Looking for a way to relax and unwind before sleep? Try yoga! Yoga is an incredibly relaxing and restorative practise, and we’ve brought in naturopath Danielle Fourie to tell us all about her favourite yoga poses.
Feeling relaxed and rested before you hit the hay is the ultimate strategy for sleeping well. But sometimes we just can’t release the tension in our body and mind enough to get to that space. So, inevitably, we end up going to bed and just tossing and turning all night long and hoping for the best.
While high-intensity exercise before bed is counterproductive to reaching that optimal level of zen, there are some other things you can do that will loosen the muscles, relax the mind, deepen the breathing and give you the right level of blood flow to get yourself into prime sleep position.
My favourite for this is yoga. As a naturopath and believer that health should be holistic, yoga ticks all the boxes. It works on the physical body, it works for the mind, it stimulates internal organs and promotes mindfulness; a full holistic therapy that is accessible to anyone. What a bonus!
For an extra relaxation boost, do some breathing exercises (like square breathing) before the stretching.
Here are 8 of my favourite bedtime stretches:
1. Standing forward bend pose (Padangusthasana)
This is all about lengthening and strengthening the back of the legs. However, when used for relaxation, it relieves tension on the lower spine and stretches out the back of the thighs.
2. Seated hero pose (Virasana)
This pose encourages flexibility in knees, ankles, thighs and hips. Reducing tightness in legs and hips is important for reducing tension in the lower body and reducing the possibility of restless leg syndrome, which impairs restful sleep.
3. Wide childs’ pose (Balasana)
This pose is a gentle way to stretch the hips and thighs and relieves pain in the back and neck when supporting the torso. It is also a great stress reliever and helps reduce fatigue.
4. Upward dog pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
This pose is great for relieving sciatic pain (a common ailment keeping many awake at night), as well as stretching out the front body and opening it up. This is important for improving digestion and allowing more space for breathing.
5. Cat pose (Marjaryasana) & cow pose (Bitilasana)
Cat relieves neck tension and stretches out the spine, while cow aids the lower back and improves circulation and breathing ability. This is another good combination for that pesky lower back pain that often accompanies our office and seated lifestyle.
6. Supine twist pose (Supta Jathara Parivartanasana)
This is one of my favourites for stress relief. Tension in the back from daily life is one of the enemies of restful sleep, and this pose works on that.
7. Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
This is my go-to pose for tired legs after a day on my feet. This stretches out the front body, while providing some support and strengthening for the back body. If your sleep is impaired by aching legs, back pain or even menstrual symptoms, this pose should definitely be included in your nightly regime.
8. Corpse pose (Savasana)
The ultimate relaxation in a pose. Save this one for the last in your sequence. Corpse pose promotes full body relaxation and calms the brain and mind.
New to yoga and don’t quite know how to do these poses? No problem! Check out the pocket yoga dictionary online at www.pocketyoga.com where you can search a pose and find out how it’s done.
If you prefer to follow an already set routine with a great teacher, check out Yoga with Adriene, who has videos that are suitable for all levels.
Remember: the best way to get your body into sleep mode daily is to form great sleeping habits and routines. So, practising this nightly is going to get you the best results.
Happy stretching and happy sleeping.
About the Author:
Danielle Fourie is a bachelor qualified naturopath who has a special interest in mental health, emotional wellness and sleep disorders, alongside optimising digestive health to support health and well-being. She is passionate about providing each client a unique and individualised, holistic experience to help them achieve their personal health goals. Danielle offers full naturopathic consultations in person and digitally. For more information, please contact Danielle via the website or social media pages.