find all forward bends easier with a folded blanket or cushion under the sitting bones.
2. Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)
- Sit on the floor without slouching and bring the soles of the feet together in front of you, hands holding the feet or ankles.
- If you’re comfortable and able to sit without rounding the lower back, bring the feet as close as you can toward the groin.
- Inhale and lengthen the spine.
- Exhale and bend forward from the hips, keeping the spine long. Breathe in and out as you feel your muscles relaxing.
Make it easier: If sitting in this pose is challenge enough, skip the forward bend. Sitting on a blanket or cushion can help tight bodies open up.
3. Upavistha Konasana (wide-angle seated forward bend)
- Sit upright on the floor, without slouching.
- Extend the legs in front of you in a vee, placing hands behind the buttocks for balance. Only go so wide as is comfortable.
- Inhale and lengthen the spine, ensuring the lower back isn’t rounding.
- Exhale and bend forward from the hips, with hands in front of you. Focus on the breath as you lengthen the spine with every inhale and relax forward with every exhale.
Make it easier: If sitting in this pose is challenge enough, skip the forward bend and keep the hands behind the buttocks; focus on sitting up without rounding the back. Try sitting on a cushion or folded blanket, or bending the knees and placing support under them.