If lack of sleep is an issue for you, yoga could help give you the good night’s sleep your body craves.
A study by the Mental Health Foundation found that over 30% of the UK’s population suffers from insomnia or other sleep difficulties. And worryingly it’s not just the matter of exhaustion that comes to play with insomnia; there are major health problems such as depression, obesity, immune deficiency and heart disease.
Yoga helps to relax the nervous system, which is the part of your body responsible for a restful sleep. The gentle physical exercise and breathing techniques promoted in yoga can encourage regular and restful sleep patterns without resorting to medication.
Additionally, yoga’s meditative aspect comes into play to quiet the mind. So if a racing mind is what keeps you from getting a good night’s sleep then performing yoga at any point during the day may offer you some relief.
There are specific poses you can do that are known to help people sleep more soundly. We’ve put together five easy poses for you to try at home to make it easier for you to drift off:
1. Mountain pose:
Counter a long day of contracting the back with this powerful back and chest-opening posture. Come to a comfortable standing position with feet hips-width apart, bring your hands up over your head with palms facing forward and thumbs hooked as you bend gently backwards and breathe deeply. Hold the mountain pose for up to one minute.
2. Chair pose:
Begin in mountain pose, inhale and raise your arms above your head, perpendicular to the floor. Exhale as you bend your knees, bringing your thighs as parallel to the floor as they can get – your knees will project out slightly over your feet. Shift your weight onto your heels and hold for up to a minute.
3. Tree pose:
Begin standing with your arms at your sides and shift your weight to your left foot. Fix your gaze gently on one, unmoving point in front of you and draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh. Bring your hands together at the heart chakra and hold for one minute, then repeat for the same amount of time on the opposite side.
4. Cat pose:
Start on your hands and knees in a neutral spine ‘tabletop’ position looking straight ahead. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists are under your shoulders.
As you exhale, drop your chin to your chest and arch your back as much as you can, making sure to keep your shoulders and knees in position. Hold this pose for a couple of seconds before inhaling, raising your chin and coming back to neutral ‘tabletop’ position on your hands and knees. Repeat this pose for five rounds.
5. Camel pose:
Kneel on your yoga mat with toes tucked and knees hip width apart. As you inhale, arch your back and slide your right hand down to your right heel. If you are a beginner reach the left hand up back towards the wall, or if you are confident, reach the left hand down to your left heel. Do not strain or flex your neck but keep it in a neutral position. Stay in this posture for a couple of breaths.