Sleep deprivation can be a major source of stress in our lives. These 5 simple yoga poses can assist in relieving tension in the body, calming the mind and lowering overall stress levels. Spending a few minutes practicing yoga each night can prove to be a very effective natural sleep remedy.
1. Viparita Karani, or Legs Up the Wall.
Begin by sitting with your left side against the wall. Gently turn your body to the left and slowly swing your legs up onto the wall, using your hands for balance as you shift your weight.
Lower your back to the floor and lie down, resting your shoulders and head on the floor. If your hamstrings are tight today, you may like to move your buttocks further away from the wall and allow your knees to be slightly bent. To increase the stretch, you can move your buttocks closer to the wall.
Allow your arms to rest by your sides, with palms facing the ceiling. Close your eyes and hold the pose for 5-10 minutes, focusing on your breathing. To release, slowly move your body away from the wall and slide your legs down to the right side. Use your hands to help press yourself back up into a seated position.
This pose eases anxiety and stress. It can be therapeutic for arthritis, headaches, high blood pressure, low blood pressure and insomnia. It relieves tired legs and relieves lower back pain by gently stretching the hamstrings, legs and lower back. ‘Legs Up the Wall’ is very effective in helping to calm the mind.
2. Janu Sirsasana, or Head to Knee Pose.
Sit with your legs straight in front of you (either on the floor or with a pillow/blanket under the buttocks to create height). As you inhale, bend your right knee, drawing the right heel toward your groin. Rest the sole of your right foot lightly against your inner left thigh, and allow the right knee to fall towards the floor. You can place a pillow underneath the right knee for extra support, if you need.
Line up your navel with the middle of the left thigh. As you inhale, sit up tall, feeling the sit bones in contact with the floor. As you exhale, slowly walk the hands towards the left foot. Remember, it doesn’t matter how far you are stretching. Gently grab hold of anywhere that is comfortable for you (left foot, ankle, shin, knee or thigh) and take some slow deep breaths. Become aware of the stretch in your back and hamstring.
Stay in this pose for 1-3 minutes. As you inhale, slowly walk your hands back towards the body and return to a seated position. Repeat the instructions on the other side, for the same length of time.
‘Head to Knee Pose’ calms the mind and can help relieve mild depression. It stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings, and groin whilst stimulating the liver and kidneys to improve digestion.
3. Badhakonasana, or Butterfly Pose
As you inhale, sit up tall with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feel together towards your pelvis.
Grab your feet tightly with your hands and inhale deeply. As you exhale, gently press the thighs and knees downward towards the floor. If you like, you can slowly begin flapping both knees up and down, like the wings of a butterfly. Continue with slow, deep breaths.
Once you have stopped moving your knees, take a deep breath in. As you exhale, bend forward at the hips, keeping your chin up and spine long. Press your elbows on the thighs, gently moving the knees closer to the floor. Once you can feel the stretch in your inner thighs, take long, deep breaths, relaxing the muscles more and more.
As you inhale, slowly come back to a seated position. On your next exhale, gently release the legs in front of you and relax.
‘Butterfly Pose’ is a wonderful stretch for the inner thighs, groins and knees, which improves flexibility in the hip region. This pose helps intestine and bowel movement, and relieves tired legs.
4. Supta Matsyendrasana, or Reclined Twist
Begin by lying on your back. As you inhale, hug your right knee in towards the chest, lengthening the left leg on the floor. Place your left hand on the right knee, and extend the right arm out, level with your shoulder. On your next exhale, slowly lower the right knee towards the floor on the left side, twisting the spine and looking over at your right hand.
Allow gravity to lower the right knee, remembering that it doesn’t matter how low the knee is towards the floor. Close your eyes and try to ensure the right shoulder remains in contact with the floor. Bring your awareness to your breath and hold for 6-10 breaths.
To release, inhale and roll both hips back to the floor. On your next exhale, slowly release your right leg back down to the floor. Repeat the instructions on the other side, for the same length of time.
Twists are great for digestive health as they encourage fresh blood flow to digestive organs. This pose lengthens the spine and brings balance to the body.
5. Savasana, or Corpse Pose
Lie down on the floor with your legs out straight. You can place a pillow under your head if this is more comfortable for you. Try to keep your neck long and straight, without allowing your head to turn to one side. Draw your shoulder blades down your spine and broaden through your chest.
Rest your arms beside your body, and allow them to roll out so your palms are facing the ceiling. Try to completely relax your fingers. Allow your feet to fall from side to side. Check that your body is in a straight line and that you are resting evenly on both sides.
Once you are comfortable, resist the urge to continue to readjust. Try to remain still and quiet in order to become aware of your body relaxing deeply into the floor.
Allow your eyes to rest completely. They may feel as though they are sinking into your head. Create a small space between your teeth and allow your tongue to be relaxed and still.
Again, become aware of your breath; quiet and soft. Try to breathe in for the count of 4, and breathe out for the count of 6. Lengthening your exhale triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which is known for “resting and digesting”.
Try to scan your body and, as you exhale, release any tension and thoughts you might be holding on to. Try to stay in this pose for 5-20 minutes. To release, you might like to begin by hugging your knees into your chest and rolling to your right side. Wait here for a short time before sitting up.
Savasana is a wonderful opportunity to relax the body and calms our busy minds. This pose helps to lower blood pressure and can also reduce headaches, fatigue, and insomnia.