It's 11 p.m., and your mind is still active and alert. You have a big day ahead of you and you know how important sleep is for your overall health and function, but the anticipation and panic of another sleepless night is only amplifying the problem.
Why not try a short yin yoga sequence before bed? Certain yin yoga poses calm the nervous system and promote an undisrupted sleep. Below is a sleep-inducing sequence you can do to get your body into a restful state. Stay in each posture for three to five minutes. Or longer if you feel compelled.
This delicious posture slows the heart rate and nourishes the spine, a structure that supports the entire body. Dangle also massages the intestines, which often feel the discomfort of a nervous mind.
To get into dangle, stand with the feet hip-width apart. Fold forward with bent knees. You may need to bend your knees more if you have any issues with the back. Let the crown of the head drop toward the floor.
Rest the back of the hands on the floor. To come out of it, slowly roll up to standing. Or move into a squat if you have low blood pressure. Stand relaxed, with arms alongside the body or in a squat position for one to two minutes. Avoid dangling if you have high blood pressure.
2. Wide-kneed child's pose
Child's pose is a calming and restorative posture—a beautiful pose to drip into when feeling anxious. This posture also stimulates the liver meridian channels. The liver when out of balance can lead to irregular emotions such as anger and frustration. When liver "chi" (life force) is healthy, we are more fluid and flexible and are able to change and adapt to situations better.
To get into wide-kneed child's pose, start by sitting on your heels. Spread your knees apart, as wide as they will go. Keep your hips back toward the arches of your feet. Rest forward onto your chest with arms outstretched and palms facing the floor or with your head resting on your forearms. Stay in the posture for 5 minutes.
To come out, bring your hands forward if folded and on an inhale raise your hips and bring one knee toward the center of your body. Rest in child's pose with knees together for one to two minutes.
Caterpillar massages the heart, the organs of digestion, and supports the kidneys. Emotionally when kidney health is compromised we may experience fear. In Chinese medicine the heart is seen as the house where spirit lives. When the heart "chi" is healthy we experience harmony and inner peace.
To get into caterpillar, place a cushion under your sitting bones if you have tight hamstrings. Or bend your knees. Begin to bend forward from the hips. Allow the spine to curve into a forward bend. Let the head drop or place your head onto a cushion (or bolster).
Palms are open and facing the ceiling. Do not reach aggressively for the toes. Stay in this pose for 5 minutes. Come out on an inhalation; raise your spine slowly until you are upright. Lie on your back to rest for 1 to 2 minutes.
Note—if you have sciatica, elevate the hips by using a blanket or cushion underneath your bottom or avoid this posture.
4. Legs up the wall
Viparita Karani, otherwise known as legs up the wall, supports the urinary bladder meridian channels. When the urinary bladder is out of balance we may experience an inability to cope and have fear of change. This posture is perfect for those who spend many hours standing, as it improves circulation by drawing stagnant blood from the legs to the lower body.
To get into legs up the wall, sit with your right hip and bottom close to the wall. Lie on your back and straighten the legs up toward the ceiling. Make sure both butt cheeks touch the wall.
Rest your head back. Your chin should be the same height as your forehead. If not, use a blanket underneath your head. Stay in this posture for three to five minutes or longer if you desire. To come out of it, bend your knees and push with your feet away from the wall. Roll over to one side and rest there with bent knees for a moment.
Use props such as cushions, bolsters, or blocks as much as you need to. This will allow you to stay in the posture for longer. It will also allow the yin pose to affect the health of deeper organs such as the fascia, bones, joints, and organs rather than the muscles, which is the goal.