Gentle Bedtime Yoga & Breathing Exercises For Insomnia (Perfect For Right Now)

June 3, 2020

The most common causes of insomnia are anxiety, stress, and depression, which incidentally are common emotional reactions to the uncertainty of the times that both our nation and our world are experiencing. If you’re experiencing insomnia, you’re not alone. Search engine giant Google reported that searches for “insomnia” hit an all-time high this April 2020. 

Insomnia and sleep are indeed trending topics today, and major entities such as Smithsonian Magazine, the University of Chicago, and Harvard University are studying and releasing data on this suddenly relevant category insomnia linked to COVID-19, as well as civil unrest. Sleep is ever critical as it strengthens the immune system, allows the mind to process trauma, and supports healthy functioning of the brain.

Yoga cannot solve the problems of the global pandemic, nor can it bring racial equality and peace to our cities (or at least no one has tried that yet 😉). But, it certainly can help ease personal emotional difficulties and assist you in getting your much needed REM cycles. 

SleepFoundation.Org has established that yoga can help an individual fall asleep, and over time decrease the frequency of their insomnia. The organization describes that one should create “Wind-Down Time” prior to Lights-Out-Time, and this is when bedtime yoga should occur.

For “Wind-Down Time” Follow these simple instructions, and then practice the yoga poses below. 

  1. Allow at least 30minutes for “Wind Down Time.”
  2. During “Wind-Down Time” stay away from any and all screens.
  3. Dim the lights.
  4. Have some herbal tea. Consider Chamomile, Lavender, Kava, or hot water with lemon. 
  5. Do a short yoga practice. For a bedtime yoga practice, focus on restorative and resting poses that open the hips and chest. No need to work up a sweat 25 minutes before bed! Scroll down for suggested poses.
  6. Meditate and do breathing exercises. Scroll down past the yoga poses below for a few options for breathing exercises. 

Yoga Poses For Before Bedtime

Prasarita

Put your feet into a wide stance, and angle your toes slightly in to assist with balance. Fold at your hips and move the weight into the fronts of your feet. With a straight spine place your hands on the mat. For a deeper expression place your forehead or crown of the head on the mat. You can keep your hands on the mat or move them to your big toes or to the outsides of the feet. Breath.

Camel

Knees should be at least as wide as the hips, but may be slightly wider to target a different area of the hips. With hands in prayer, lean back opening the chest. For a deeper version, brings the hands to the heels. Breath. If you are having trouble keeping the wind pipe open, tilt the chin down.

Reclined Figure Four

Lie on your back with legs bent. Place the ankle of one leg across the knee of the opposite leg, into a figure four. For a deeper version, keep the legs in this position, but bring them towards your chest, holding onto the shin of the leg that is not in figure four. Press your lower back into the mat. Breath. Do both sides. 

Pigeon

Bring one foot across your body, placing the outside of the thigh and calf on the mat. Keep hips even. Keep the opposite leg straight behind you. Recline. Breath. Do both sides. This pose is safe to hold for several minutes on each side. 

Hero Pose

Sit on the mat, on your sitting bones, with your heels on the outside of your hips. Only move deeply into this pose if your knees allow for it. You may place a block underneath your sitting bones. Place your hands on the mat behind you and gently recline to lie on your back. If you are comfortable on your back, bring your arms above your head and hold onto your elbows. Keep your collar bones wide and heart open. Breath.

Cow Face Pose

Place one leg crossed underneath you, and fold the opposite leg on top of it, so both feet are resting on the mat on the sides of your hips. 

Legs Up the Wall Savasana

Find a wall, and lie flat on your back with your legs going up the wall. Your sitting bones should be pressed against the wall to keep you in an “L” shape. Breath and enjoy your savasana. 

Meditation and Breathing Exercises

Sit in a comfortable position, Savasana, or Savasana with Legs up the Wall

  • 4-7-8 breathing: Inhal for 4 seconds, hold breath for 7 seconds, exhale for eight seconds. 
  • Use your left hand to close your left nostril. Inhale for 5 seconds through your right nostril. open your left nostril and close your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril. Repeat for about a minute then switch your inhaling and exhaling nostrils. 
  • For a cleansing breathing exercise, inhale until your lungs are filled, then use your stomach to exhale with force until your lungs are empty. Do this for a full minute, exhaling once per second. Do not use force to inhale, the inhale should happen naturally after you forcefully exhale using your stomach. 
  • Repeat a mantra as you gently breath. It could be something like, “Inhale peace, exhale peace,” or “I believe in good things coming.”
  • Visual Imagery: Imagine you are in a nature scene, alone. Perhaps a garden, a beach, or the mountains. Check in with your senses. In this scene, what do you see when you look left? Flowers? The ocean? What do you hear when you listen? The sound of waves? Birds singing? If you touch the ground what do you feel? Grass? Sand? Ocean water? Stay in this scene for at least 5 minutes. 

 

Sweet dreams all!

Also by Anastasia: Great Contemporary Literature To Read For the 400th Anniversary Of Slavery In America

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Photo: Anastasia Bailey

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Anastasia is a creative writer, yogi, and self-proclaimed animal rescuer living in San Francisco. She has a Master's Degree in Literature and Film, and her passions include reading fiction, exploring California, and jumping in the Pacific Ocean. Follow Anastasia on Instagram @anastasiaartemisbailey.

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