5 posture Yoga practice to help you sleep
There can be lots of reasons for not sleeping but one common reason is worry, stress or a generally over-active mind at bedtime. Nothing wrong with an active mind at other times in the day! Focus on slow and steady breathing as you go through these postures which will influence your state of mind and take you to a mentally calmer place.
Start by standing still and upright in mountain pose. Notice how busy your thoughts are. Distracting thoughts or “to do” thoughts can interfere with attempts to calm the mind down so write down any potentially distracting thoughts for sorting out tomorrow.
1) Easy forward bend Breathe in slowly and raise the arms overhead but wide, keeping the shoulders relaxed. Breathe out slowly and bend forward taking the arms sideways and downwards. Release the knees as you move forward and look behind you through the legs when you are in the forward bend. Use slow breathing and move in time with your breath in and out of the forward bend for several movements. This releases tension from the shoulders, neck, back and legs.
2) Cat posture Start on hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Breathe out slowly and move hips halfway back to heels. As you do this, allow your head to come downwards so that you can look behind you through your legs. Breathe in slowly and transfer some weight into your hands, bring the body forwards as though bringing the chest through between the arms. Look forwards but slightly down. Use around 6 movements and aim to create a little movement in a lot of places in the spine. This is a fantastic way of keeping the intervertebral discs in the spine healthy and releasing tension from the many muscles that are involved in supporting the spine.
3) Upward raised leg posture Lie down on your back with knees into the chest and arms by the sides. Close your eyes and keep them closed through this posture. Breathe in slowly and take both arms overhead and wide to the floor, at the same time as extending one leg upwards. Breathe out slowly and bring the raised leg knee back into the chest as you bring the arms back down to the sides of the body. Alternate legs with each breath and use about 8 breaths. A great posture for tired legs at the end of the day.
4) Lying twist Stay lying on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor and eyes closed. Take the arms out to each side on the floor, at shoulder level. Breathe out slowly and allow legs to both move to a comfortable position on one side. Breathe in slowly and bring both knees back up to the centre. Next breath out, go to the other side with both legs and breath in to come back to the centre. Repeat alternating sides as you go; around 4 times to each side. Lying twists have a deeply relaxing effect and this is enhanced if you go through this with your eyes closed. Feel the posture rather than looking at the posture.
5) Abdomen pose Continue lying on your back and bring both knees into the chest. Rest hands onto each knee over the kneecap. Close the eyes. Rock the legs to and fro, smoothly and gently in time with your breathing which should also be smooth, steady and slow. Bring your knees inward as you breathe out. Breathe in and allow the knees to move away from the body, to a straight arm position. The gentle compression of legs on the abdomen encourages the release of tension in this area.
Now get into bed and find your most comfortable position for sleeping. Be aware of any residual tension that you might feel in areas of the body and consciously relax these areas. Focus on your breathing pattern, especially the breath out. Lengthen and deepen the breath out and keep your focus here for a few minutes.
This should take you into sleep. Some people naturally take a bit more time to drop off, so use breathing for a little while longer and reflect, with kindness to yourself, on the positive aspects of your day.
Barbara runs regular yoga classes at The Bagnall Centre, be in touch to find out more.
By Barbara Dancer, Yoga Teacher, CNHC Registered Yoga Therapist.
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