Does your brain also get restless whenever you turn off the lights and lie in bed? – You are not alone, about 50% of the global population suffers from sleep disorders!
Whether through medication or gentler, natural methods like practising yoga for sleep, many of us are searching for solutions to improve our sleep.
Unfortunately, while medication may sometimes seem like the only effective solution for insomnia, it doesn’t address the underlying problem and therefore doesn’t cure sleep disorders.
To learn more about bedtime yoga and how it can help you sleep better, read this article to the end!
How Does Yoga Help with Sleep?
In many cases, the reason why we can’t sleep doesn’t come from our daily stress, but from our perception of that stress.
Read this sentence a second time, it is important!
Therefore, if you really want to put an end to your sleep troubles or insomnia, you’ll need to target your emotions and thoughts instead.
That’s why yoga can help you fall asleep, even researchers from Harvard University say so. According to this study, 55% of people who practice yoga have seen an improvement in their sleep, and 85% have reported a significant reduction in their stress levels.
So, what are the benefits of yoga for sleep?
- Yoga helps you let go: By stretching and relaxing our muscles, we provide our body and mind with the opportunity to release the tensions and stress that are stuck within ourselves.
- Yoga affects our hormones: Certain postures act on the thyroid gland or the pineal gland, which directly influence sleep hormones.
- Yoga helps you control your emotions:Yoga and meditation help us differentiate ourselves from the stream of thoughts and emotions that cause suffering in our daily lives, and often contribute to our insomnia. By distinguishing ourselves from this stream of thoughts, it becomes easier to control them.
- Yoga teaches happiness: What is magical about yoga is that it teaches us what life is about and what happiness really is. By focusing on the present moment, and reconnecting with our senses and ourselves, we can realize what truly matters and open our eyes to the beauty of this world, of life, which brings a great sense of well-being and dissolves our anxieties.
Therefore, yoga is a great tool for healing sleep disorders or insomnia. However, it is indeed a practice. Don’t expect to overcome your insomnia after your first session!
In cases of severe insomnia, it is often recommended to complement your practice with therapy to understand its underlying causes. If you already know the cause, it is perfectly normal to experience periods of insomnia during challenging times in our lives, such as during bereavement or a change in our life (work, love, house…). However, these insomnia episodes are usually temporary. What transforms these temporary insomnias into chronic insomnia is simply our perception and the stress we create around them.
You now understand why yoga, meditation, and thought control play an important role in our sleep.
If you’re interested, feel free to ask me questions about Embodiment or Somatic Yoga, which are my specialities.
What Type of Yoga is Best for Sleep?
You may already know, but yoga is a vast world, and there is something for everyone!
If you’re looking for an evening yoga practice to do before bedtime, it’s important to choose a yoga style that is meditative, even if you opt for a more dynamic practice with a flow of standing asanas and inversions.
Here are some types of yoga that can promote restful sleep:
- Yoga Nidra: also known as “yoga for sleep,” is a practice based on body-centred meditation that induces a state of deep relaxation. It can also be used therapeutically to help overcome blocks or anxieties.
- Yin Yoga: it’s a style of yoga that focuses on seated or reclined postures that are held for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. This extended holding allows the body and mind to deeply relax into each pose. Practitioners of Yin Yoga often experience a sense of calm and relaxation after the practice, which promotes more restful sleep.
- Restorative Yoga: This type of yoga is designed to promote deep relaxation and help reduce body tensions. The postures are held for extended periods, similar to Yin Yoga, but with the support of cushions and other props to support the body and encourage relaxation.
- Gentle Hatha: Gentle Hatha yoga is typically a dynamic practice with a flow of poses, but slow and mindful. The postures are held for about 1-2 minutes, allowing time for meditation in each pose. The choice of asanas (postures) is crucial here, as some Hatha poses are designed to calm the body and mind, while others may provide energy and stimulation.
- Embodiment or Somatic Yoga: It is a type of yoga in which we explore the emotions of the body through somatic exercises or postures. By putting our bodies in certain positions, we can explore and change our emotions. Somatic yoga is usually used to help the body heal from past traumas or unleash some repressed emotions that are stuck within us, which can help with insomnia.
Whatever yoga style you choose, take your time. You can have a totally different experience according to the yoga type and the teacher. It is essential to explore and find a yoga style that resonates with you and supports your sleep goals.
The 10 Best Yoga Asanas to Enhance Sleep.
1- Sarvangāsana: Shoulder Stand
- Benefits: Sarvangasana or Shoulder Stand is one of the best asanas for sleep. By raising your legs up in the air, this posture reverses the emotions and energies in your body. The blood oxygenates the head, and your heart rate automatically decreases, allowing you to relax. This posture also provides a deep stretch for the neck and shoulders, releasing tensions and accumulated stress in that area of the body.
- How to: Lie down on your back and bring your knees towards your chest. Place your hands against the lower back to gently support the lifting of your legs. Once the legs are up in the air, let the feet touch and focus your gaze on your feet without turning your head to avoid straining your neck.
- Contraindication: Do not perform if you have neck tension or neck issues.
- Magic tip: Perform against a wall, lying on your back with your legs up in the air! Allow all tensions to release for at least 2-3 minutes.
2- Balāsana: Child Pose
- Benefits: Balasana, or Child’s Pose, is one of the best asanas for sleeping like a baby! With the head resting on the floor, this posture allows you to truly calm your mind and brings a sense of letting go.
- How to: Start on your knees with your feet together and sit back, bringing your forehead to the floor. Extend your hands forward to stretch the back and shoulders, or bring them back with palms facing upward.
- Contraindication: Be cautious if you have sensitive knees.
- Magic Tip: Open your knees wide and rest your shoulders between them. Extend your arms backwards and gently sway your body from left to right, as if massaging your shoulders or pressing your head into the floor.
3- Baddha-konāsana: Butterfly Pose
- Benefits: Baddhākonasana, or butterfly pose, offers deep relaxation for the body and mind. By gently tilting your head forward and allowing your hips, shoulders, and neck to relax, you will find yourself in a cocoon-like position where you can finally let go of all tensions and experience a sense of calm.
- How to: Sit with your legs extended forward, bring your feet towards your body (you can leave some space between your feet and body). Make small butterfly-like movements with your legs to relax the hips. Gently tilt your head forward and allow your head, shoulders, and knees to drop for deep relaxation. Stay in the pose for at least 3 minutes to let your body fully relax. If needed, sit on the edge of a cushion to bring your back forward.
- Contraindication: Please be cautious of your neck. Do not lean forward if you experience tension or discomfort in that area.
- Magical tip: Lie back with cushions placed along your spine for a reclined butterfly pose.
4- Setu Bandhāsana: Bridge Pose
- Benefits: Setu Banhāsana, or bridge pose, helps redirect all your energies towards the head, including the pineal gland, which aids in falling asleep and relaxes the nerves. This posture also enhances your abdominal breathing, naturally calming your body.
- How to: Place your heels below your knees, spread your knees apart at hip-width distance, lift your buttocks, and bring your hands under your body as if you want your shoulder blades to touch. Try to maintain a straight line from your knees to your head. Do not turn your head.
- Contraindication: Do not perform if you have neck tension or a headache
- Magic Tip: Place a block or several cushions under your lower back to maintain the posture effortlessly.
5- Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog
- Benefits: Adho Mukha Svanasana, or downward dog, helps stretch your entire body and relax your neck, naturally releasing all tension. This posture slows down the heart rate and combats nervousness, promoting sleep.
- How to: Place your heels below your knees, spread your knees apart at hip-width distance, lift your buttocks, and bring your hands under your body as if you want your shoulder blades to touch. Try to maintain a straight line between your knees and your head. Do not turn your head.
- Contraindication: Do not practice if you have high blood pressure, advanced pregnancy, or headaches. People with carpal tunnel syndrome may also experience discomfort
- Magic tips: Bend your legs, grab each side of your yoga mat, and stretch your back while yawning, similar to how dogs or cats do.
6- Uttanāsana: Forward fold
- Benefits: Uttanāsana, or forward fold, helps completely release your body and mind from any tensions or stress you may have. With your head downward, this posture soothes mental stress, alleviates migraines, and promotes better sleep.
- How to: While standing, extend your arms up towards the sky and gently bring your hands and head down with bent knees, even if it’s just a slight forward fold. Once your head is down, allow your head and shoulders to completely relax.
- Contraindication: Do not force the posture if you have tension in your back.
- Magic tip: Grab your elbows and let your arms swing for optimal relaxation.
7- Kapotāsana: Pigeon Pose (Head Down)
- Benefits: Kapotāsana, or pigeon pose, can have two effects. Practising it with the head lifted can give you energy, while bringing your forehead to the floor helps your body calm down. This pose particularly helps relax your legs and hips. By bringing your head to the floor, you redirect the energy of relaxation towards your head.
- How to: Start on all fours and bring one of your knees forward, between your hands, then slide the other knee backward. The front foot can be aligned with your body or perpendicular to it. Once you feel comfortable, you can bring your forehead to the floor and focus either on relaxing your hips or on your third eye and the space within your head. Feel free to place a cushion under your buttocks to keep your hips at the same level.
- Contraindication: Do not practice if you have issues with your hips or knees.
- Magic Tip: Place your forehead on a block or cushion.
8- Bhujangāsana: Cobra Pose
- Benefits: Bhujangasana, or cobra pose, allows you to open your heart and release tension in your shoulders, helping you let go of all your minor worries and focus on what truly matters.
- How to: Lie down on your stomach with your feet spread apart at hip-width. Place your hands next to your shoulders and push through your elbows to lift your chest and head upward. Press between your hips to protect the lower back.
- Contraindication: Do not practice if you have pain in the lower back.
- Astuce Magique: Relax your shoulders and look up at the sky with a smile to bring yourself joy and well-being.
9- Chakrasana: Wheel Pose
- Benefits: Chakrasana, or Wheel pose, allows you to stretch your entire body and revitalize all your chakras at the same time, which rebalances the energies of your body and brings a sense of well-being. By stretching all your front organs simultaneously, you also rebalance your internal organs and the entire glandular system. This asana is also ideal for spinal flexibility and for individuals who tend to hunch their backs.
- How to: Lie down on your back, bring your heels beneath your knees, with your feet pointing forward and knees apart at hip-width. Once your legs are in position, place your hands on either side of your head and lift your body by pushing through your feet and hands. Look at the floor while taking deep breaths. To come down, first place the top of your head on the floor before gently lowering the rest of your body.
- Contre-indication: ne pas pratiquer en cas de problèmes ou douleurs dans le bas du dos ou à la nuque, après une opération abdominale, ou au-delà de trois mois de grossesse
- Magic tip: Try to bring your hips forward to further flex the back.
10- Sirsasana: Headstand
- Benefits: Sirsasana, or headstand, allows you to redirect all your energy towards the head, promoting better oxygenation of the brain, which enhances concentration, relaxation, and sleep. Sirsasana also stimulates the thyroid and pineal glands, which regulate the sleep-wake cycle and aid in falling asleep.
- How to: After warming up your neck, shoulders, and abdominal area, start in a child’s pose position. Then, reach your arms forward and grab your elbows to open up your arms, creating a triangle shape, and interlace your hands. Create a small nest with your hands and place your head, with the top half of your head (between your forehead and the center of your head), against the floor. Straighten your legs and walk towards your head until you can’t go any further. Engage your core, upper back, and shoulder muscles to gently lift your legs while keeping them bent until your torso is completely upright. Once your torso is upright, slowly straighten your legs and bring your feet together.
- Contraindication: Do not practice alone for the first time. If you are unsure, start with the support of a wall. Do not practice if you have neck problems or herniated discs, if you are pregnant, or if you have eye problems such as retinal detachment. It is also advised not to practice Sirsasana during the early days of menstruation.
- Magic tip: Focus on a fixed point (dristi) and remain still for at least one minute. This requires a lot of concentration and forces you to meditate.
Yoga & Embodiment
My name is Caroline, but you can call me Cara. I am a Somatic Yoga Professional and Embodiment Therapist.
Because real therapy also involves the body, my goal is to help my yogi friends get to know themselves better and finally free themselves from all the tensions or traumas accumulated throughout their lives.