Beat Your Insomnia With This Pre-Bedtime Yoga Routine
If you want better health, vitality, and well-being, try yoga. This 5,000-year tradition has its roots in Eastern mystical traditions. Its ultimate goal is to help followers achieve enlightenment. Teachers who have experienced this unique state of consciousness report that it is a state of causeless joy and ineffable peace. Unfortunately, how you get there is unclear. While many gurus and spiritual traditions promise to show you the way, only a rare few become enlightened.
But there is another powerful aspect of yoga that can benefit you in your ordinary life. It is Hatha Yoga. This is an offshoot of the spiritual aspects of yoga, and it can improve physical well-being.
What is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha yoga can work for you even if you are not on a quest for enlightenment. This is by far the most popular form of yoga in the West because of its practical applications.
This is a series of physical exercises that provide many health benefits. These exercises, known as asanas, can be static postures or dynamic movements. Asanas relax your body and relieve tension. They also stimulate internal organs and tone up skeletal muscles.
While there are many videos and classes available on how to do this type of yoga, they can be intimidating since advanced practitioners can perform all sorts of amazing contortions. It almost looks as if they have rubber bands in place of joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Fortunately, you don’t need to do these advanced exercises for bedtime yoga.
Hatha Yoga for Bedtime
Hatha yoga at bedtime can help you get a good night’s sleep. According to sleep expert Dr. Merrill Mitler, “Sleep services all aspects of our body in one way or another: molecular, energy balance, as well as intellectual function, alertness, and mood.”
She also points out that, “When you’re tired, you can’t function at your best. Sleep helps you think more clearly, have quicker reflexes and focus better.”
While asanas can help you with deeper relaxation, they can also enliven you. The last thing you want before bedtime is to feel more alert.
In an insightful article entitled “10 Gentle Yoga Stretches for A Good Night’s Sleep,” Angel Chang has isolated ten of the best exercises to do before bed.
Here is an outline of her recommended regime:
● Meditation: Sit in a cross-legged position or on a straight-backed chair. Straighten your spine and pay attention to your breathing, noticing your inhale and exhale. Watch any thoughts that arise with detachment as if they were clouds floating across a blue sky.
● Forward bend: Sit with your legs stretched in front of you and bend at the waist. If you can, touch your toes; otherwise touch your ankles. Exhale as you lean forward.
● Child’s pose: Kneel, with your hips spread as wide as is comfortable. Then lean forward, resting your head against a pillow.
● Winding down: Sit cross-legged, put your hand flat on the ground, and twist to look behind you. Then change hands and directions. This exercise is a gentle spinal twist.
● Reclining Goddess: This pose is traditionally called Shivasina. Lie flat on your back and bring your soles to touch each other. This posture points your knees outward. Finally, allow your arms to lie by your sides, palms facing upwards.
● Legs on the wall: Lie on the floor with your legs raised straight up and resting on the wall.
● Rock-a-bye roll: Lying on your back, hug your knees. After bringing them up to the chest, rock back and forth.
● Pigeon pose: Here is how Chang eloquently describes this challenging pose: “Start on all fours, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart. Bring your left knee forward, between your hands, and stretch your right leg behind you on the bed. Exhale, and fold your body forward over your left knee.”
● Easy supine twist: Lie on your back and hug your knees toward your chest as you did in rock-a-bye roll. But this time turn your knees to the left side and hold. Then do the same thing on the right side.
● Fish pose: This is a complicated position but is ideal for someone with a stiff back. “Lie flat on your back, and scoot your hands underneath the hips,” says Chang. “Then, lift your chest slowly, and slowly stretch your head backward.”
These exercises are easy to perform. Your muscles will unwind over time, so don’t force yourself to be perfect. You can do them on a firm mattress, or you can do them on a yoga mat on the floor.
How long you hold each position or how many repetitions you do depends on your preference and mood. For some people, holding the position for two minutes or doing just a few repetitions is enough. Others may want to hold the asanas longer or do a larger number of repetitions to unwind from a hectic day.
Slow and Easy
The main thing to keep in mind is that these are relaxation exercises. Don’t do them with vigor and enthusiasm like your morning exercises. Instead, do them slowly and methodically to help you wind down for a good night’s rest.