The ability of yoga to reduce muscle tension, slow your heart rate and calm a racing mind provides the perfect recipe for a good night’s sleep. There is growing evidence that small behavioral changes in the evening can make a big difference in getting a restful sleep. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that participants who made modifications, like learning relaxation techniques, improved their sleep more than those who took drugs.
Certain yoga exercises will help your body and your mind relax more and prepare for sleep. Here are a few postures and exercises that are particularly helpful:
1) Supported Standing Forward Bend
This gentle yoga posture helps relieve tension in your neck and shoulders while quieting your nervous system.
– Fold a blanket and place it on a chair
– Stand facing the chair (about 1 to 2 feet away) with your feet parallel and a little wider than hip width apart
– Fold forward from your hips (keeping your back flat – reaching forward with your chest)
– Place your forehead on the blankets
– Place your hands towards the back of the chair with your forearms resting on the chair (you can also hold onto opposite elbows with your forearms touching the top of your head)
– Let your arms, shoulders, head and face relax completely
– Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose for 12-15 breaths
– Slowly come back up, using your hands to help push you back up
2) Legs Up the Wall
This gentle yoga postures triggers the relaxation response, slowing the heart, breath and brain waves.
– Place a mat or blanket flush against a wall
– Sit with your right side next to the wall (legs out in front of you)
– Lean onto your elbows
– Swing your legs up the wall as your head moves away from the wall
– Place your hands at your sides and close your eyes
– Move your head from side to side 4-5 times
– Relax your belly and breathe deeply into your belly – breathing through your nose
– Stay in this position for 2-3 minutes
– Bring your knees to your chest and roll onto your side
– When you are ready, come back to sitting
3) Child’s Pose
Child’s pose relaxes the back and neck, while gently stretching your spine. It also provides a gentle massage to abdominal organs leading to greater relaxation.
– Kneel down and sit back towards your heels as much as you can
– Fold forward from the hips, bringing your upper body to your thighs and your forehead to the floor
– Place your arms on the floor next to your legs with your palms up
– Breathe into your belly, allowing it to expand into your thighs as you inhale and relax as you exhale
– Remain in this position for 8-10 breaths
– Raise your upper body and return to kneeling position
4) Diaphragmatic Breathing
Traditional yogic breathing provides a natural stress release and helps the heartbeat to slow down as the diaphragm stimulates the vagus nerve.
– You can start sitting or lying on your back. Since you are trying to sleep, start on your back.
– Place your hands on your belly
– Begin breathing slowly and deeply through your nose
– Breathe into the lower part of your lungs first, allowing your belly to rise on inhale, fall back on exhale
– Allow your belly to naturally rise and fall with breath (no pushing)
– Focus completely on your breath, letting go of other thoughts or distractions.
– Complete 10-12 breaths, then let your breath become natural again
5) Manage your stress
Pay attention to your stress level. Excessive stress can lead to tight and knotted muscles, as well as a racing mind. Taking a yoga class is a great way to not only relieve stress, but to also learn how to manage your stress levels throughout the day. Yoga teaches you how to find peace in every day life, as well as during more stressful times.
To learn tips and yoga exercises for better sleep, visit: http://www.yogatg.com/ys-stress-headache-1.html