Thursday, February 26, 2015

Taming the Waking Lion: Yoga Poses to Invoke Restful Sleep

Ask any girl her priority between sleep and sex and the majority of us will say sleep before sex. For males, it's the opposite (not really a 'knock your socks off' fact), sorry guys! A good night of sleep to me is the foundational beginning to a fabulous day. Sleep holds a strong grip on our creativity and mood plus determines how hungry and satisfied with food we feel. Thus, I am here to wave a pretty gift of sleep in front of you: Welcome, yoga poses for sleep. 

The first time I introduced my husband to yoga, I took him to the most hard-core yoga class I knew of; heated yoga sculpt, which is yoga with weights in a 100 degree studio. Prior to this class, he dismissed yoga as a workout just as easily as one could disregard curling as an Olympic sport. He actually ended up walking out of the class early because he thought he was going to pass out. Unfortunately, it was his first and last time to a yoga mat. But he never mocked yoga again. Our take-away lesson from this: Never underestimate the power of yoga.

Yoga has a plethora of benefits, such as digestion, improving blood flow, balancing hormones, increased flexibility, and muscle strengthening all while wearing ultra-comfy yoga pants. While yoga can collectively improve these things you could also specifically focus on one goal with gusto. For purposes of this article and because beauty sleep becomes less imaginary as I age, I'm here to share some tools to help you snooze like it's your job. These poses don't require a yoga mat, a punch-card or even any (yoga) pants to perform them.


Yoga Poses For Sleep: 
Scenarios: 


Scenario #1. Your Emergency Pass Out Plan!
 It's 2am, you woke from a deep sleep, wide awake and you have a BIG day ahead of you. Instead of letting your mind cycle through repetitive thoughts, be proactive... You can do these poses in bed with minimal risk of waking your (snoring) significant other or the dog. These both start with deep breathing and could end with corpse pose but any order and even doing only one move at a time, will work just as well. 

Start with deep breathing, breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Calm your nervous system with oxygen and maybe even start a mantra, repeating inside your head, "re-lax." Give this about 20 breaths before moving on. 

Supine Twist. Lay on your back (hold your arms out in a T-shape if you have the space) keeping knees together and legs bent, let both legs fall to the left side while you look to the right. Hold this for 10 breath cycles to release anxiousness, then switch sides. Twists are great for cleansing your organs also, (your liver) if maybe you aren't sleeping because you had too much wine? It could happen. 



Alternate nostril breathing. Practice alternate nostril breathing by covering your right nostril and breathing in and out 10-20 times, then switch nostrils. This is instantly relaxing. For an additional variation, hold legs in criss-cross position, place blankets or pillows under your thighs so there is no stretching, just relaxing and hold this while tuning in to your alternate nostril breathing.


Hormonal Balancing Thumbs. Laying on your back, bring your thumbs to touch the space between your eyebrows and press with light pressure. This balances your hormones and to calm the mind and regulate sleep.
                           


Corpse Pose. * My fav! * Laying on your back, open your legs to wider than hip width, to whatever degree is comfortable. Let your feet splay out. Relax your arms by your sides with your palms facing up. Stop here and just breath. If you need to mentally tell each part of your body to relax first you can start at your scalp, your jaw, move to your elbows, your knees, your toes, everything. Let it all go with an exhale breath and then just breath in and out slowly. This pose relaxes your central nervous system within 60 seconds, but give it a go for a few minutes, ten if you can. This is a position you might pass out in, enjoy every nano second of it. 

Scenario #2: Sleep Induced Bliss: 
You're winding down for the evening and want to invoke the most peaceful sleep you can. You've got a little time on your side and you're eager to rock a killer night of sleep. Let's make this night of sleep one for the record books. 

Start with deep breathing, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Calm your nervous system with oxygen and start a mantra, repeating over inside your head, "re-lax." Give this about 10 breaths before moving on. 














    Seated forward Bend
    Starting in cross-legged position, hinge forward at your hips and slower lower your forhead to the floor. To help your head reach, sit on a blanket or pillow. A variation is to keep your legs straight out in front of you and fold over them, grabbing your legs or feet. Relax your face and neck. Give yourself a calf/foot massage for a bonus. Hold for 10 breaths.                          

If your hamys will let 'cha, go for it!




Legs up wall (or headboard). Lay down with your legs up against the wall (or bed) as close as you can get your booty while being comfortable. Place a blanket under your hips/butt for extra comfort and an inversion. Hold your legs up against the wall for up to 5 minutes. This move is great for dealing with edema in your ankles/legs, so I tend to use it when I'm traveling and get swollen feet/ankles. Important to note this pose should not be done if pregnant.  





Happy Baby. Laying on your back, hold onto the outsides of your feet and gently pull down on your legs. You want your shins and forearms as vertical as possible. This is also good for lower back pain. Hold for 10 deep breaths,  I dare you NOT to smile while holding this.
                                    
                                              Happy Baby - Yes



Locust Pose. Starting in a plank position, lower yourself down to your belly. Clasp hands behind your back (or hold them behind you if more comfortable). Keeping tops of your feet pressing against the floor, lift chest, head and arms while looking forward. Hold for up to one minute and repeat 5 times. 





  • Corpse Pose. This is a fabulous pose to end with. Laying on your back, open your legs to wider than hip width, to whatever degree is comfortable. Let your feet splay out. Relax your arms by your sides with your palms facing up. Stop here and just breath. If you need to mentally tell each part of your body to relax first you can start at your scalp, your jaw, move to your elbows, your knees, your toes, everything. Let it all go with an exhale breath and then just breath in and out slowly. This pose relaxes your central nervous system within 60 seconds, but give it a go for a few minutes, ten if you can. This is a position you might pass out in, enjoy every nano second of it.
                             
   The more you can practice these poses and do them as part of an      evening ritual, the better. Your body and mind thrive on structured routine so if you get used to these before bed, they will become your                    non-prescription Ambien, minus the sleep-walking.

Sleep peacefully my little yogi.