Yoga Asanas to Manage Insomnia

Although the pandemic has given most of us a lot more free-time, we seem to be getting even less sleep. Insomnia is an increasingly common problem and it doesn’t just make it harder to fall asleep, but can also include other sleep impairments, such as trouble staying asleep, waking too early, and difficulty going back to sleep. This can cause you to feel fatigued and unrested even when you wake up in the morning. In addition to sapping energy levels, insomnia can also increase the risk of serious chronic diseases and mental health disorders. In addition to the use of herbs and other holistic remedies, Ayurveda also recommends the use of bedtime yoga routine to aid sleep. Let’s take a closer look at the efficacy of yoga for insomnia. 

How Can Yoga Help You Get Rid of Insomnia?

Over the last few decades, yoga has increasingly been explored as a therapeutic aid to treat stress disorders, anxiety, depression, and sleep impairments like insomnia. The use of yoga for sleep disorders is supported by research, which shows that the regular practice of yoga can lead to improvements in various parameters of sleep, reducing insomnia symptoms (1). Similarly, a study that was published in the journal BMC Psychiatry also found yoga to be effective at relieving sleep impairments, even reducing menopausal symptoms in many women (2)

Although there is a general assumption that rigorous exercise tires you out and will aid sleep, workouts later in the day should help you wind down. If practicing yoga as part of your nighttime ritual, you should focus on gentle restorative poses that have a calming effect on the mind. 

Though it may be tempting to think you should tire yourself out with intense workouts before bed, you actually want to calm your nervous system and wind down from your day. The key to yoga for sleep is to go for calm and restorative poses. You will find some of the simplest and most effective yoga poses for sleep below. 

Yoga Poses to Relieve Insomnia

Balasana (Child Pose)

Routinely used as the cooldown position in most yoga sessions, the balasana is one of the simplest and most effective yoga poses for sleep. The gentle forward bend is incredibly relaxing and has a calming effect on the mind, while it also releases tension from back, shoulders, and neck.

  • Begin by kneeling down with your feet drawn together and allow your buttocks to rest atop them.
  • Draw your knees apart so that they are at hip width
  • Exhale and lower your head and chest forward, bringing your face down to the floor, while your tummy presses against the thighs.
  • Extend your hands straight out over your head, with your palms placed against the floor.

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

The seated forward bend is perfectly suited for easing muscular tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, allowing you to relax and fall asleep more easily. 

  • Sit with your legs extended in front of you and as you inhale, slowly raise your arms up above your head
  • As you exhale, lean forward and take hold of your feet with your hands, thereby stretching the back completely.
  • In case of stiffness and an inability to stretch and bend forward adequately, just reach and hold on to any part of the leg as comfortable.

Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)

Another pose that you should consider including in any session of yoga for better sleep, Supta Virasana improves spine flexibility and stretches the thigh muscles, but it also promotes a sense of deep calm as it has a strengthening effect on the lungs. 

  • Assume a sitting position with your buttocks resting on your feet, which should be flattened out so that the soles face upward.
  • Separate your feet slightly, so that you are now seated between the feet. Although your knees should remain in place, you can sperate them slightly if you are uncomfortable.
  • Your hands should be resting on the floor on either side of your buttocks to support your weight. 
  • Lean back as far as you can go, with your arms bearing the weight to gently lower your back to the ground. If you can’t go flat down, you can also use a bolster for support.  

Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)

Although mainly recommended as a stress reduction technique to cope with anxiety disorders, Viparita Karani is a good addition to any session of yoga for good sleep as it relaxes fatigued leg muscles and improves circulation in the body. 

  • Lie down against a wall with your hip and shoulder literally touching it
  • Lift your legs up and while doing so also rotate your body, moving your torso and head away from the wall, while your legs rest against it
  • Keep your legs completely straight and forming a right angle, but make it a point to relax at the same time by breathing deeply

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

If you are still awake after getting through the previous poses, try this as the last pose in your yoga before sleep routine. It is regarded as the most relaxing pose and practitioners often have to struggle to stay awake during the pose. 

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended but comfortably apart, arms beside you, and palms facing up
  • Shut your eyes and stay completely still, focusing on and relaxing each part of your body
  • While in the pose, take slow and deep breaths and focus on the feeling of relaxation that you experience with each breath

In addition to the yoga poses for sleep that are listed here, make it a point to adopt good sleep hygiene habits for better quality sleep. 

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