5 yoga poses to help insomnia

Recent research shows people with insomnia are more likely to experience associated health problems such as anxiety, depression, diabetes and congestive heart failure. If counting sheep or drinking chamomile tea before bed don’t cut it for you, try establishing a relaxing bedtime routine. A good place to start? A pre-bedtime yoga practice to clear and calm the mind.

Give it a go and let us know if it works for you - don’t forget a short meditation session and some cooling pranayama e.g. Surya Bhedana (Left Nostril Breathing) can work wonders too.

1. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

Sit tall on the edge of a cushion/folded blanket with your legs extended. Exhale and stretch your spine long as you fold forward.

Or try the yin version: caterpillar pose. Allow your back to round and rest your forehead on a bolster/pillow placed on top of your legs.

Forward bends are perfect as they are restorative. This pose can improve digestion too so if digestive issues are keeping you up or waking you at night, this can help, big time.

2. Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)

Come into Virasana by kneeling on the floor with your inner knees touching and the feet apart, slightly wider than your hips. Press the tops of the feet flat on the floor. Use the hands to draw the fleshy part of the calf muscles out as you sit down between your feet. If your buttocks don't comfortably rest on the floor, raise them on a block or thick book placed between the feet.

Place a bolster against the base of your sacrum. Rest back onto the bolster, supporting your head with a pillow / folded blanket.

The open nature of the pose makes it especially useful when you want to deep breathing, which is especially helpful in combating insomnia.

3. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

Lie down on your back and bring the soles of the feet together, splaying the knees out like a diamond. If your hips are tight and the pose feels too intense, put a folded blanket or cushion under each of the knees. Take opposite elbow grip with the arms overhead.

This is a restorative pose that opens up the groin region and allows the muscles in your lower body to stretch, improving circulation and removing pressure. It also benefits your nervous system!

4. Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)

Lie on your back and draw your knees into your chest. Extend your arms straight out to the sides and let your knees fall to the right, stacking your left knee on top of the right. Draw your left shoulder down as you allow gravity to pull your legs toward the earth.

You can also place a cushion under the lowered knees to decrease the range of motion.

Gentle twists relieve tension throughout the whole spine and also aid in digestion and help us rinse out some tension from the day.

5. Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)

Sit sideways against a wall. Bring up one leg then the other as you come to your back with legs extended up the wall. Extend the arms along your sides, palms facing up. Close the eyes and breathe as you relax into the pose.

If tight hamstrings are an issue, bring the buttocks further away from the wall. You can tie a belt around the lower legs to keep them together so you can relax further into the pose.

This completely passive pose allows you to focus on conscious relaxation as you prepare your mind for deep sleep. It has the added benefit of draining stale blood from your legs and refreshing your circulatory system.