Yoga to do when you can’t sleep

A woman is bending over in the living room

How well do you sleep?

Difficulty sleeping is a common problem. Most people struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep. Others pass out with no memory of closing their eyes or transitioning from being awake to falling asleep.

There are two (2) easy yoga postures to do when you can’t sleep, allowing you to drift peacefully off to the dreamy land of nod. I have included instructions, photos, and a link to a short YouTube video on how to practice them below.

Yoga consists of two parts, the yoga poses and breathing or pranayama. Of the two, the breathing practice is more advanced, harder to do, and brings deeper and longer-lasting results. Lunar Pranayama is an excellent practice to improve your sleep. Below I have also included instructions, a photo, and a link to a short YouTube video on how to practice Lunar Pranayama. This will greatly support your ability to achieve deep sleep.

How well you sleep is essential for healing the body.

Every day the body expends enormous energy by just doing our ordinary activities. This includes the work done by our muscles, the creative and thought process of our mind, and our metabolic processes (digestion, the work of our organs, etc). Rest and sleep are essential to replenish the body.

At night when we sleep we activate the healing cycles of the body. Repair is taking place as we sleep. Organs and muscles rest and injured tissue are mended.

When we are unable to sleep or rest well the result is a deep disturbance within the body and mind. We become more fragile and irritable as our ability to resist stress lessens. We also end up with a weakened immune system

Proper sleep patterns require a routine. Routines are easy to follow and once our body gets in the habit it creates a support of its own. The rhythm of the natural world will help you to get into a healthy routine of going to bed and rising. The sun is the cycle your body is naturally in sync with. When the sun sets, is the time when your activities should wind down and engage with calming activities. Getting up around the time of sunrise begins the cycle of the new day.

As a general rule, going to bed by 10 pm is suggested. This is a general standard. It is better to go to bed earlier in the winter months, as the sun sets earlier, the weather is colder and we need more rest.

The following are 2 Yoga poses to help you sleep better. You can do them right before you go to bed or anytime during the winding down part of your evening.

#1 Triangle Pose

Begin standing with your feet firmly on the ground and a short distance apart, then:

  • Lift your arms to shoulder height, and reach out through the fingers of both hands. Make sure to  separate your feet wide. I mostly see that students don’t take their feet wide enough apart in the standing poses and then they end up having to round their backs to do the pose. Try to avoid that! Straighten your legs and keep your thighs firm.
  • Turn your left leg and foot in and your right leg and foot out.
  • Extend the inner thighs and turn the thighs from inside to outside.
  • Draw the outer thigh muscles up and compact the outer hip muscles
  • Place your right hand on your calf, a block or your right ankle. At the same time, reach the left arm upward away from the right arm.
  • Rotate your chest and abdomen from right to left, then turn your neck and head to look left beyond your left fingers.
  • Hold for a short time, without strain, and with even breathing.

To come out of the pose:

  • Press firmly into your feet and keep your arms and legs firm.
  • Lift up into standing wide-leg position.
  • Repeat on this first side 2-4 times. Then practice on the second side.

If you can lean your back into a wall then you actually move more deeply into the pose muscularly and then you end up with a greater release of muscle tension and strain. Do it that way when you space at a wall.

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#2 Forward bend with head support

Begin standing near your bed with our feet firmly on the ground underneath you and about hip distance apart.

  • Lift your chest and feel your torso extended.
  • Bend forward and rest your forehead on the edge of your bed.
  • Place your hand and forearms on the bed.
  • Allow your arm, head and face to relax and be passive.
  • Keep your legs active and stable.
  • Allow your torso to lean forward and downward and relax.
  • Notice your thoughts and let them be uninteresting to you.
  • Come out of the pose after you remain in the pose for 2-5 minutes.

The following breathing practice can be done right as you get into bed or when you wake up during the night and need to go back to sleep.

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Breathing Practice: Lunar Pranayama

  • Sit comfortably on a chair or on your bed.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Keeping your check open and lifted, lower your head (similar to bowing your head).
  • The right hand is positioned so that the index and middle fingers are curled while the other fingers are relaxed.
  • Place your right thumb on the corner of your right nostril.
  • Place your ring finger on the corner of your left nostril.
  • The finger pressure on the nostrils is to regulate the flow of breath in and out through the nostrils.
  • Inhale through the left nostril while closing off the right nostril.
  • Exhale through the right nostril by closing off the left nostril.
  • Begin this practice with 1-2 minutes of repetitions and slowly increase to 5-10 minutes.

To end your practice:

  • Keep your head lowered and place your hands on your lap or thighs.
  • Breathe normally through both nostrils for several breaths.
  • Lift your head upright (this is a normal head position).

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The benefits of the 2 yoga postures and Lunar pranayama is that tension, stimulation and active thought patterns will diminish and your vital energy or Ojas is slightly increased. This increase of vital energy will give you the strength to relax and let go and experience deep sleep. If you are too tired or too depleted – your Ojas is low- and it is too difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep.

I have made a YouTube video of these 2 yoga postures here.

I have made a YouTube video of the Lunar pranayama practice here.

Here is a YouTube Short video that I made about sleep that is very brief and gives you a mantra to practice.

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