It’s important to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep every day so that your body has time to remove toxins and repair itself on a cellular level. Achieving these 6-8 hours of sleep can be very difficult if you have insomnia. There are generally two types of insomniacs: those who can't fall asleep and those who can't stay asleep. Both of these types of insomnia may be due to either illness such as chronic fatigue syndrome or, as is the case for many people, stress. Whatever the cause of your insomnia is, stress is usually the result because not being able to sleep really sucks! It is a vicious cycle in which you have trouble falling asleep, often due to stress or nervous system imbalance and then we are stressed again when we wake up because we didn’t sleep well. According to a recent Huffington Post survey, sleep deprivation is a major source of stress in US adults. Luckily, there is a simple and healthy answer that can help you both reduce stress and achieve sleep: Yoga for insomnia. (Full disclosure: we are kind of obsessed with yoga here.)
While some medications taken for chronic conditions may trigger insomnia, yoga for insomnia is a natural sleep remedy. Yoga lowers stress levels, calms the mind, and relieves tension in the body. Yogic breathing, taking long, slow breathes, can have a naturally calming and sedating effect on the body, signaling the nervous system to release. Yoga allows you to feel the areas of the body that are tense and still holding onto the day and gradually let go, eventually teaching yourself to relax more fully. Many of the poses also send blood to the head, helping calm running thoughts. Even the very foundations of yoga such as mindfulness encourage sleep and combat insomnia. Foundations such as mindfulness teach you to live in the moment, leaving behind the stressors of the past that cannot be changed, and accepting and releasing your emotions rather than allowing them to send your mind into a frenzy and create stress.
According to Psychology Today, researchers at Harvard Medical School recently investigated the effects of daily yoga practice on 20 participants composed of individuals with insomnia that developed on it's own or insomnia as the result of a health condition. The researchers provided basic yoga training to the participants and then instructed them to continue their yoga practices for eight weeks while maintaining a detailed sleep diary. At the end of the eight weeks, the researchers found significant improvements in the participants in both sleep quality and quantity. This is really promising research for the benefits of yoga for insomnia.
Yoga is a natural remedy for insomnia that is incredibly helpful and therapeutic for many people. Try out these five yoga poses for insomnia!
Yoga For Insomnia:
1 – Child's Pose: Sit on top of your legs, laying your torso over them and extending your arms forwards while your forehead rests on your mat. This stretch relives tension in the body and sends blood to the brain, calming the mind.
2 – Legs-up-the-Wall Pose: Lay on your back about six inches from the wall with your legs extended up the wall and your palms facing the ceiling. You can move closer to the wall if your legs can safely handle a bigger stretch. Lifting the legs sends blood rushing to the heart, which soothes the body.
3 – Forward Bend Pose: Stand with your feet about six inches apart and fold your torso towards the ground, letting your hands rest on either the ground or on your elbows. Bend your knees as needed to avoid injury while still allowing the legs to stretch. This pose releases tension in the legs and hips and sends blood to the brain to help alleviate headaches and stress.
4 – Reclining Twist Pose: Lay on your back and bend one leg into your chest and then across your body while the other leg remains extended along the ground, repeating this with your other leg as well. You can also extend an arm (extend your right arm if you are crossing your right leg over your body) and gaze in the direction of that arm. This twist can help relieve tension from your spine and your day ad can aid in digestion.
5 – Reclining Butterfly Pose: Lay on your back with your legs bent and your palms facing the ceiling. Alternatively, you may place your right hand over your heart and your left hand over your stomach. Allow your bent legs to fall open against the floor while the soles of your feet touching, creating a diamond shape with your lower body. This pose relieves tension in the hips and legs while encouraging you to focus on calm breaths.
Want a bit more practice? Try out this free 15-minute video on yoga for better sleep!