Yoga is a form of meditative movement that combines attention and focused breathing with physical exercise. Among its many benefits, yoga can improve the quality of sleep and in this article, we examine the asanas (postures) that can help in this regard.
Correct breathing is very important while performing any asana. For maintaining energy and momentum throughout, one can practise ujjayi (‘ocean breathing’) breathing, which is also known as ‘victorious breath’. In this technique, you inhale deeply through the nose with your mouth closed; exhale through the nose while contracting the back of your throat as if you are saying ‘ha’. The exhalation sounds like the waves of the ocean – hence its name. Use ujjayi breathing while you stay in each posture.
There are several asanas that help in deep sleep – here are a few simple ones you could practise before bedtime:
1. Child’s pose or balasana
Start with the table top position: come to hands and knees. Hands should be shoulder-width apart with wrists, elbows and shoulders in one line. Keep the creases of your wrists parallel to the front of the mat. Bring hips over knees, with knees hip-width apart. Point toes straight back.
Then, rest your hips back toward your heels. Place your knees close together. Relax your chest and allow it to sink into your thighs.
2. Standing forward bend or uttanasana
From a standing position, bend your torso slowly forward in front of your legs. Your hands can rest on your shins or the floor as per your comfort level.
3. Legs up the wall pose or viparita karani
In this posture, lie on your back with your legs against a wall so that your body makes an ‘L’ shape. Relax your arms at your sides.
4. Reclined butterfly or supta baddha konasana
Lie down on your back. Press the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall to the side. You can have your hands above your head or by your sides.
5. Corpse pose or savasana
Lie on the floor with your arms at your sides, palms facing upwards, eyes closed, your legs straight and body completely relaxed. Focus on your breathing and be mindful of your body parts.
6. Nadi shodhan pranayam
Alternate nostril breathing is a yogic breath control practice. Sit comfortably with your spine erect and shoulders relaxed. Place your left hand on the left knee, and palms open to the sky or in chin mudra (thumb and index finger gently touching at the tips). Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. Use the ring finger and little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril. Press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril. Now breathe in from the left nostril and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right. Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. You have now completed one round of nadi shodhan pranayama. Continue for 8 to 10 rounds.
It is recommended that you initially practise yoga with a certified instructor before continuing on your own – and when you do, just find a peaceful space at home to follow the routine. As with most other workouts, you must stay committed to your yoga routine to gain optimum results from it. However, at all points, yoga is a useful practice to help you relax and stay calm.
Written by Deepti Chandak, Certified Yoga Teacher, Content Creator at @jivewithdeepti & Founder of Luxpresso Magazine.