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Three Yoga Poses For Better Sleep

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years because of its innumerable health benefits, but the one that perhaps is most responsible for yoga's widespread popularity in Western culture is... stress relief. Stress is among the factors of a bevy of health concerns, potentially including insomnia. (And when you aren't receiving proper sleep, your productivity, focus, and happiness decrease, which creates more stress, and on and on into a vicious, hazy, sleep-deprived cycle. I'd recommend checking out Arianna Huffington's new book, 'The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time' for lots more information on the topic of sleep deprivation, and what will happen when you emerge from it.) 

If at night you have reached your bed and still feel ridden by the events, stresses, and responsibilities of the day, it's not too late to practice a few yoga poses which can ease your transition from a busy day into a good night's sleep. These poses help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (which regulates the body's systems and de-activates stress responses), soothe areas of habitual physical tension, and let the so-called "monkey-mind" surrender. 

Here are three poses which are part of my personal practice that I actually do while in my bed before sleeping. (Best if done in this particular sequence.)


1. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Sit up tall so that you feel balanced atop your sitting bones. Extend your legs out in front of you.  Bend your knees generously - especially since you are preparing to sleep, you don't want to overstretch or push too hard.  Lengthen your spine by drawing in and up with your abdominals, and lean forward over your bent legs. Let your arms relax, as well as your head and neck, and focus on breathing slowly into your back ribs. This pose slows the mind and opens the hamstrings and back. Slowly roll up after 1-2 minutes. 


2. Spinal Twist (Sputa Matsyendrasana) 

Lie down on your back and extend your right leg onto the bed. Hug your left knee into your chest, then cross it over your body and onto your right side. Your left knee will be reaching toward the bed, and your right shoulder will be reaching toward the bed, and your spine is suspended in a twist. Breathe deep, detoxifying breaths here for 1 minute (or about 10 breaths) then switch legs. 


3. Reclined Cobbler's Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

From your twist, you are now ready to ease into sleep-mode, and this is one final easy hip opener before you do. Bend your knees so that you can place the soles of your feet together, knees open to the sides. Option to place pillows beneath your knees for more hip support. Allow your knees to give into gravity, and this takes time, so stay in this restorative pose for at least 2-3 minutes. I find it is very easy to sleep right from this pose. As you breathe, notice any thoughts that linger, and make a point to set them aside. 

Sweet dreams, and Namaste.