Yoga series: To improve sleep

Yoga instructor Eliana Stein demonstrates six poses that can help you get a better night's sleep

Yoga series: To improve sleep
Yoga instructor Eliana Stein demonstrates six poses that can help you get a better night’s sleep

Can’t sleep? Eliana Stein, personal trainer and yoga instructor at the Vidya Institute demonstrates the poses that can help you improve your sleep and get those much-needed zzzs.

Check out the other yoga stories from our series: last month’s yoga to improve digestion and yoga to combat PMS

When to do these exercises: Practice this routine before bed. It will not only allow you to fall asleep faster, but will give you a better quality sleep, helping you feel rested and refreshed in the morning.

What you will need:
A chair
Belt, tie or yoga strap
Folded blanket or large pillow

1) Reclining Twist

How to do it: Lie flat on your back, legs stretched out straight. Place left foot on right knee, right hand on left knee, right arm stretched out to the side. Inhale lengthening the spine, exhale and twist left knee to the right. Keep the left shoulder on the ground and hold for 5-10 breaths. Then switch sides.

Why it works: This twist allows you to wring tension out of the body from the head to toe. Be aware that you might feel agitated as you first start to release tension in this pose, therefore making it important to breath into the pose until you feel a sense of calm and roundedness.

2) Supported seated forward bend

How to do it: Sit on a folded blanket with feet hip width apart, legs under the chair. Inhale the arms up, exhale folding forward resting the forehead on the edge of the chair. Allow your spine to be straight, adjusting the distance of the chair accordingly. Hold for 10 breaths, allowing each exhale to take you deeper into the pose.

Why it works: Supported forward bends are especially calming and grounding. Much like the reclining twist, this pose can first seem agitating thus making it important to breathe until you feel at ease.

3) Wide leg seated forward bend

How to do it: Sit on a folder blanket with legs wide apart and a chair placed in front of you. Inhale arms up, exhale folding forward resting forehead and arms on the chair’s edge. Adjust chair’s distance to accommodate a straight spine. Hold 5-10 breaths or until you feel that you are able to remain restful within the pose.

Why it works: While this pose has all the same benefits as the first supported forward bend, it does not require as much hamstrings flexibility (back thigh muscle). This will allow you to fold deeper into the pose, therefore achieving more of the unwinding benefits of forward bends.

4) Leg stretches with a strap

How to do it: Start lying flat on the back. Place a belt or yoga strap under the balls of the right foot. Slide hands down the strap until elbows reach the floor. Focus on having the leg completely straight behind the knee. Hold 5-10 breaths and switch sides.

Why it works: This pose is calming for the mind and nervous system, while being relaxing for the whole body. This also stretches the hamstrings muscles, which is very tight in most people. Make note of how the right side feels before changing to the left side; effects of this pose are immediate.

5) Legs up the Wall

How to do it: Sit with the hip against the wall. Pivot body while stretching your legs up the wall, relaxing the torso onto the ground. Hold for 3-5 minutes. Option: cover eyes with mask or towel to further calm the mind.

Why it works: Being inverted helps to calm the mind and nervous system while reducing fatigued leg muscles. Lying with the legs up the wall allows your breath to slow down, allowing for a full body relaxation. This also helps to reduce varicose veins.

6) Sivasana- Corpse Pose

How to do it: Lie flat on the back with feet slightly apart, legs relaxed. Place the hand a few inches from the body, palms facing up. With the eyes gently closed relax the body focusing on your breathing. Hold for 12 breaths.

Why it works: It is important to take a few minutes in sivasana at the end of each yoga session to allow the benefits of the practice to settle. It rests and relieves any tension within the body, leaving the body completely restored after just a few minutes of conscious breathing.