I don’t know what I did before yoga. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hardcore yogi but I certainly have days when I need yoga in my life. It helps me relax, stretches muscles I haven’t used in a long time or clears my head.
Yoga is the perfect natural cure for insomnia. The more you do it, the better you become at it and the greater effect it has on your entire being. Yoga works wonders for the body, mind and spirit. Even if you’re never done yoga before, you can jump right in with a short series of poses that are meant to relax, de-stress and prepare the body for a good night’s sleep.
Next time you’re faced with a bout of insomnia, try this series of yoga poses to ensure a deeper and more restful sleep.
Begin with a sacral massage. Lie on your back on the floor with your arms and legs out straight. Press your hands into the floor firmly but gently and pull your pelvis inward so that you are pressing the small of your back into the floor. Take several deep, slow breaths. Slowly pull your legs toward you until you are hugging your knees into your chest. Take a deep breath in, then let it out gradually. Rock back and forth from side to side, breathing gently and deeply.
Next, go into a shoulder stand.
You are still on your back, with your knees pulled in. Now you will slowly lift your feet up into the air. Place your elbows against the floor and put your hands on each side of your waist. With one swift but gentle movement, lift your pelvis off the floor with legs still straight up. Pull your waist inward as you take deep, slow breaths and point your heels skyward.
Continue to strongly support your waist with your hands as you reach your feet overhead and focus on straightening your torso with waist sucked in gently. This pose can be challenging for beginners. If you can’t seem to steady your torso so that everything is in alignment from your shoulders all the way to your feet, that’s okay.
This pose feels wonderful even if yours needs a little practice. It allows the blood to flow to the liver and other organs, and works against gravity. There is a modified version of shoulder stand where the waist is slightly bent but the feet are still up in the air, with shoulders and elbows supporting. Feel free to try this less strenuous version. Shoulder stand, like all of the inverted yoga poses, is highly relaxing and restorative to the body.
Move into Plough pose.
Shoulder stand flows easily into plough pose, which is another somewhat challenging position that comes with great relaxation and restoration benefits. From shoulder stand where your legs are in the air, pull your legs in toward your body as you gently bring your waist back to the floor to a flat-back position. Breathe deeply. Tuck your arms underneath your back as you open the chest and shoulder area for a strong posture. Pull your legs over your head and then behind you. They are out straight. Your toes are reaching for a spot on the floor behind you. Your shoulders are engaged, head tucked into your chest, and your arms are behind your back. You’re making a tipped L shape with your body. You are breathing slowly and deeply, and your throat and thyroid are receiving a nice massage by being constricted in this fashion. Hold this pose for several breaths.
The next pose after Plough is bridge.
Slowly raise your legs and unfold your body until you have returned to a supine position (lying on your back with legs straight out. In the last pose, you had your arms at your side and then tucked them under to hold a strong shoulder posture. You’ll be doing this again for bridge pose, only this time you’re going to do a backbend. So, breathing slowly and deeply, place your arms at either side of your body and tuck them under you a bit. Bracing yourself by firmly planting fee on the floor, raise your pelvis off the floor, keeping arms engaged for support. Raise your backside into the air as high as it will go. Breathe deeply and try to relax into this challenging pose. Bridge is similar to Wheel pose or a backbend, except that instead of using your feet and hands to support you, you use your feet and arms.
Relax your spine after that series of stretches, with Inverted Child’s Pose. Once you’ve breathed through a good strong bridge pose, you’ll want to give your back and neck a few moments to relax and allow the blood and healing oxygen to flow through your body. So take your waist back down to the floor and slowly bring your feet in to hug them. Give yourself a good, firm squeeze while breathing deeply. You can also repeat the sacral massage, is this is a good way to realign after that challenging series.
Move into Lotus pose/neck stretches.
Slowly go from the inverted child’s pose and sacral massage to the lotus position. You’ll need to sit up for this. Do it with slow, deliberate but calm movements. Bring your feet in toward your pelvis to the “butterfly” position. You should be cupping your ankles with your hands as you sit up tall and strong. Legs are open and knees are bent. Firmly push your sit bones (pelvis) into the floor. This is very grounding, and allows the energy to flow to your reproductive organs. Still clasping your ankles with your hands, move your legs slowly up and down as though you’re a butterfly fluttering its wings. Continue to take deep breaths while maintaining a strong upright posture. When you’re ready, take your neck into some gentle stretches. Put your chin to your chest and squeeze your throat area. Tip your head all the way back to feel the stretch in the front of your neck. Move your head toward the right shoulder, slowly. Now the left. Next, make slow circles with your head, moving slowly, gentle and mindfully. Take plenty of deep breaths. When you constrict, you should be breathing in. When you stretch, you should be releasing air from the lungs.
While in lotus, do neck slow neck stretches: forward and back, side to side, around to the right and left, and then rotate your neck slowly in a circle to the left and right.
Locust pose gives a massage to the pelvic region including the reproductive organs. Begin in the prone position, lying on your stomach on the floor with legs out straight behind you. Hands are planted firmly against the floor, pushing down, also at your sides. Begin by taking a deep breath in and pulling in your waist to elongate your spine. This is the opposite of arching your back.
Breathe again, and now shift at the waist so that you are arching, hands still firmly engaged into the floor at both sides. Move into an arched position, and work on pushing into your pelvic bones so that your legs, still straight out behind you, lift off the floor. Your arms can either be in a “superman” flying position facing forward, or you can put them straight out behind you alongside of your legs. The focus is to keep the legs and arms lifted while grounding the pelvis into the floor. Continue to breathe for several counts. This is one of the more challenging poses in this relaxing series.
Locust moves easily into cobra.
Here, you are allowing your legs to rest as they splay out behind you. Meanwhile, you are lifting the front of your body, rising from waist to shoulders, head poised in an “attacking cobra” position. Arms are at your sides with palms placed flat on the floor. You will push off from the palms of the hands and send your energy out through the ends of your feet and your mouth. Breathe from your pelvic region. This is a triumphant pose that brings blood flow to the reproductive organs.
Ease into cat and cow (go back and forth between these several times), then rest in child pose.
Once you finish Cobra, you can get on your hands and knees (as if you were scrubbing the floor) for some cat and cow stretches. These do wonders for the spine. This is basically slow, relaxed and controlled arching and rounding of your back. Involve your neck and shoulders as you alternate between cat and cow. Breathe in on cat and out on cow. Take your time. Breathe steadily. Be mindful of the stretch and how good it makes you feel. End by tucking your head and hugging your knees, essentially rolling yourself into a ball as in child’s pose. You can also do child’s pose where your knees are pulled in but you stretch out your arms
Down facing dog may be considered challenging initially.
However, the more you do it, the stronger your arms become and the easier and more effective this pose gets. To do it from child’s pose, you’ll want to remain in the prone position but then go into a “pushup” position with your hands on either side of your body and your midsection lifted. Then raise your backside into the air, keeping hands and feet engaged and strong, pressing into the floor. Dogs do this stretch naturally. For humans, the pose detoxifies the body. Stay fluid as you breathe through the stretch, allowing your body to arch and then come back to center. Hold this pose for a count of six breaths.
Down facing dog:
Take your down dog into plank position. This is where you go into a pushup position, but instead of pushing against the floor to raise and lower your body, you simply stay still and hold the pose. Arms are slightly bent at the elbow, hands and tips of toes engaged and pushing into the floor. Breathe, and focus on keeping abdominals taut. You can even imagine the energy flowing outward toward your toes, via straightened legs. Hold this pose for six breaths.
Switch between downward facing dog and plank pose a few times – you’ll may notice your back cracking and it feels wonderful.
Now move from plank into forward fold. To do this, pull your backside up as you would in downward dog, but the idea is to walk your feet forward toward your hands, then rise your torso up until you are standing. You may have to shift yourself slightly or maybe even do a little hop to get there. That’s okay. Feet are hip-width apart. If you’re good at making the transition from downward dog to forward fold, you can swoop your arms out and upward (i.e. “spreading your wings”) so that you are standing upright as you reach for the sky as high as you can go. This provides a great spine alignment and stretch. Move slowly and steadily. Then, “swan dive” into forward fold by sweeping your arms out, bending your body in half at the waist and reaching for your toes.
Finish in a seated position for one last lotus pose, or the butterfly wings motion. Posture is lifted. Waist pulled in. Pelvis grinding down into the floor as feet push together with legs open. Clasp your feet with your hands. Open and close your legs slowly. Breathe deeply.
Lotus pose again:
Finish with a corpse pose.
This where you swing your legs around and then go from sitting to laying on your back. Place arms at your sides. You may put a blanket over you if you tend to become chilled during this final relaxation. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and evenly. Focus on keeping your body perfectly still, breathing through your diaphragm. If you fall asleep that’s okay.
When finished with your yoga sequence, drink a couple of big glasses of water or herbal tea. Say goodbye to tension and hello to rest, relaxation, balance and healing. Sleep well, friend. Enjoy your Best Lyfe.