There are a multitude of reasons why you can’t fall asleep at night ranging from a wandering mind to a creaky body. Yoga can be the solution to many of these problems. Some restorative yoga moves can ease your cranky muscles, and some simple breathing techniques can help quiet your mind.
Hips, back, shoulders and neck are common physical culprits, and a few simple yoga moves that focus on opening and releasing those areas can help you drift off into dreamland sooner. The best part? There’s no need to get out of bed for any of them. Try one yoga move from each category to release physical tension followed by a breathing exercise for your mind. Finish with Savasana, and have sweet, sweet dreams!
For Anywhere: Cat-Cow
While these are technically two poses, one is not often done without the other. Alternating between cat and cow several times in a row solidly links your breath to your movement and calms the mind. Cat/cow repetitions also relieve any abdominalcramping caused by anxiety you may have from the day.
How to: Come to all fours with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale and look up with an arched spine, rolling shoulders away from ears for cow. As you exhale, press the floor (or mattress) away with hands and knees, and round your spine, like an angry cat. Do at least five complete breath cycles (five inhales/cats and five exhales/cows).
For Hips: Supine Pigeon
Think Malasana (garland pose), pigeon pose, and baddha konasana (butterfly). For added comfort you can place pillows under hips in pigeon and bound angle, and roll a towel under your heels if your Achilles tendons are tight in malasana. Pigeon on your back is a great one for the mattress, and for anyone with knee issues.
How to: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on your mattress hips distance apart. Bend your right knee and cross your right ankle over your left thigh, keep your right foot flexed. Lift your legs toward your chest, and lift up your chest enough to thread your right arm through the hole created by your legs. Take hold of your left thigh with both hands. Allow your back and head to relax back onto the mattress, reach your right knee away from your body, left leg can be long or bent. Breathe here for at least five deep breaths and switch sides.
For Shoulders and Neck: Criss Cross
Thread the needle, child’s pose with reverse prayer, or even a simple criss-cross can be super effective at loosening the shoulders enough to pacify them as well as relieving neck discomfort caused by trapezius muscles pulling.
How to: Lying flat on your belly, lift torso and thread right arm underneath left at shoulder height, about a 90-degree angle away from your body. Reach left arm the opposite direction (again, about 90-degree angle away from torso). Hook chin over shoulders. Walk fingers away from one another to lengthen arms, and breathe here for five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
For Back: Supine Spinal Twist
All things restorative rule in the back category when it comes to readying the body for sleep. Nothing allows your back to let go like a supported fish, bridge or child’s pose. Closing those off with a supine spinal twist is icing on the cake.
How to: Begin lying on your back. Hug your right knee into your chest. Take your left hand to your outer right thigh, and guide your right knee to the left. Reach your right arm out to the side, resting on the mattress. You can stay with a neutral neck or, if it feels good, look to the right. You can keep your left hand on your right thigh to allow its weight to ground the right leg, or if you prefer, reach your left arm long to the left so your arms make one long line. Stay here for at least five deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
For Mind: Legs Up the Wall with Alternate Nasal Breathing
This move relaxes the nervous system, reroutes circulation, and brings you back to the present all on its own.
How to: Lie sideways with butt touching the wall or headboard, and pivot to lie on your back, legs stretched directly up and against the wall. Allow arms to fall to the sides. To begin alternate nostril breathing, place left palm on your belly and right ring finger and thumb on either side of nostrils, lightly touching them but not constricting. Inhale and exhale, then close off right nostril with thumb and inhale through left nostril fully for four counts. Close off left nostril with ring finger and hold and breathing in from the right side for four counts. Release both sides and exhale for four counts. Begin thecycle again, completing as many rounds as you want.
End the flow with Savasana:
Begin lying on your back. Allow your legs to separate with feet about hip-distance apart. Toes relax outward. Allow your arms to relax on either side of you, palms facing up in a gesture of receptivity. Take a few big inhales through your nose and exhales out of your mouth. Breathe here for at least 20 deep breaths, or better: fall asleep!