Lacking restful sleep? Experts say yoga might be the answer.
“Yoga can reduce the stress and tension we carry in our bodies, especially on a day-to-day basis,” says Jane Fetzer, a yoga instructor at Omni Chesterton.
After a long day of work, yoga can help take a person’s mind off the past, and reduces worrying about the future. If done before bed, it can not only improve sleep, but improve a person’s mood the following day, yoga instructor Cynthia Smith says.
“I recommend yoga or meditation before bed,” she says. “I have been doing this every day for the past 18 plus years.”
Smith, who teaches yoga classes, meditation workshops and wellness retreats throughout Northwest Indiana – including a credit course at Indiana University Northwest, says it’s important to choose a yoga style that best suits the individual. For most, she recommends restorative yoga before bed, which teach the body how to properly relax.
“Doing a more energizing practice could keep someone up longer than they might want to be, so it’s important to understand which poses and styles of practice cool the body and nervous system, and which ones energize and heat,” Smith says.
“Yoga Nidra” is a type of deep relaxation technique that can be particularly helpful for people who have trouble sleeping, Fetzer says. Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice that’s gaining popularity, and induces full-body relaxation.
“Yoga can be an effective sleep aide as part of a healthy lifestyle,” she says.
Because yoga and meditation is the practice of quieting the mind, it takes practice.
“Start with three to five minutes and then slowly increase as you experience the quietness inside of you,” she says. “It’s all just a practice toward better health of the mind, body and spirit.”
Although poses can all be modified, Fetzer recommends starting slowly and moving slowly.
“You can also practice quieting and relaxing the energy in your body by moving your awareness slowly down the body,” she says. “Begin by relaxing the muscles in your face, relaxing the jaw and the throat area, relax the shoulders and chest, down the arms to the finger tips and continue down to the toes.”
Do this until the body is feeling light and almost weightless, she says. Poses can also be done with the help of a chair or using props like a strap, yoga block or bolster.
Some poses you can try include “Legs up the wall,” “Rocking on the back” and the “Cat and cow pose.”
“Yoga reminds us to focus on only the moments we have in the present, the now, and it helps us to pay careful attention to our breath as it enters the body and exits the body,” Fetzer says. “It’s called mindful breathing or conscious breathing.”
If you want to take a yoga class before trying out your own bedtime yoga at home, Jane Fetzer, a yoga instructor at Omni Chesterton recommends the following:
Find a class near you that suits your needs and style. There are many different kinds of yoga, so it’s helpful to know what type of yoga you’re looking to experience, whether it’s restorative yoga or a yoga that strengthens your core.
Find an instructor you relate to. As you check out various classes, find someone you connect with, as well as someone who challenges you. Look for an instructor who teaches the poses and what they mean.
Introduce yourself. Be sure to tell the instructor it’s your first time, or if you have had any previous experience. Let the instructor know as well if you have any health conditions he or she should be aware of.
Wear the right clothing. If you want to be comfortable, make sure you wear loose, breathable and comfortable clothing. Bring a yoga mat, water and a small towel as well, but most classes have mats, blocks and straps available.
Give yourself time. You may need to go back several times to become comfortable with the various beginner poses. So remember no expectations, judgments or competitions with others. Just move freely.
Have fun. Enjoy the benefits yoga can bring to your body, mind and spirit.