What is Bedtime Yoga?

Being an occasional insomniac, I’m always on the lookout for good advice for sleepless nights. You can increase your chances of a good night’s sleep by doing a short restorative bedtime yoga practice just before bedtime. One of the main causes of insomnia is stress and an over-active mind, and yoga triggers the relaxation response in the body. (Although some nights there just isn’t anything you can do but get a good book and a snack and settle in on the couch. But don’t give up before you’ve tried this sequence!)

Timothy McCall’s excellent book Yoga as Medicine has a chapter on insomnia, and he mentions some pretty interesting points on how bedtime yoga can help:
  • Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping the body and mind calm down and reducing the level of stress hormones such as cortisol in the blood.
  • Studies show that inverted yoga poses promote sleep by triggering the baroreflex (a blood pressure reflex), decreasing blood pressure. Regular practice of inversions is believed to be especially calming for the nervous system. If you are comfortable practicing shoulder stand and headstand, include these in your regular practice.
  • Ayurveda sees insomnia as something caused by an excess of Vata (one of the three doshas, dosha = that which becomes unbalanced. Ayurvedic advice for insomnia are meant to reduce Vata: Establish a general routine going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, eat warm nutritious meals at regular times, and stop all work one or two hours before bed.
  • If you wake up in the middle of the night, try practicing some gentle Ujjayi Pranayama while lying on your back in bed. Count each exhalation until you reach ten, then start over.

Hope bedtime yoga may help you to get rid of sleepless nights.

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