- Will Hartfield
Quick Tips to Help You Sleep Better: Yoga & Breathing Before Bedtime
In the past few years, yoga has been a suggested cure-all for just about anything that ails you. Arthritis? Try Yoga. Depressed? Check out this pose. Want to lose weight, boost your energy or improve concentration? Yoga can help. The benefits of yoga are widespread and fairly well understood; and now we’re learning that just as yoga helps boost energy and life force, it can also be instrumental in winding down and finding the peace we need to truly rest, relax and recharge.
Finding balance is one of the basic tenets of yoga – and of overall health. You can start to achieve that balance in its purest form by practicing Sama Vritti (equal breathing). Start by breathing in for a count of four, then out for the same count of four. You can increase the count to six or eight as you get the hang of it. Breathe through your nose as this adds some natural resistance to your breath and forces you to focus more on simply breathing. If you find your mind racing while in bed and unable to sleep because of it, this breathing technique calms your mind since you focus on the count and the breath, releasing your brain from the anxiety train of worries that can prevent you from drifting off to sleep.
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Breathe in so that your diaphragm and not your chest inflates. Don’t worry if it takes a few tries to get this right – shallow breathing is common! Your goal is to breathe abdominally with deep breaths for about 10 minutes. This technique can calm an anxiety attack any time of day and is especially helpful in promoting a sense of calm and peace before bed.
Now that you have some basic breathing techniques to calm you, check out these yoga poses you can do right before bedtime. They’re simple, relaxing and an ideal way to unwind as you put to rest your busy day.
The Happy Baby
This is a simple stretch that will loosen your hips and lower back. Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your hands on the outside edges of your feet. Then simply roll back as much as you’re able to pull your knees up until you look (as the title suggests) like a happy baby. Hold for a count of five, release and then repeat. You may find you can stretch more as you do sets of this stretch so don’t worry if at first you can’t get very far.
Reclining Big Toe
This stretch increases flexibility and helps strengthen your core. As a bonus, it’s about as simple as it gets. Lay on your back and lift your right leg in the air. Raise your upper body until you can touch (or grab) your big toe (or as close as you can get). Keeping your torso raised will help your core, but if you want a more relaxing stretch, lay flat. Hold for five breaths then release. Repeat with your opposite leg.
The Spinal Twist
Finally, there’s the spinal twist. This always feels amazing and is a great way to round off your simple pre-bedtime routine. While flat on your back, cross your right knee over your body to the left and extend your foot out. Put your arms out in a “T” position and turn your head to the right – then stretch. Switch sides and stretch again. You’ll feel your back stretching and loosening as you do each side. Hold each stretch for five breaths before switching.
These breathing and stretching techniques will relax your body and calm your mind. This will help you drift off to sleep more easily and can improve everything from sleep quality to mental clarity. Sweet dreams!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
William Hartfield has been doing yoga for three years and is a biomedical engineer who writes about how to beat hair loss naturally, primarily through diet changes, over at his blog Hair Loss Revolution. He advocates yoga as a way to reduce stress that could otherwise lead to hair loss.