There are few things as frustrating, exhausting and lonely as being awake in the night when all you want to do is sleep. Insomnia is a complex problem and can have many causes. Thankfully, yoga can help with a lot of them. It can relieve anxiety, calm your body and mind, and even aches and pains that may interfere with your sleep. There’s no one “best” yoga for insomnia, but there are many things worth trying.
Remember that it’s not just what you do immediately before bed that influences your sleep patterns. Introducing a little meditation or mindfulness practice at any time of day can help you to manage the thought patterns and cycles that, left to their own devices, may drive you crazy in the night. (Read more in Taking Silence Breaks Throughout Your Day.)
Relaxing Yoga Types
Types of yoga that are particularly associated with relieving insomnia are slower, more passive practices, such as Yin and Restorative yoga. Yin yoga can help you to deeply stretch and release your whole body, finding physical relief from tension that will help you to drift off to sleep better. It’s also a great exercise in mindfulness. And Restorative yoga is the perfect practice to lull your body and mind into a relaxed state - ideal for calm evenings. (Learn more about The Benefits of Yin Yoga.)
If you want to take your soothing yoga practice even deeper, try yoga nidra. You can attend a class or find a guided session online. This relaxing practice is sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep.” It’s the ideal opportunity to draw your senses inward and completely relax. It moves you into a delicious state between sleep and wakefulness, which, again, if you do it right before bedtime, may well help you to drift off straight away.
If you want something more movement-based, remember that different yoga asanas stimulate the body in different ways. Backbends, for example, are known for being energizing and uplifting. Ideal to perk you up in the morning or the middle of the day. Less ideal when you are preparing for sleep. Instead, opt for gentler postures before bed. Some soft supine twists will ease out tension from your back; and passive forward folds can help engage your parasympathetic nervous system, taking your body into a more relaxed state. Another brilliant “go to” yoga posture for insomnia is legs-up-the-wall pose. Lying in this position for five minutes before you go to bed is a great way to wind down.
Whatever you try, remember to approach it all with an attitude of non-attachment and curiosity. Trust that your body will sleep when it needs to and try not to get too hung up on the number of hours you’re getting. Worrying will only make it worse. Relax, breathe, and enjoy your yoga. (Read more in The Wisdom of Non-Attachment.)