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Yoga for Sleep

child pose yoga.jpg

WE ALL KNOW sleep is important. Every year, it seems, a new study reveals previously unknown benefits to getting enough sleep each night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults ages 24 to 64 and seven to eight hours for adults age 65 and older, yet more than 70 million Americans miss the mark and report that they have trouble sleeping.

With packed schedules and hectic lifestyles, it’s no surprise that sleep falls by the wayside. It doesn’t take long to develop poor sleep habits, but the good news is that it doesn’t take that long to fix these habits. Improving your sleep quantity and quality offers numerous perks for your physical and psychological health.

Sleep Relaxation

Many people find it difficult to shift gears at the end of a busy day and enter relaxation mode. It seems that, no matter how exhausted we are, lying down in bed just means mentally rehashing the day’s events or agonizing about the future. It’s often difficult to “turn off” your brain so you can fall asleep.

Relaxing the body is a great way to also relax the mind. When you relax, your heart rate and breathing slow down, signaling to your brain that it’s time to rest. Here are some sleep relaxation tips to help ease you off to dreamland:

    • Listen to soothing music.
      Ideal relaxation tunes have low pitches, few changes in volume, and tempos of 60 to 80 beats per minute. Classical is often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of bedtime music, but other types of instrumental melodies, such as Celtic and soft jazz, can work as well.
    • Inhale a calming aroma.
      Certain fragrances, such as lavender and Roman chamomile, have a physiological effect, helping to slow the heart rate and reduce blood pressure.
    • Get some exercise.
      The National Sleep Foundation reports on a study that found the “magic number:” at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week leads to significant improvement in sleep quality. That may sound like a lot, but it works out to just 20 minutes every day or 30 minutes for five days out of seven.
Yoga for Sleep

Yoga is an excellent type of exercise to promote sleep. In addition to helping you fulfill your goal of 150 minutes per week, an evening yoga routine can help you relax and prepare for bedtime.

Certain poses may actually help induce sleep, and the practice of yoga calms the mind and body. These poses don’t take up a large chunk of time, most don’t require special equipment, and some can even be done in bed.

Here’s a list of some of the best yoga poses to try if you’re having trouble sleeping:

Legs Up the Wall

This is just what it sounds like. Lie on your back, hips toward the wall. Raise your legs and support them against the wall. Scoot backward a little or place a pillow under your hips if you find the position uncomfortable. Relax in this pose for a minute or two, focusing on your breathing.

Forward Bend

forward bend yoga.jpgSit up straight with your legs in front of you, knees as straight as possible but not “locked.” Slowly lean forward, bending at the waist, with arms in front of you. Rest your hands wherever you feel comfortable, whether that’s on your knees, shins or ankles – don’t push until it hurts. Slowly lower your head until your neck is comfortable. Relax your back and stay in this position for a few breath cycles.

Child’s Pose

Kneel on the bed or floor with knees about hips-width apart and big toes touching. Slowly lower your upper body forward between your thighs. Beginners may need to balance or support with their hands; more advanced practitioners can place the arms behind them, parallel to the thighs.

If you’re new to yoga, consult a doctor to make sure it’s safe to begin a new exercise routine. Start slow – don’t push yourself into poses you’re not ready for.

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