When was the last time you fell into bed knowing that as soon as your head hit the pillow you would drift off into sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 60% of adults in the US get fewer than eight hours of sleep a night, and even more (around 70%) frequently experience trouble sleeping. However, a good night’s sleep is one of the most important happiness boosters. Sleeping well (and enough) increases well-being and reduces depression and stress levels. For a good night’s sleep and a serious happiness boost, add one or more of these nine practices to your bedtime yoga routine.
9 Practices to boost your bedtime yoga routine
1. Positive Reflections List
What we focus on affects how we feel. Focusing on the positive decreases depression and increases happiness. Writing down positive moments from the day can even help you sleep better. Before you go to bed, write down three things that went well during the day or that you are thankful for from the day. Be specific and reimagine the moment while you journal. Keep a dedicated small notebook for this list next to your yoga mat, or consider collecting them in a jar of awesome.
2. Sama Vritti Pranayama
The simple act of deep breathing can ease depression and stress. Breathing exercises also focus the mind away from stressors, calm it, and prepare it for sleep. Instead of lying awake worrying about the past or future, focus on deep breathing. To relax, try sama vritti (equal breathing) before bed. Breath in and out of the nose for an equal count. Start by counting to three and as you progress in your practice increase to four or five. Whichever breathing technique for sleep brings you joy and peace, focus all your attention on your deep breaths to help you wash away the thoughts and worries of the day.
3. Restorative Yoga
Set the mood for sleep with a restorative yoga practice to encourage relaxation. It’s a quiet, supported, and slow practice that promotes opening the body through the use of pillows, blankets, and long holds. Dim the lights, light candles, and try a few restorative yoga poses. A few of my favorites include supported Bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana) on either a block or bolster, supported Child’s pose (Balasana), and Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani).
4. Forward Folding Poses
Forward folds can activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for relaxation. Incorporate several forward bending poses , such as Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana) and Seated Head to Knee pose (Janu Sirsasana), into your bedtime yoga routine to calm the mind and promote rest. There are other bedtime yoga poses that can also be used to prep your body and mind for rest.
5. Extra Long Savasana
Corpse pose (Savasana) reduces stress and tension. Let your breath be steady and even as you imagine the stress melting away with each exhale as your body settles deeper onto your mat. Placing a bolster or several yoga blankets under your knees will encourage deeper relaxation. You might even practice this pose in bed to help you fall asleep!
6. Relaxing/Meditative Music
Listening to calming music helps us unwind and induces sleep like a lullaby. Experiment with different meditative tunes while deeply stretching inrelaxing poses or while sitting in meditation. When you find something you like, listen for at least 45 minutes before going to bed. A consistent routine of playing calming music will create a cue for your body and mind to relax and prepare for a restful night.
7. Warm Milk with Nutmeg
Ayurveda, a healing system developed in India, is often referred to as yoga’s sister science. In Ayurvedic practice, spiced milk or golden milk is often recommended for sleep. The warm milk beverage includes nutmeg, which is a mild sedative. It can also contain turmeric, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. Add a little honey for sweetness, heat up a glass, sip, and enjoy!
Massaging your feet and head reaps major relaxation benefits. The body’s energy channels (nadis) begin at the forehead between the eyes and end in the feet. Pressure points are also found here. So, a quick massage has big relaxation returns. Use a warm oil and massage both feet and the head or temples, then soak your feet in warm water.
9. Essential Oils
Essential oils may relieve anxiety and depression. Lavender essential oil may be linked to better sleep. You can dilute the oil in a carrier oil (sweet almond, apricot kernel, etc.) and massage into your temples, wrists, or feet. You may also choose to use a diffuser, letting the scent permeate your room. There are many essential oil blends for sleep that you can explore using.
Create your bedtime yoga routine
Any or all of these will help you relax in the evening and eventually sleep better and feel happier. Pick the practices that speak to you and try them. You can practice evening yoga whenever is best for your schedule. Many people find these calming practices work best done just before sleep. Other people use evening rituals to help them shift modes from work time to downtime. Once you fine the routine that works best for you, stick with it! A regular and established bedtime routine will produce the strongest benefits of evening yoga.
Bonus: when you wake up, you can also start the day with some morning yoga and use these nine practices to boost your morning routine.
Let us know how the practices you tried worked for you and what other techniques you use in your evening rituals to promote rest, rejuvenation, and deep sleep.