It’s no secret that finishing a yoga session can leave you blissed out—and maybe ready for bed. Ever start to snooze while lying in savasana? Spending time on your mat regularly can be an effective (and natural) alternative to medication and other measures you might take to help you catch some zzz's. Why?
“One of the things that keeps people awake is cyclical thoughts in the mind, and the whole practice of yoga is about learning to not attach to the mental ups and downs,” says Kyle Miller, the co-founder of Los Angeles' Love Yoga, a studio (now with two outposts—in Venice and Echo Park) that fuses super-slow-paced Katonah yoga with Vinyasa and Iyengar. “In general, it can help you when you experience that spinning-out feeling, and can give you some perspective about it.”
"The breathing is everything—it directly affects the nervous system."
Another big reason yoga can help ease you into zzz’s: the emphasis it puts on your breath. “The breathing is everything—it directly affects the nervous system,” says Gordon. “When you regulate the breath, you regulate the nervous system. Plus, listening to breathing soothes the adrenals and moves you out of the stress response.”
Not all flows are best for bedtime; you wouldn’t want to move through a heart-revving sequence just before trying to sleep. Stick to these four poses and breathing techniques, Miller and Gordon’s favorites for winding down.
Take a few minutes to go through these poses before bed and you’ll be ready to nod off in no time.
1. Viparita Karani (legs up the wall)
Why: Because what’s better at the end of the day than putting your feet up? “This is wonderfully restorative pose to do before bedtime, especially if you’ve spent the day sitting at a desk,” says Miller.
Try it: Lie on the floor with legs perpendicular to the floor, extending up a wall. If you have a yoga block, stick it under your sacrum. Cactus your arms to the side and think about breathing down into the pelvis.
2. Sama Vritti (equal breathing)
Why: Taking the same amount of time to inhale and exhale instantly calms you down. That’s why many meditation practice begin with this breathing, says Gordon.
Try it: Count to 3 as you breathe in slowly, pause, then count to 3 as you exhale. Work up to 8 to 10 counts for each inhalation and exhalation.
3. Nadi Shodhana (alternate-nostril breathing)
Why: “This technique balances the right and left channels of your body and balances your energy,” says Gordon. “It helps clear the mind and calm the nervous system.”
Try it: Press your thumb to your right nostril and your ring finger to your left. Inhale through the left as you block the right nostril with your thumb. Then block the left and exhale out the right. Inhale right and exhale left. Inhale left, exhale right. Continue for 10 rounds.
4. Uttanasana (Standing forward fold)
Why: This pose loosens the entire back half of your body and releases tension in your thighs, knees, and neck.
Try it: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Fold at hips and bend your knees until your rib cage can rest easily on your thighs. Hold elbows with opposite hand and let your neck and head relax completely. Hold for 10 slow breaths.
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