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Practice These 5 Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

Michelle Thielen
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Would you agree or disagree that there are simply not enough hours in a day? Let’s go out on a limb and say that you agree that the days are not long enough. I used to feel this way, everyday. Until I found yoga, or should I say – until yoga found me.
 
Yoga is a practice that can improve every area of your life, including creating space for priorities and developing overall balance and harmony. Many of us are working 10+ hour days, with little room to sleep or enjoy simple pleasures. Most of us are anxious and riddled with stress and pressures that keep us wide awake at night.
 
Please keep this in mind: Deep backbends and inversions can be energetically stimulating, so you should avoid doing them immediately before bed. I have included both of these asana families for specific reasons in regards to rest.
 
Here is the secret: When coming out of each pose, allow the effects to be absorbed into your entire body, muscles, bones, and mind. Any tension you had going into the posture may be significantly less or completely gone when finished. Simply rest in the suggested closing posture for the most beneficial integration. I recommend holding each posture for 30-60 seconds.
 
In other words, practicing these poses will help you relieve tension and stress in the physical body, so that your mind can remain calm and you will be prepared for a restful night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and restored.
 

Here are 5 yoga poses that will assist you in relieving stress, creating space, and finding balance – all contributing to an excellent night’s sleep:

 

1. Plow (Halasana)

This inversion will stimulate the respiratory and circulatory systems specifically, which is why you will most likely feel energized when practicing it.
 
You may modify the posture by simply practicing a mild inversion such as Legs up the Wall or placing your feet on a bolster or ottoman instead of the ground behind your head.
 
Be sure to keep the legs engaged – imagine lifting your hamstrings to the sky. Rest in Corpse pose (Savasana) when done.
 

plow-pose
Rose Baker, YogaFaith of Missouri

 
 

2. Upward Plank (Purvottanasana)

This heart opener acts as a stretching and strengthening posture for every part of your body – from the fingers to the toes – with a focus on one of the most important stress-relieving activities: opening the heart to let everything else go.
 
You can modify with one or both legs bent. If you have neck issues, keep your eyes to the sky. If no neck issues exist, slowly release the head back without compressing the spine. You may also deepen by practicing variations with the legs, or have fun and make one up. Breathe, release, surrender, and open your heart once again.
 
When you’re done, release and come into a seated forward fold (or Staff pose, Dandasana) with your legs straight out in front of you, and simply fold the torso forward onto legs or a bolster that is resting on the legs.
 
bridge-sleeping
 

bridge-sleeping-2
Holly Neal, YogaFaith of Atlanta

 
 

3. Camel (Ustrasana)

This kneeling backbend and heart opener is perfect to progress from Upward Plank. It will open your heart further and includes a beautiful, invigorating backbend.
 
Modify by placing elbows on the seat of a chair or hands can rest on the tallest height of two blocks on the outside of each thigh. You may deepen by coming down to the forearms, grasping opposite elbows, or as shown, reaching one or both hands high.
 
Breathe. Release. Trust. And when you’re finished, come to rest in Child’s pose (Balasana).
 
camel-pose-sleep
 

camel-pose-sleep-variation
Carmella Pankey, Tucson YogaFaith

 
 

4. Cow Face (Gomukhasana)

This seated posture will focus on two major anatomical parts: the shoulders and hips. These two areas are typically everyone’s most tense places in the body. This posture is great because we get relief in both areas with one posture.
 
Do not force anything in this posture. Typically the knees should be stacked on top of each other and the fingers will one day touch in a clasp, but use a strap at first, and don’t worry about how closely you can get your knees to stack. Embrace the journey and as the mobility comes, you may practice without the strap.
 
Modify by simply placing your hand on the mid-spine while the other hand gently presses the elbow to exaggerate the stretch. Deepen by folding forward or gently pulling the arms away from the spine. Breathe here. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, rest in Legs up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani).
 
cow-face-pose
 
 

5. Simple Seated Meditation (Sukhasana)

This seated posture epitomizes yoga. “Asana” in Sanskrit refers to the place and the posture one sits in. Found in ancient text as early as 800 BCE, asana refers to the seat which is used for meditation. Seated postures are perfect to meditate in because the body is most relaxed as well as the lungs, so you are able to create the most space and the deepest breaths.
 
I recommend sitting against a wall to support the spine. Try to focus on one thing. A mantra, a positive affirmation, or perhaps imagine the flicker of a candle. If your mind continues to wander, focus on your breath. Allow your thoughts to simply come in and go out, like boats in a harbor. Quiet the heart. Listen.
 

seated-prayer
Photo by Author; Michelle Thielen of Paul Richard of YogaFaith Ohio

 

You cannot offer your best self unless your body, mind, spirit and soul receives rest.

 
When you are feeling stressed out, spread too thin, and overwhelmed in life, take a deep breath. Gauge what you need to do and what can wait. Don’t ever put yourself in that “can wait” category. Give yourself the care and rest that you need to thrive. Practicing these yoga poses will create more space in mind and body, cultivating more peace, less stress, and an overall sense of control in your life. At the end of the day, these poses will allow your body, mind, spirit and soul the best rest, dare I say, ever.
 
Rest well my sweet friends!
 
All Photos by OpenDoorPhotography.com unless otherwise noted

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Michelle Thielen

Michelle is the Founder of YogaFaith, an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance, and a Manduka Brand Ambassador. She is an International Speaker, Yoga Alliance and Yoga Festival Presenter. Michelle has taught over 20 Teacher Trainings and remains passionate about the gift of yoga bringing healing to the world. As a Shared Hope Ambassador, she travels to third world countries teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga to human traffick survivors of all ages. Her first book Stretching Your Faith was published in the Spring of 2016.

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