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Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Yoga and Sleep
By Faye Martins
Chances are your yoga teacher isn’t with you before bedtime, unless you go directly to bed after your class. It’s hard to fall asleep when your mind is still actively working through the events, concerns and anxieties of the day. Sometimes your body feels exhausted, but when your head hits the pillow, sleep does not come. Millions of people suffer from sleeplessness, which causes a whole host of other problems and health concerns. A good night’s sleep is imperative for a happy, healthy life. In order to help prepare the body for sleep, it’s important to take some quiet, relaxing time at the end of the day. Practicing gentle or restorative yoga before bed allows your mind and body to slow down, releases tension and prepares you for a good rest.
Asana Sequence Before Bedtime
A series of gentle asanas (poses) will encourage sleep. Set the mood by finding a dimly lit, quiet spot. Play quiet music if desired. Start with seated heart opener by sitting on your heels. Place your hands about 10 inches behind your bottom with your fingers pointing behind you. Lean your torso back, letting your head relax and your gaze focus on the ceiling. Breathe deeply and hold for about five breaths.
Slowly move into extended puppy pose by coming down onto your heels and folding forward into child’s pose. Reach your arms out in front of you, lift your forehead off the mat and push your bottom in the air. Curl your toes under to support your lower body.
Come back to a seated position for folded butterfly pose. Place the soles of the feet together and bring your heels as close to your body as possible. Hold your feet or ankles, and then fold your upper body forward to rest your head as close to your feet as possible. Hold for five deep breaths. With each breath, imagine your thoughts leaving your brain and being replaced by peace and calm.
Slowly raise your head up and extend both legs in front of you to begin a seated spinal twist. Bring one knee into the chest with the foot planted firmly on the mat. Bend your opposite arm at the elbow and twist so the elbow rests on the outside of the bent knee. Support yourself by placing the other hand on the floor behind you. Lengthen your spine and open your chest as you breathe deeply for five breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
End of Gentle Yoga Sequence Lie flat on your back with your arms next to your body to end the series with plow pose. Bring your knees up with your feet planted firmly on the yoga mat. Swing your feet over your head so the tops of both feet rest on the mat behind you. Bend or straighten your legs as it suits you. Hold for five deep breaths. You have the option to do relaxation in bed or sleep. Either way, sleeping after yoga is the objective.
Side Notes for Yoga Teachers
Once again, feel free to use this routine for a handout. One point many of us miss during yoga teacher training intensives is the value of student handouts. If you’re currently involved in a yoga instructor training, you may want to consider this when designing an essay. The essay you create today can be a useful handout for your yoga students tomorrow.
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