Insomnia is pure misery (there’s a reason sleep deprivation is a form of torture). Just sitting in the dark, feeling totally and completely exhausted but unable to fall asleep is like dying of thirst but unable to have a drink. However, if you’re tired of laying there night after night, there IS something you can do about your insomnia! Yoga for insomnia may be able to help you sleep better and sleep more deeply.
It should be noted that the causes of insomnia are complicated, and yoga isn’t going to be a cure-all for everyone who tries it. However, there are success stories; if you are desperate, it’s worth giving anything a try (especially something as healthy as yoga) in order to finally get a good night’s rest.
If you’re new to yoga, it might be in your best interest to try out a few classes and get some pointers before going it alone. These are definitely beginner’s poses, but making sure your body is properly aligned is the essential part of yoga, and you also don’t want to hurt yourself.
If you want to see the poses in action, click on the name of the pose!
- Seated Forward Bend
How It Works: seeking calm and restoration? This is the pose for you. It also can help improve digestion. If digestive issues are keeping you up or waking you at night, this can help, big time.
How to Practice: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, focusing on sitting up as straight as possible. Inhale, and raise your arms over your head, flexing your feet as you dive forward. Grab on to your feet, ankles, calves, or thighs. Don’t worry about how far you go. When you feel a gentle stretch in the backs of your legs, you’ve gone far enough to get the benefits of this pose. Keep your back as straight as you can, and stay here for 10-12 slow breaths.
- Bridge Pose
How It Works: a back bend to help you sleep? It might not sound particularly relaxing, but it can actually help you calm down and prepare for sleep. Inversions like bridge pose alleviate stress, which is one of the major factors that can contribute to insomnia. Let’s face it, it’s your mind, not your body, keeping you up.
How to Practice: Start by lying on your back, then bend your knees, drawing your feet in, so that they’re flat on the floor right by your bottom. On your next inhale, press down with your feet and your arms to raise your bottom off of the floor. Use your inner thigh muscles to keep your legs from falling out to the sides, and clasp your hands together. Squeeze your shoulder blades together gently, and breathe in this posture for 10-15 slow breaths, then slowly release your back onto the floor.
- Reclining Bound Angle Pose
How It Works: this is a relaxation pose that stretches your legs and reduces stress to help you sleep better and more deeply. It’s especially beneficial if racing thoughts or a restless body are keeping you awake.
How to Practice: Start in a seated position, with your feet touching each other. Lean back, so one elbow is on the floor, then lower yourself down so that your back is resting on the floor, and focus on rolling your shoulders back and pulling your shoulder blades together. Your arms should be in a neutral position, palms up, like in the photo. Close your eyes and breathe, staying in this posture for as long as you like. You can use a blanket or bolster to support your feet, like in the photo above, if necessary. You can also tuck pillows or folded blankets under your knees or thighs, if you feel like you need more support there.
- Shoulder Stand
How It Works: a basic inversion like shoulder stand helps you slow down and relax. This posture calms the mind and relieves leg and foot soreness that might be robbing you of sleep.
How to Practice: Begin by lying on your back, then bring your knees into your chest. Place your arms flat on the floor, so that your hands extend past your bottom, palms on the floor. Push with your arms, and curl your spine to bring your legs straight up into the air. Bend your elbows, and place your hands on your lower back to support yourself in this posture. If you find shoulder stand too intense, try Legs Up the Wall instead. It’s a simpler variation with many of the same benefits.
How It Works: This pose may not seem like much, but the practice of lying still and letting your body soak in the poses you just practiced helps prepare your brain for rest and relaxation.
How to Practice: Lie on your back with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms in a neutral palms-up position by your sides. Close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Notice how your belly gently rises and falls as you inhale and exhale. There are quite a few technique that you can use while you’re in this pose. You can just focus on your breath, listen to soothing music, or choose a guided meditation to listen to.
Want more? Try our other yoga routines for sleep.