When was the last time you fell into bed knowing that as soon as your head hit the pillow you would drift off into sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 60% of adults in the US get fewer than eight hours of sleep a night, and even more (around 70%) frequently experience trouble sleeping. However, a good night’s sleep is one of the most important happiness boosters. Sleeping well (and enough) increases well-being and reduces depression and stress levels. For a good night’s sleep and a serious happiness boost, follow these nine yoga practices.
1. Positive Reflections List
What we focus on affects how we feel. Focusing on the positive decreases depression and increases happiness. Writing down positive moments from the day can even help you sleep better. Before you go to bed, write down three things that went well during the day or that you are thankful for from the day. Be specific and reimagine the moment while you journal. Keep a dedicated small notebook for this list or consider collecting them in a jar of awesome.
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2. Sama Vritti Pranayama
The simple act of deep breathing can ease depression and stress. Breathing exercises also focus the mind away from stressors, calm it, and prepare it for sleep. Instead of lying awake worrying about the past or future, focus on deep breathing. To relax, try sama vritti (equal breathing) before bed. Breath in and out of the nose for an equal count. Start by counting to three and as you progress in your practice increase to four or five.
3. Restorative Yoga
Set the mood for sleep with a restorative yoga practice to encourage relaxation. It’s a quiet, supported, and slow practice that promotes opening the body through the use of pillows, blankets, and long holds. Dim the lights, light candles, and try a few restorative yoga poses. A few of my favorites include supported Bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana) on either a block or bolster, supported Child’s pose (Balasana), and Legs Up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani).
4. Forward Folding Poses
Forward folds can activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for relaxation. Incorporate forward folds, such as Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana), into your evening to calm the mind and promote rest.
5. Extra Long Savasana
Corpse pose (Savasana) reduces stress and tension. Let your breath be steady and even. Imagine the stress melting away with each exhale as your body settles deeper onto your mat. You might even practice this pose in bed to help you fall asleep!
6. Relaxing/Meditative Music
Listening to calming music helps us unwind and induces sleep like a lullaby. Experiment with different meditative tunes. When you find something you like, listen for at least 45 minutes before going to bed.
7. Warm Milk with Nutmeg
Ayurveda, a healing system developed in India, is often referred to as yoga’s sister science. In Ayurvedic practice, spiced milk or golden milk is often recommended for sleep. The warm milk beverage includes nutmeg, which is a mild sedative. It can also contain turmeric, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. Add a little honey for sweetness, heat up a glass, sip, and enjoy!
Massaging your feet and head reaps major relaxation benefits. The body’s energy channels (nadis) begin at the forehead between the eyes and end in the feet. Pressure points are also found here. So, a quick massage has big relaxation returns. Use a warm oil and massage both feet and the head or temples, then soak your feet in warm water.
9. Essential Oils
Essential oils may relieve anxiety and depression. Lavender essential oil may be linked to better sleep. You can dilute the oil in a carrier oil (sweet almond, apricot kernel, etc.) and massage into your temples, wrists, or feet. You may also choose to use a diffuser, letting the scent permeate your room.
Any or all of these will help you relax in the evening and eventually sleep better and feel happier. Pick the practices that speak to you and try them. When you wake up, start the day with nine morning yoga practices to boost happiness. Let us know how the practices you tried worked for you and what other practices you use in your evening rituals.