Insomnia and sleep problems affect millions of people every night. Research from the Great British Sleep Survey back in 2011 showed that around half of us struggle to get off to sleep, and to get enough sleep. So I put together a programme of short classes for members called Yoga for Better Sleep. Here are a few of my favourite yoga poses from the programme so you can just pick one or two before bed if you don't get chance to do the full classes:
Seated Shoulder and Neck Release
This pose helps loosen out tension stored in the shoulders and neck. You can sit in any comfortable position, on cushions if you like. There shouldn't be any straining here so don't go to your maximum stretch, it's just a nice gentle release. Let your jaw be loose as well - this will help if you tend to grind or clench your teeth in your sleep. This stretch is also really good to do at your desk. Your hands may not come all the way around to your side waist like on the photo, that's fine, just bring your hand behind your back instead.
Supta Baddha Konasana / Reclined Butterfly Pose
Let your hips melt into the ground (or your mattress) for at least ten breaths. I like to put my hand on my belly and heart but you could have them out to the sides. You can also prop cushions under your knees for extra support.
Reclined Easy Twist
Spend a few moments unwinding the day from your spine. If you've been standing or sitting all day your back with thank you for this. It can help if you tend to fidget to get comfortable in bed. You also get a nice stretch across the front of the chest in this pose.
Janu Sirsasana / Head to Knee Pose
This pose will release hips, hamstrings and your spine. Forward bends are known to be calming and open the back of the body. You can modify this pose in lots of ways. Use a strap around your foot if you can't reach your foot with your hands. If your back is rounding too much you can sit up on blocks or cushions - or you can practise it with a bend in the knee of your extended leg. Read more tips and modifications for Janu Sirsasana.
Supported Childs Pose / Balasana
This is one of my all-time favourite poses - as you can probably tell by the photo :). When you practise Child's Pose over a bolster or a pile of pillows so that your body is completely supported it becomes a perfect restorative pose. Your parasympathetic nervous system can get to work and your body and mind can really relax before you go to bed. You can prop yourself up as high as you like so that it's comfortable for you. Here are a few more variations of Balasana.
Legs up the Wall Pose/ Vipariti Karini
Put your feet up. This is perfect if you've been on your feet all day. As it's an inversion it brings lots of benefits like improving your circulation and lymph flow. You can practise Legs up the Wall Pose without the bolster and also with your hips further away from the wall. You can also let your feet fall wider apart for a stretch of the inner thighs. So how do you get there? Start off lying on your side with your bolster within reach, bring your hips close to the wall. Bend your knees and then roll onto your back. Push into the wall to lift your hips and slide the bolster under your lower back.
I hope these yoga poses help you sleep and don't forget you can practise these in short classes in my Yoga for Better Sleep programme. These classes are aimed at people who may have trouble falling asleep or other sleep problems like grinding teeth or waking up through the night. The classes are all just 10 minutes and you can do them just before you go to bed - or even in bed!