Stress is an all-too-common issue in our modern world. With an endless number of underlying causes, it’s something we all have to actively work at to protect our health and well-being. Unfortunately, stress doesn’t just tense up our muscles and get our hearts racing; it also impairs our sleep, leaving potentially devastating results. In this article, we’ll look at how yoga can help those suffering from stress-induced sleep deprivation, and a few poses to get you started on your yoga journey.
Yoga has long been an activity known and recognized for calming and relaxing those who practice it. Naturally, this makes it an excellent choice for those who are feeling overly stressed. Not only does yoga get the body moving, but it also eliminates a lot of muscle tension. Yoga also requires you to give your total attention to the exercise. Because you’re focusing solely on your body and breathing, it’s easier to let stress fall by the wayside.
So, let’s look at ten of the best yoga poses for stress relief and improved sleep.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Begin by kneeling on your mat, keeping legs together and sitting back on your heels.
- Bend at your waist and lower your chest until it rests on your thighs (try to put the forehead on the floor).
- Let your shoulders curl forward and your hands rest (palms up) alongside your feet. Take five breaths before moving into cat pose.
Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
- Start on all fours and take a deep breath. As you exhale, draw your belly button in towards your spine and round your back.
- Be sure to point the crown of your head towards the floor, and then inhale and return to a flat back. Immediately shift to Cow Pose, alternating between them until you have done each pose eight times.
Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
- From all fours, inhale as you let your belly button drop towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and try to gaze at the ceiling.
- Be sure you stretch out your shoulder blades and pull them down and away from the ears before exhaling into Cat Pose. After alternating between Cat Pose and Cow Pose eight times, move into Downward Facing Dog.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- From Cow pose, place your hands on the floor and sit on the knees. Tuck the toes and lift the buttocks and hips towards the ceiling.
- Keep your fingers wide and make sure that your legs are straight and your heels are flat. Relax the head between the arms and gaze at the legs. Hold for a count of ten and then drop back slowly into a plank and lower yourself to the mat.
- From the mat, lay on your belly and place your palms beneath your shoulders. Press evenly with both palms to lift your chest and draw up the shoulder blades.
- Pull your shoulders away from your ears and lift your chest higher with your head tilted upward.
- Take three breaths, slowly return to the mat, and turn onto your back.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Lay on your back with knees bent and apart. Your feet should be flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Place your arms alongside your body with palms face down on the mat.
- Inhale and lift your pelvis, gently easing your spine from the floor. Allow your weight to press into your shoulders as you lift the buttocks a bit higher. Hold for eight deep breaths and release slowly to the floor.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
- Sit down with both of your legs extended in front of you. Press your heels into the mat and flex your feet.
- Inhale to extend your arms up overhead and sit tall. As you exhale, fold your upper body forward over your legs, maintaining a flat upper back, and use your hands to hold onto your calves, ankles, or feet.
- Remain in the pose for ten breaths, and move more deeply into the pose with every exhale.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
- Take a standing position and exhale as you bend forward and reach with your palms towards the floor. Your ultimate goal is to touch your thighs with your head.
- Let your spine stretch as you tuck your chin up, and then press your tailbone away and up to stretch the legs deeply.
- Hold for eight breaths and then inhale as you stand and lift your arms to your sides.
Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
- From the standing position, jump and spread the feet three feet apart. Raise the arms and reach out to the side, palms down.
Turn the left foot in and to the right while turning the right foot 90 degrees outward. Turn the right thigh outward.
- Exhale and bend at the hip, rotating the torso to your left and reach with the right hand towards the floor.
- You can rest your hand on the shin, ankle or the floor outside of the right foot while extending the left arm towards the ceiling. Gaze at the left hand and hold the pose for 30 seconds before returning to a standing pose before reversing and repeating on the other side.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
- Lying flat on the mat, with legs together and arms at side, close the eyes and inhale deeply.
- Focus on each part of the body, starting at the top of the head. Take three to five minutes in this pose.
All done! You’ve just completed an anti-stress, pro-sleeping yoga routine that is sure to help you feel better every time you do it.