Updated: May 20, 2021
Our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and feel rested is so crucial to our well-being. Many of us experience sleep difficulties whether you experience insomnia, disrupted sleep due to anxiety, depression, trauma, or other stressors.
When we do not sleep well, our body and mind are impacted. This week, we will focus on practices that prepare the body to move into relaxation and promote sleep.
Tip 1: Be Consistent
Ayurveda, the science that informs yoga, recommends waking up with sunrise and getting to bed around 9 or 10pm. While that time frame may not be conducive to your lifestyle, finding a consistent time each day to wake up and go to sleep has great benefit.
When you are on a consistent schedule, you support your circadian rhythm which regulates your body’s internal sleep-wake clock and hormone release.
Tip 2: Create a Yoga Informed Routine
A short evening routine before bed can prepare the body and mind for sleep and restoration. Some suggestions below include restorative yoga postures, pranayama (breathing techniques), mudras (hand gestures), and yoga nidra.
The first 3 practices can become an evening ritual and can be completed within 10 minutes or less. Begin to reflect on how you might build your own evening routine.
Legs Up On The Wall
Try legs up the wall before bed. Place a blanket or mat in front of a wall to provide cushioning for your spine and back of the head.
Bring your legs up the wall. Remain here for about 5 minutes, or as long as it is comfortable in your body.
Legs Up On a Chair
Repeat the previous exercise but rest your legs on a chair.
Tip 3: Deepen Your Breath - Practice Pranayama
Deepen your breath. Engage in diaphragmatic breathing. Begin to count your inhalation and exhalation. Notice the natural rhythm of your breath. Then, begin to lengthen your exhalation to be longer than your inhalation. If you inhale for a count of 3, exhale for a count of 6. You choose the count. By lengthening your exhale, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which supports your body in relaxation. You can do this practice on its own, or during legs up the wall/chair.
For more details on breathing exercises I recommend these previous blog posts:
Tip 4: Use Yoga Informed Hand Formations
Dvimukham Mudra is a hand gesture to support deep relaxation. This gesture can be beneficial for insomnia, anxiety and reducing stress. This mudra helps to slow the breath, lengthen your exhalation, and promote relaxation. This mudra may lower blood pressure: If you experience low blood pressure, proceed with caution and come out of the gesture if discomfort arises.
To practice Dvimukham Mudra find a comfortable seat or lie down. Hold your palms facing upwards as you rest them in your lap. Join the tip of the little finger and ring finger together. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, or as long as it is comfortable in your body.
Tip 5: Learn Yoga Nidra (Yoga Sleep)
Yoga nidra is often referred to as yogic sleep. Yoga nidra is a form of meditation that brings the body into a deep state of restoration and relaxation. The practice of yoga nidra can be completed in as short as 10 minutes, while longer practices can be 30 minutes to an hour. At Key Therapy Counseling, this meditation practice is held on Sunday evenings.
Dana Saad, LCSW, RYT 200
Key Therapy Counseling
Twice a week I offer a 90-minute online yoga class called "Yoga for Mind Body Wellness". Would love to have you join me.
About the Author
Dana Saad is a Registered Yoga Teacher and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In addition to conducting private individual counseling at Key Therapy Counseling, she also holds weekly yoga classes (see list of classes here). She completed her yoga training at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and has pursued additional training in Trauma-Informed Yoga (through Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga) and Yoga Nidra (through the iRest Institute). Her Trauma-Informed Yoga classes incorporate a mindful approach to trauma processing, deep relaxation, and mind/body balancing intended to treat current symptoms related to an overactive nervous system.