Photo: Trunk Archive
You’ve tried chamomile tea and melatonin, you’ve even sprayed your pillow with lavender oil, but you still can’t sleep. Believe it or not, yoga can help. A Harvard study on insomnia found that people who consistently practiced yoga for just eight weeks enjoyed significantly better sleep—both their length of slumber and its quality improved.
Approximately 50 to 70 million Americans experience chronic sleep disorders that interfere with their health in more ways than one. Less sleep equals more stress, and your body doesn’t get enough time to repair on a cellular level, which can lead to everything from plain old grumpiness to serious diseases. The Institute of Medicine lists “hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity” as just a few of the problems it can cause. But you already know how important sleep is—so here’s one more thing you can do about it.
Jillian Pransky, the director of the Restorative Yoga Teacher Training program for YogaWorks says, “Yoga offers tools to get rejuvenating sleep and regain the healing properties of sleep during the day.” Instead of checking Instagram one last time before bed, start practicing these three poses.
Start in a tabletop position with your wrists underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips with your big toes touching. Shift your hips back toward your heels as you stretch your hands in the opposite direction; gently creating more space in the spine. Rest your forehead on the floor, or on a block or firm pillow. Hold for one to five minutes to calm the nervous system and relieve stress.
Lie on your back and hug your knees in toward your chest. Bring your arms out into a T and lower your knees down to the right, keeping them in line with the navel to stretch the lower back. Hold for one to five minutes and repeat on the other side to ring out spinal tension, open up the diaphragm, and improve breathing.
Legs Up the Wall with Extended Exhale
Sit with your right hip up against the wall or the headboard of your bed, with your hands behind your back for support. Slowly bring your legs up the wall as you lower onto your back, with your hands by your sides. If your hamstrings are tight, your hips may be a few inches away from the wall. Take a deep inhale through the nose, to the count of four, completely inflating the lungs. On the exhale, slow down your breath and empty to a count of eight until the navel contracts back into the spine. Stay here, continuing this breathing pattern, for five to 10 minutes to calm the mind.
Think of these poses as restorative meditation, focusing solely on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Resist any temptation to lie on your back, hold your iPhone in the air, or think about tomorrow’s meeting. Because breathing in and out just might be the easiest way to sleep better.