Yoga asanas for a better night’s sleep

Whiling away the hours on the phone as you’re having a hard time falling asleep? Try these 5 poses to sooth your mind and body. By Kshmaya Daniel

In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, sleep appears in the bottom-most category titled Physiological Needs, which holds the most basic and fundamental needs of human beings needed for survival. However, a common misconception doing the rounds is that if you sleep very little one night, and then adequately the next night, you’ve made up for your earlier sleep loss and tiredness. You’d be wrong. For every night that you don’t get your seven or eight hours of sleep, you are building up what is known as a ‘sleep debt’, and it is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. The consequences of a sleep debt are irritability, decreased alertness, memory problems, disorientation, hallucinations, paranoia and general feelings of discomfort or pain. If you ever have trouble sleeping, it is very important to take steps to solve this problem so that you don’t start building a sleep debt. A great way to deal with such a problem is through yoga. It helps ease stress, quieten your mind and deal with troubling thoughts. It also links your mind to your breath, which helps to trigger the parasympathetic system, which then tells your body that it’s time to hit the sack. To help you get started, here are five very easy yoga asanas that can help you sleep better!

1. Standing Forward Bend or Uttanasana
This pose is good for a number of things. It helps to relieve headaches and stress, calms your mind and relieves your body from the tension of being upright all day. It also stretches out and tones your hamstrings, calves and hips.

What to do: Stand upright and tall, your feet firmly on the floor and hands on your hips. Inhale deeply and lean down so that your torso is parallel to your thighs and knees. Place your palms flat on the ground beside your small toes. If you feel a discomfort in your lower back, this means that your hamstrings are too tight for this position, so modify it and keep a small bend in your knees.

2. Seated Spinal Twist or Ardha Matsyendrasana
While gently stretching the spine, this pose is said to create a sense of relaxation in the body. The pose can be done with both legs bent or modified, with one leg stretched.

What to do: Sit on your mat, with your back straight, and your legs stretched out in front of you. Pick your right leg up, bend it at the knee and cross it over your left thigh. Your right foot should be flat on the ground just to the right of your left thigh. You can leave your left leg extended, or you can bend it at the knee and bring it close to your body until the heel touches your posterior. Wrap your left hand around your raised leg and place your right hand behind you for balance with your palm flat on the floor. Repeat with the other leg.

3. Child’s Pose or Balasana
Child’s Pose deeply stretches out your back, calms your nervous system and relieves all tension in the body, helping you sleep well.

What to do: Sit in kneeling position with your feet under you. Fold your torso over until your forehead touches the ground. Keep your arms extended in front of you with your palms on the floor or keep them at your sides with your palms facing up.

4. Leg-Up-The-Wall Pose or Viparita Karani
This pose is excellent for stress relief and relaxation. When we keep our legs up against a wall, it sends all the blood rushing back to the heart; this has a unique soothing quality. Remember to lie on a mat that’s long enough to cushion your head and the length of your spine.

What to do: Sit facing a wall and lie back on your mat. Make sure your buttocks are as close to the wall as possible and then raise your legs up until your knees are straight. Stretch your arms out, so they are perpendicular to your body. Rest in this position with your eyes closed for at least five minutes.

5. Corpse Pose or Savasana
The ultimate relaxation asana, this is the perfect pose to finish up your nightly yoga with. This pose helps you to centre your mind and concentrate on your breathing and release all your stresses.

What to do: Lie on your mat (or bed) and leave a hip-width gap between your legs. Keep your arms by your sides, with your palms facing upward. Take 10 deep breaths while concentrating on your breath. Light’s out!

Photograph: Katemangostar – 

Categories:   Lifestyle, Health & Fitness


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