Yoga to Sleep

Practising these five yoga poses before bedtime will relax and calm you, helping to prepare your body for sleep. Do you struggle to fall asleep or find it difficult to sleep peacefully? Sleep deprivation could lead to more than just a case of the yawns. It can cause depression, weight gain and even Type 2 Diabetes. Experts recommend an average of six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep nightly, and this is where yoga can help. The soothing practice will help lower stress levels, calm the mind and relieve tension in the body. Rather than feeling hopeless about sleeping issues, try these five easy pre-bedtime yoga poses for a goodnight's rest and to improve the quality of your sleep.
BEDTIME ROUTINE 'Yoga connects you with your breathing, and this stimulates the nervous system,' says Eon Swiegers, yoga teacher, trainer and founder of EonYoga. Try to hold each of these five poses for three to five breaths. If you can't manage the full sequence, simply do what you can, holding each position gently without strain or pain. Listen to your body, breathe deeply and ease more deeply into each posture with each exhale. This will elongate your stretch and release the tension in your body. Stretching has a calming effect, as it stimulates blood flow and slows the heart rate. LET'S GET STARTED In preparation, sit in a comfortable position with your knees folded and your back straight (use the wall for support if needed). Rest your hands on your legs. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths. Focus on the cold air entering your nostrils and filling your lungs, and the warm air exhaling through the nose. This will take less than a minute. 1. JANU SIRSASANA (HEAD-TO-KNEE POSE) *Sit on the floor with your back straight and your legs extended in front of you (use the wall for support if needed). Keep your knees bent if necessary to keep your spine from rounding. Bend the right knee, bringing the base of the right foot into the inner left thigh and letting the right knee flop sideways towards the floor. If the knee doesn't touch, support it with a pillow. *Inhale and lengthen the spine. TIP: If you have tight hamstrings, place a folded blanket or pillow under your sitting bones. 2. BADDHA KONASANA (BOUND ANGLE POSE) *Sit on the floor with your back straight and bring the base of both feet together as close as possible to your groin, letting your knees splay out into a diamond shape. Direct your hands towards your feet or ankles (depending on your flexibility). *Be comfortable in this position and avoid rounding the lower back. *Inhale and lengthen the spine. *Exhale and bend forward from the hips, keeping your spine as straight as possible. Breathe in slowly, and ease into the stretch with every exhale. Feel your muscles relaxing and lengthening. TIP: Listen to your body and ease into the pose. Sitting on a blanket or pillow will help tight muscles open up. 3. SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA (RECLINED SPINAL SWIST) *Re-align yourself by lying with your back on the floor and bringing both knees to the chest. Extend your left arm to the left side at shoulder height, with the palm facing up. *With your knees still at your chest, slowly push both to the right with your right hand, until they reach the floor. Leave your right hand on top of the knee and gaze at your left hand. *With every exhale, use the right hand to stroke the outer left leg from the hip to the knee. This will help deepen the stretch and align your spine. Hold for three to five breaths. *Repeat on the other side. TIP: Listen to your body and ease into the pose. Sitting on a blanket or pillow will help tight muscles open up. 4. JATHARA PARIVARTANASANA (THREAD-THE-NEEDLE) *Lie flat on your back, placing your feet on the floor with your knees bent. Bring your right knee towards your chest, placing the right ankle on top of the left knee. Let the right knee flop to the right. Flex your right foot to keep the muscles engaged. *Interlace your hands behind the left knee and lift your foot off the floor, bringing the knee towards the chest. *You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right butt cheek. Breathe deeply and slowly focus on keeping both hips in line with each other. Hold for three to five breaths. *Repeat on the other side. 5. VIPARITA KARANI (LEGS-UP-THE-WALL POSE) *Put your butt as close to the wall as possible. Extend your legs straight up the wall, bringing your toes down so they are pointing towards the knees. This allows blood to flow to the heart, which soothes and releases stress. *Flop your arms open along your sides, with your palms facing up. You may also extend them behind your head to open your chest and release pent-up emotions. *Close your eyes and breathe as you relax into the pose and clear your mind. Feel the cold air entering and the warm air exiting the body with every breath. TIP: Place a pillow underneath your lower back for support. Bring the buttocks further away from the wall to relieve tight hamstrings. Once you have finished this routine, go to bed straight away and keep your calm disposition intact. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kristel Crevits is from EonYoga, a studio offering multiple classes and styles in Pretoria. www.eonygoga.com