Millions of people have trouble falling asleep. The issue of lack of sleep is so pronounced, that some have even dubbed it an “epidemic” amongst millennials.
You would think that after a tough workout you’d be so exhausted that sleep would be no problem, but after intense exercise, your body floods you with energizing chemicals which keep you on high alert. Exercise isn’t just about doing as much as you can all the time, it’s about working your body the way it needs to keep you healthy. Sleep is vital for your body to rest and repair itself. It’s not just about being tired the next day: People with insomnia are much more likely to experience health problems like anxiety, depression, compromised immune system, diabetes and congestive heart failure.
Don’t turn to prescription drugs to fake a good night’s sleep; get the real thing with yoga.
Unlike high-intensity exercise, which will energize you and keep you wide awake, gentle yoga relaxes you, using the mind/body connection to calm the nervous system and your thoughts so you can drift to sleep.
Try these 10 exercises in a silent, dark room, with no distractions right before bed for the most restful night’s sleep you’ve had in ages.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your back straight. Bend your right knee and bring the sole of your right foot to the inside of your left thigh. Drop your right knee down to the floor. Keep your back straight, rotate your torso to face your left leg, and fold forward at the waist. Bring your forehead toward your knee until your left hamstring resists. Hold, breathe deeply, for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch legs.
Bound Angle Pose
Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet pressed together, your knees bent and dropped to the floor to either side. Keep your back straight, grasp your feet with your hands and fold forward at the waist. Lead with your chest instead of your head. Continue to lean forward until your abductors resist. Pull on your feet or walk your hands forward, and lay your forehead on the mat if you need to intensify the stretch. Hold, breathe deeply, for 30 seconds to a minute.
Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Sit on the floor with your legs spread wide, almost as far as you can get, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Lift your chest, and fold forward at the waist, keeping your back flat. Continue to fold forward until your hips resist, walking your hands out in front of you. If you can, turn your head to the side and rest your torso on the ground. Hold, breathe deeply for 30 seconds to a minute.
Lie face-up on your mat with both knees bent, feet flat on floor. Lift your right leg and externally rotate the hip to place the right ankle on the left knee. Keeping your shoulder and head in contact with the ground, extend both arms and grasp the left leg behind the knee. Gently pull the left knee in toward your chest until you feel a stretch along the outside of the right thigh. Hold, breathing deeply, for 30 seconds to a minute, then switch legs.
Lie face up on your mat, with your arms extended perpendicular to your body. Bring your left knee in to your chest and then drop it over your body to the right side. If your knee doesn;t touch, that’s ok, just make sure both shoulders stay in contact with the ground at all times. Turn your head and send your gaze to your left hand. Hold 30 seconds, breathe deeply, and release. Repeat on the other side.
Legs Up the Wall
Place a small pillow about 6 inches away from the wall. Sit sideways on the right end of the pillow, with your right side facing the wall. Exhale, and lay back, so your head and shoulders are resting on the ground, your sit bones against the wall or close to it. Place both legs, fully extended, up the wall and flex your toes. Keep your legs straight but do not lock your knees. Hold, breathing deeply, for 30 seconds to a minute.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms at your sides. Raise you arms overhead and fold forward at the waist, keeping your back flat as you lower your head toward floor. Continue to fold until your hamstrings resist, keeping your head, neck and shoulders as relaxed as possible. Hang here, or for more intense stretch, wrap your arms around the top of your head, grabbing each elbow with the opposite hand. Feel free to slowly rock from side to side. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute, then slowly roll up to return standing.
Wide Child’s Pose
Kneel on the floor with your knees out wide so your sit bones can rest comfortably on the floor in between your legs. Inhale, folding forward, extending your arms in front of you. Place your palms flat on the mat, reaching forward with your finger tips throughout. Relax your forehead to the mat and sit back into your hips. Hold 30 seconds to a minute, breathing deeply, and release.
Do this in bed, any time, for instant relaxation: sit up crossed-legged or lie down on your right side. Cover your right nostril with your thumb and extend the rest of your fingers out. Take five to 10 slow, deep breathes out of your left nostril. Repeat as necessary.
Good ol’ corpse pose — it’s one step away from actually being asleep. Simply lie on your back with your arms and legs extended, but slack, palms facing up. This position is the most restful and restorative you can be in, with no obstructions to blood flow or contractions of any muscles. Focus your attention on your body and your breath, letting go of everything else: what happened that day, what’s going to happen tomorrow, stress, worries, fears and pain. Inhale, sending your breath to anywhere in your body you feel needs it, then exhale any negative feelings, feeling lighter and more relaxed with each breath.