You’re tossing and turning, staring at the clock as time slowly ticks by. Insomnia plagues most of us at some point in our lives. The more we think about not sleeping the more our anxiety grows, further interrupting the effort to catch z’s. Sleep deprivation impairs concentration, memory, motor skills, decision making, mood, and much more. It can also lead to weight gain. Additional waking hours typically involve a greater intake of food and when an individual is tired they are more likely to make poor diet choices. The metabolism slows due to an interruption in nightly hormones. This eventually leads to weight gain.
Don’t sit by idly on nights you can’t seem to fall asleep. Experts suggest getting out of bed and engaging in a relaxing activity. A short, restorative yoga practice can work wonders. The deep, rhythmic breathing and the right poses slow the nervous system, relax the body and mind, and ease anxiety, allowing you to sink into a good night’s sleep. Try this short sequence for peaceful slumber:
- Centering: Lie on your back with your feet apart and your ankles splayed out. Take your arms about six inches away from the body with the palms facing up for corpse pose. Shut your eyes and start to let go of your thoughts and feel your body connect with the ground. Inhale deeply through the nose, expanding the stomach. Exhale deeply through the nose, contracting the stomach. Take a few deep breaths this way. Then, inhale through the nose to a count of four, hold the breath for a count of four, and then exhale to a count of eight. Focusing on counting will still your thoughts. Center yourself for about 2 minutes and then return to your regular deep breathing in and out through the nose.
- Legs up the Wall: Sit sideways against a wall with the right hip and right side body touching the wall. In one movement, swing your legs up the wall and allow your head and shoulders to float to the ground. Your sit bones should be touching the wall or nearly touching it. Firm the thighs so that the legs are straight, pointing up toward the ceiling. Extend through the crown of the head to create space in the throat. Stay in this posture for up to 5 minutes. When you are ready to come out, gently slide off of the wall coming on to your right side into the fetal position with your left palm planted on the floor. Push through the floor and come to a seated position.
- Cobbler’s Pose: Once you are seated, bring the soles of your feet together in front of you, forming a diamond shape. Sit up tall, stacking one vertebrae on top of the other and lengthening the crown of the head to the ceiling. Butterfly the legs up and down a few times to loosen up. Then on an exhale, hinge at the hips, folding forward, and bring the forearms to the calves. If you can take it further, try to bring the forehead toward the feet. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Seated Spinal Twist: Straighten your legs in front of you and sit up tall, coming into staff pose. Cross your right leg over your left thigh with the sole of the foot flat on the floor. Flex the left foot. Inhale and take the left arm to the sky and then place the elbow on the outside of the right knee for leverage. Slide the right hand behind you and look over the right shoulder. On the inhales lengthen the spine and on the exhales twist through the ribcage. Remember to keep the hips squared and the shoulders down your back. Hold for 5 breaths and then repeat on the other side.
- Child’s Pose: Swing the legs around behind you, coming on to all fours. Bring the knees apart and the big toes together. Sink your hips back onto your heels, extend your arms straight in front of you, and place your forehead on the floor. Relax and allow the back to release. Hold for 10 breaths.
- Happy Baby: Make your way down onto your back. Bend your knees and bring the soles of the feet parallel to the ceiling. Stack your knees directly over your ankles and spread the knees apart. Reach for your insteps or wrap your pointer and middle fingers around the big toes. Draw the thighs toward the floor and press the low back and shoulders into the ground. Rock back and forth if it’s available.
- Supta Baddha Konasana: Release your legs and extend them out in front of you. Take your arms about six inches from the body with the palms facing up. Bring the soles of your feet together just like in cobbler’s pose. Allow the knees to fall toward the floor.
- Corpse Pose: Extend the legs out in front of you once more, bringing them a little wider than hip width apart. Let the ankles splay out and keep the arms extended and the palms facing up. Shut your eyes and allow your body to melt into the ground. Relax every muscle from head to toe. If thoughts wander into your mind, recognize them and then let them go. Concentrate on the rhythm of the breath. Relax in silence for at least 10 minutes before returning to bed.
After completing this sequence you will feel relaxed and loose, which will help you fall asleep. For a preventative measure, you can even do this practice right before bedtime. The benefits will extend beyond alleviating insomnia. Practicing regularly will enhance your flexibility, detoxify the body, clear the mind, release tension, lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, and more. Make this short sequence part of your evening schedule.