Whether you are having trouble sleeping, or simply want a juicy reward at the end of a long day, use a quiet and blissful Yin Yoga practice to help lull you closer to a deep and delicious night sleep.
Yin yoga is about letting go of anything that doesn't serve you. If something is on your mind and keeps your brain ticking, or if a physical injury prevents you from falling asleep, use the practice of falling into gravity in Yin holds to aid you in releasing that tension over time. Little by little, it will melt away.
You could hold just one of these postures for 8-10 minutes, or spend a good five minutes in each hold as you work through all five postures. Choose to take large, deep, cleansing breaths at the start of each posture. Try to relinquish the stresses of the day with each exhale, then work on surrendering your muscles to gravity as you melt into the shape thereafter.
So if you have friends and loved ones asking for your recommended yoga poses for insomniacs, share with them these five yoga poses to help them get better sleep.
1. Child’s Pose
Simple, yet effective. Child’s Pose turns us inward and calms the heart. It also provides us with a way to block the outside world out. After a stressful day, nothing is better than turning inwards and focusing only on you and your needs.
Traditionally, a Yin version of Child’s Pose is held with the knees together and arms down by your sides. You can rest your forehead on the ground, a block, or drape your torso over a bolster and allow yourself to drip into a deep slumber with one cheek on the mat.
2. Reclined Butterfly
Holding Reclined Butterfly can be super soothing because it pacifies the mind and opens the chest and lungs so that you can get more oxygen to all the organs and the brain. This in turn relaxes the muscles and helps you on your way to dream town.
Lie down on your back with a large bolster running from your tailbone to your neck. Place a block under your head and bend your knees to allow them to fall open with your feet touching.
3. Reclined Twist
Yoga twists are famous for their detox value—they literally wring us out! But aside from the physical, sometimes we need a mental detox to help us process the day and get to sleep more easily.
Use a simple reclined twist by laying on your back with knees bent, letting the knees fall to one side. Cactus the arms and let your gaze fall in the opposite direction to your knees. You could use a block or bolster under your knees for extra support, then simply let gravity do the work for you as you close your eyes and sink into the hold. When you feel balanced, switch sides.
4. Cat Tail Pose
This complicated little posture is a Yin yogi’s favorite when it comes to softening and relaxing. Most students start falling asleep with just a minute of the hold. It has the mental detoxing effects of the reclined twist and the chest-opening effects of the Reclined Butterfly.
From your belly, roll onto your right hand side with your head nestled on your right arm. Bend your left knee so that it is on a bolster in front of your navel. Bend the right knee and move that leg backwards into a running-man position. Circle the left arm up and back until your shoulder rolls open and the arm rests behind your back.
Your head will now roll backwards off of your arm to the ground or onto a pillow to deepen the twist, and open the chest. Let your arm and head drip to the ground heavily using as many pillows or supporting props as needed to maintain comfort. That hand could now catch your back foot (Cat’s Tail) or just rest on the floor or another bolster behind you.
To switch sides, roll onto your belly and rest for a moment before setting up.
5. Legs Up the Wall
We all know and love this shape—supportive, relaxing, and relieving. Try it with a bolster under your low back for a little extra elevation through the hips. You could also try placing a sandbag on your feet to help encourage a deeper hip massage.
If you find coming into this posture challenging, try sitting next to the wall with your legs running along the wall. Then brace with your hands and climb your legs up the wall as you spin your hips into place.
As you fold and unfold into the practice, try to compassionately let go of anything that persistently rises up. Attempt to witness what arises as a third party and not attach to any thoughts, stressors, or memories that enter your mind.
Allow your body to slip quietly into a deep slumber, free of those stressful moments our days can be full of, free of the nagging thoughts that continually circulate and keep us awake, and free of any worry about things that have yet to happen. Sleep tight, yogis!
Image Credit: Stephanie Birch