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Sometimes, getting to sleep is a process, one that involves a conscious winding down and changing of energy from waking to sleeping. One excellent way to wind down is by doing a few gentle yoga poses for sleep which take any frenetic or awake energy and helps change that to relaxing and sleep energy.
These yoga postures promote grounding, calming, and drawing inward. As with every pose, listen carefully to your body and never stretch beyond what feels comfortable. The goal of these poses is not to become flexible per se, but rather to flip the energy in your muscles from tension, which nags your nervous system and can prevent you from sleep, to a sleep-conducive feeling of ease, lightness, and vitality.
Hold each pose for at least 10 breaths (or 10 breaths per side) using ujjayi breathing (whisper breath). Aim to inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Refer to the Pre-Sleep Breathing Exercises to learn more about ujjayi breath and the importance of the 5 to 8 ratio of inhale to exhale. You may also watch my friend, Matt explain it here. Regular, deep breath, combined with visualizing your breath moving into your lower-back, pelvis, and legs, will decrease the energy moving to the awakening, upper chakras (energy centers), and will instead help you to become grounded and rooted in the lower chakras.
Yoga Poses for Sleep
Janusirsasana: Head toward Knee Pose
This posture draws body, mind, and spirit inward to prepare for sleep while releasing tension in legs and back that can radiate into emotional or mental tension.
If you are tight in your hamstrings, feel free to bend your extended leg (the one receiving the stretch). Visualize your breath and energy moving into the area you are stretching and if you are feeling a sharp pull behind your knee or high in you butt (the attachments of this muscle), bend your extended knee.
Paschimottanasana: Westward Stretch
This posture also draws body, mind, and spirit inward to prepare for sleep by releasing tension both in the legs and the lower back. This pose evokes a personal solace, retiring, and quietness. It’s nice to close your eyes in this posture and direct your breath and energy to move into your low-back and legs. Bend your knees if you need to.
Suptakapatasana: Supine Pigeon Pose
This is one of my favorite poses. This grounding posture relaxes and supports your back by lying flat while stretching some of the muscles that largely contribute to tight hips and lower-back, including the Piriformis muscle, deep under your glutes in your butt.
Jathara Parivartanasana: Supine Twist
This pose is excellent for wringing out tension from the nervous system as well as the deep and superficial muscles in the back. Italso gives a gentle twist to the abdomen, helping digestion and releasing the Serotonin (feel good chemical) which is activated by your gut.
It’s important to ground both shoulder blades, even if you need to put a pillow between your knees or under your bottom leg.
Suptabaddhakonasana: Supine Cobbler’s Pose
This relaxing pose passively stretches the inner-thigh muscles (adductors) and grounds your energy for good sleep. Be certain to support both knees with cushions. You may choose not to lie on a cushion if it makes your lower-back hurt.
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I'd love to hear from you about what helps YOU to fall asleep. Are there any poses you love that help you to fall asleep?