“I used to be so good at sleeping,” my friend Lucy tells me. “Remember?”
It’s true. She could fall asleep anywhere, anytime—in the middle of a party, on a short car ride to the mall, on a concrete slab by the side of the pool after a long night out on the town. But times have changed. She had her second child seven months ago and tells me that if she gets three hours sleep, that’s a good night. The worst nights are when she doesn’t even close her eyes for three seconds.
“I just stare at the ceiling and run through the list of things on my to-do list that I didn’t get to that day. And all of the things on my list I have to do the next day. Then there is part of me that knows as soon as I close my eyes the baby will start to scream, so it’s not even worth the effort.” She orders a third cup of coffee, rubs her temples, and stares into the stroller at her perfectly sleeping child. “Oh he looks innocent and sweet now. Don’t be fooled.”
As I open my mouth to suggest that she come to yoga with me because I think it will help her to relax, she continues. “Most nights I just listen to (husband) John’s breath, and I want to kill him for being able to fall into sleep so easily. Really. I want to smother him with my pillow.” At that point, I decide not to offer up my yogic advice for fear of a similar death threat.
The next day, I asked my yoga teacher for a few moves that promote sleep and she immediately listed off her favorite five poses before bed. Lucy, this is for you, my friend. And for all of you out there who find yourselves staring at the ceiling begging for sleep to come. Om, Shanti.
Read Related: Prenatal Yoga Benefits for Mom and Baby
FIVE POSES FOR BETTER SLEEP
Wide Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Forward bends calm the mind and help to relieve stress. Stand with your hands on your hips and spread your legs approximately four feet apart. Turn your toes in slightly. Take a deep breath in, exhale, and fold forward reaching your hands to the floor. Spread your fingers and keep your hands shoulder distance apart. If possible, rest your head on the floor. Hold for up to five minutes and come out of it slowly.
Legs-up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Practice the spirit of surrender with this incredibly soothing pose, which cools the nervous system and aids in relaxation. Sit facing the wall, with your butt as close as possible. Lie with your back to the floor and extend your legs up the wall. Let your arms rest by your sides, palms facing up, and breath in and out through your nose. Relax your jaw and close your eyes. Hold for up to 10 minutes.
Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Shoulderstand is considered the mother or queen of all poses for its calming effects. From a reclined position, lay your back on one or two folded blankets (about 1-2 inches thick), bringing your shoulders to the end of the blankets and resting your head on the floor. Lift your legs over your head and scoot your shoulder blades underneath you. Bring your hands to your lower back to support your body. Be sure to keep your neck stable and do not look around in this pose. One at a time or together, lift your legs towards the ceiling. If possible, keep your legs and torso at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Close your eyes and relax. Hold for as long as feels comfortable, beginning with a 30 second hold, eventually working your way up to 7-8 minutes. To exit, bring your knees into your chest and slowly roll yourself back to the floor.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This is one of the most comforting poses in all of yoga. It is also a position that children fall into quite naturally, hence the name. Begin by kneeling on a padded floor or your bed. Open your knees wide, bring your feet together, and sit back on your heels. Bend forward, bringing your torso to the floor. Extend your arms out in front of you and rest your forehead on the floor or a blanket. Breathe deeply, taking four to eight counts for each inhale and exhale. Hold for as long as comfortable.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Every yoga class should end with a long, sweet savasana. Oftentimes, I hear my fellow yogis softly snoring within seconds. Lie on your back, palms facing up, and focus on each part of your body. Begin with your toes. Breathe and soften. Once you are focused and calm, move on to your shins and calves. Then your knees. Move all the way to the tips of your fingers and up through the top of your head. If any outside thoughts start to creep in, take deep breaths and refocus. Soften into sleep.