Sleeplessness has plagued me on more then one occasion. I’ve cut out the caffeine (entirely), I’ve become a master of napping (totally necessary), but for a few reasons, including my insane schedule, I still get a restless night or two from time to time.
Yoga practice can be an incredibly healing force. I’ve learned to better manage a plethora of issues through yoga — including sleeplessness.
If you find yourself tossing and turning, take five to ten minutes and try these simple and effective poses that should help ease you into slumber.
Benefits: Calms the brain, helps relieve stress, reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia.
How to do it: Lie flat on your back and allow your legs to relax while your feet open naturally to the side. Breathe naturally, and send each inhale all the way to the bottom of your core. With your eyes closed, relax your facial muscles and feel the support of the earth beneath you. Keep focused on your breath, and completely surrender to this pose of relaxation. It helps to visualize yourself sinking through the mat and into the floor. Let your limbs become heavy.
Benefits: Eases lower back pain, menstrual pain and gastrointestinal pain. If you have sciatic nerve pain, Apasana is your pose.
How to do it: Gently hug your knees to your chest. Feel your sacrum (the lower part of your back) press up against the floor. Rock from side to side on your back, still hugging the knees. This helps to loosen any tension you may be carrying around in the lower back, while it gently aligns and loosens your back.
Benefits: Calms the brain, relieves stress and anxiety. Stretches the hips, thighs and ankles.
How to do it: This pose is one of my favourites. You begin in a kneeling position and fold forward at the hip, letting your forehead connect with the ground.
There are variations on this pose in terms of where your arms should rest:
- Your arms are resting on the floor, stretched out above your head.
- Your arms are beside your body, which allows the upper back to relax.
Either option is great, but I prefer to have the arms above the head in this instance. Child’s Pose can be very grounding for the body and the mind. Feel the back of your body rise and fall with your breath. Allow the shoulders to relax away from the ears and feel your forehead connecting to the earth. Keeping your breath long and fluid inhale up to the next pose.
Tabletop/ Cat and Cow pose
Benefits: Stretches the torso, back and neck. Helps counteract stiffness from hours of staring at a computer screen. Provides a gentle massage to the spine and belly organs. Grounding for the mind.
How to do it: Bring your hands underneath your shoulders and your hips directly above your knees, making a 90 degree angle with the legs. Inhale and melt your centre towards the earth, tilt the head and tailbone up. Exhale and arch the spine and bring the chin to the chest. Repeat this fluid movement until you can feel your back loosening, but let your breath guide you. When you’re ready, return back to tabletop and prepare for the next pose by tucking your toes under.
Downward Facing Dog
Benefits: Calms the brain, relieves stress, stretches shoulders, hamstrings, calves etc. Helps to strengthen arms and legs. Relieves headache, back pain, insomnia.
How to do it: (From table top) exhale and lift your knees away from the floor to straighten the legs. At first, keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Spend a few breaths here to open up the backs of the legs. Connect the hands into the earth as if you’re pressing the floor away from you. (If your hamstrings are tight keep your knees bent). On the next exhale, walk your feet towards the hands and you will find yourself in this next pose.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Benefits: This and other forward bends signal your nervous system to quiet down, and your mind to go inside and to let go.
How to do it: Stay mindful of your breath, breathing into the back ribs, and low into the abdomen. In this pose, you are in a standing forward bend. Open your feet sitting bones distance (take a slight bend in the knee if you need to). Surrender the weight of the torso to the force of gravity, and with the longest inhale you can find, slowly bring your body up, one vertebrae at a time, with the head coming up last.
Zoja Popovic is a Toronto-based journalist and national TV news producer. She is the consummate health and wellness enthusiast, and is obsessed with Yoga. Follow Zoja @zojapopovic. Namaste!