Maintaining a regular yoga practice can provide amazing benefits. It can be used as a tool to help you stay healthy, something we can all appreciate. It is important to realize that this extends well beyond the physical benefits you may be thinking of off the top of your head. Yoga isn’t just great for improving one’s core strength, flexibility, and stress levels; it can also help you sleep better!
We all know sleep is incredibly important to maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle. And now, you know that yoga helps make this rest possible! Yoga has the following proven benefits to your sleep:
Yoga reduces your stress. If you’ve ever spent the night tossing and turning in bed thinking about what tomorrow will bring, yoga might be a big help for you. Yoga has been shown to lower cortisol levels in the brain (ie. "the stress hormone") which helps reduce stress. Mindfulness, which is encouraged during your yoga, is also shown to reduce levels of cortisol. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention, and sharpens concentration.” says Dr. Nevins, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California.
Yoga regulates your nervous system. Many insomniacs suffer from hyperarousal. That means your ‘fight or flight’ response that was prompted by something that happened to you earlier in the day, like dealing with a tough work deadline, is still elevated. You feel exhausted, but your nervous system may still be wide awake! Even if you manage to fall asleep when your fight-or-flight system is aroused, it won’t be a very restful sleep. Although yoga is much more than a stress-reduction method it is one of the most comprehensive approach to fighting stress ever invented! Many yoga practices, including quiet asana, slow breathing, meditation, and guided imagery, increase activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and lead to mental relaxation. Activating your PNS is going to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
Yoga helps you to create and stick to a regular bedtime routine. Your body follows a natural circadian rhythm, and by keeping a consistent sleep schedule, you reinforce this and make your time in bed falling asleep a “natural” thing for your body. You see, the process of going to sleep is highly dependent upon behaviors. As you incorporate a plan to do yoga every night before bed, you are setting yourself up for a great routine! Include quiet activities in the brief period before bedtime both before and after your yoga, like perhaps drinking a cup of lavender tea and climbing into a soothing bath.
Yoga helps you lose weight, which alleviates many sleep issues, which in turn keeps your weight down! A recent study found that yoga was effective in helping overweight individuals to lose weight, including abdominal fat. Being a healthy weight is key to reducing your risks for many sleep-related health problems, like Sleep Apnea. The cycle doesn’t stop there though. Sleeping well is then associated with keeping your weight down, as chronically tired people exercise less and eat more calories than they should. It is a truly beneficial and amazing cycle that begins with yoga and keeps your body healthy!
Of course, not just any yoga will do! If you want to work yoga into your bedtime routine, it’s important to do the right kind. Some types of yoga can be energizing, like hot yoga, which obviously won’t help you relax for the night. Instead, you’ll need to specifically look into more restorative styles of yoga that help you calm down and relax. Your yoga is personal, and you’ll find a sequence you love that will help you fall asleep. Here are four poses that are ideal for preparing your body for sleep to help get you started:
#1 Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani): Lie on the ground on your back and put the back of your legs up a wall. Be sure to keep your legs straight so your body is in an L-shaped pose. Relax into the position, hold it for at least 30 seconds and focus on your breathing. Try to remove the thoughts of today or what is in store for tomorrow from your mind.
#2 Reclining Butterfly (Supta Baddha Konasana): To do this pose, simply lie on the ground on your back. Press the bottoms of your feet against each other and let your knees fall out to the sides. If you need to, you can put a pillow under your knees, particularly in the beginning as you get more comfortable.
#3 Corpse Pose (Savasana): Now here is a pose anyone can do! Lie on the ground on your back with legs straight, arms by sides, and palms facing up. Breathe slowly, focusing on your inhales and exhales.
#4 Plow Pose (Halasana). This one is a bit more difficult, but if you’re already doing yoga you should easily be able to master it. Lie down on your back, lifting your legs over your head and then to the ground behind you, with your hands either on your back for support or on the floor behind you. Try to hold this for one to five minutes.
This is only the beginning! You can also try incorporating more advanced yoga poses, or just a few of your favorites. By spending about 30 minutes to an hour each night focusing on settling down, once you climb into your PranaSleep mattress you’ll already be well on your way to a blissful slumber!