Lying in bed wide awake is no fun for anybody, especially when we have a full day the next morning. Often, when we don’t get a restful night’s sleep and we feel grumpy and restless the next day. Besides restlessness, people who suffer from insomnia are much more likely to experience health problems such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, and congestive heart failure, according to recent research.
Usually, after a long day’s work, the last thing on our mind is to go to bed, as we would like some time to ourselves. This leaves our minds in a state of constant activity, as we are putting in a conscious effort to stay awake, which may be augmented by stimulants such as energy drinks or coffee.
However, when it finally comes time for bed, our minds still tend to race, as it is in a perpetual state of activity leading use to lay wide-awake in bed wasting precious hours of potential sleep. But perhaps a little bit of exercise in the form of yoga is all we need to put our minds at ease, as recommended by yoga instructor Rachelle Wintzen.
“All day long we are rushing around and working in flight or fight mode,” Wintzen tells The Huffington Post Canada. “This tells our adrenals to work hard to cope with internal and external stressors. This is very taxing on our body and can put us at risk for adrenal fatigue.”
The act of stretching and breathing exercises have a calming effect on the body, and when combined with an Epsom salt and lavender oil bath, it can help calm the senses and relax the muscles, combating the negative effects of stress that are built up throughout the day. Wintzen recommends trying some yoga poses that can easily be done while lying in bed.
The poses can be done for one to five minutes, holding each position gently without straining yourself or causing pain. If specific poses are too difficult, it’s okay to stick with ones that are your favorites and incorporate them into your nightly routine. Poses you can choose from include:
Jan Sirsasana (head-to-knee pose)
- Sit on the floor or bed with legs extended straight in front of you and knees bent if necessary to keep the spine from rounding.
- Bend the right knee and open up the hip (making a “number four” with your legs) bringing the sole of your right foot to your left inner thigh. Try to keep the right knee down.
- Inhale and lengthen the spine.
- Exhale as you bend forward with the hips over the left leg, keeping the spine and neck long, and place the hands on either side of your left leg as you look in the direction of your left foot and breath in and out slowly.
- Repeat on the other side.
Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)
- Sit on the floor or bed without slouching or bending forward and bring both soles of the feet together in front of you. Hold your feet or ankles with your hands.
- If comfortable enough, bring your feet as close as you can toward your groin without rounding the lower back.
- Inhale and lengthen the spine.
- Exhale and bend forward from the hips, keeping the spine in line. Breathe in and out as you feel your muscles relaxing.
- Lie on your back and bring the knees into the chest.
- Extend the left arm to the side at shoulder height, palm facing up.
- Keeping the knees high, slowly bring them out to the right until they reach the floor or bed.
- Place the right hand on top of the right knee. You can use the right-hand to massage the outer left leg and hip.
- Gaze straight up at the ceiling or slightly to the left.
- Repeat on the other side.
Cat and Cow pose (Marjarysana and Bitilasana)
- Place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Relax your neck and head to the ground.
- Start with a straight back and slowly round your back and curve it towards the ceiling.
- Lower yourself to the start position and try repeating the pose about 10 times.
- Stay on your hands and knees and start with a straight back.
- Relax your hands and look at the ground.
- Lift your hips, tailbone, and chest towards the ceiling.
- At the same time, let your stomach relax towards the ground.
- As you lift your body, lift your head and look straight ahead of you.
- Return to the start position and try repeating up to 10 times.
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
- Start by sitting across a wall, with your back on the floor and your buttock on the wall itself.
- Stretch your arm to the sides with palms facing upwards. Now close your eyes and breathe.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Sit with the body curled up and faces the floor.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- It may seem like all you’re doing is lying down, but the reality is that you’re focusing on exercising the mind and relaxing the body by ignoring outside stimuli as much as possible while simultaneously acknowledging, but not responding to, their existence.
- The goal is to use your senses to pay attention to your surroundings and remaining mindfully present while accepting that there are certain external forces over which you have no control. Corpse pose is generally ideal to do at the end of your practice or right before going to bed.
Standing Forward Bend (Hastapadasana)
- Stand with your legs together and your body weight centered on the balls of your feet.
- Inhale and stretch both arms straight above your head.
- Keeping your legs straight, you exhale and bend forward at the waist.
- Reach down and grab the back of your legs.
- As you become comfortable with this pose, you can try different holds to get different stretches, including clasping your fingers around a big toe or sliding your palms and fingers under your feet.
- Remember to keep your head and neck relaxed. Hold the pose for several breaths.
- When you release the pose, bring your hands to your hips, lift your torso so that it is parallel to the floor, and stand straight on an inhale.
With these simple yoga exercises, anyone can find rest and relaxation to help them get a wonderful night’s sleep, whether it’s from your own personal workout space or from the comfort of your own bed.