We’ve all had those restless nights, where it seems nothing can calm our minds and our anxiety holds us hostage to staying awake. It can be tempting to reach for over-the-counter fixes or even prescription medicines to help us sleep, but oftentimes we can naturally bring our bodies back to a state of calm with the use of specific breathing exercises and some gentle movement.
Here, a restorative yoga sequence that is specifically geared towards calming an anxious mind and body—and hopefully settling you down for a good night’s rest. You’ll need a yoga mat, blankets, a pillow, and an eye pillow if available.
Begin by cultivating one-to-one breathing, which is when your inhales and exhales are equal in length. Don’t start too deep; let yourself work up to deeper inhales and longer exhales slowly. (Maybe try with with 3-4 seconds and working up to 5-6.)
Start in child’s pose, and take a few clearing breaths here. Roll your forehead softly along the ground from side to side, and let your arms relax on the floor. Place a blanket under your sit bones if they aren’t resting comfortably on your heels. Close your eyes and breathe here for 1-2 minutes.
Fold the blanket three times lengthwise to make a long, narrow blanket. The blanket should be about 6-8 inches wide and no more than three inches thick.
Lie over the blanket so that it is under your abdomen, not your hips. Ideally, the blanket will fit between your hip bones and lower ribs. (Your lower ribs should be forward of the blanket, while your hips bones will be a bit behind it.) Come onto your belly, turning your head to one side and resting your cheek on your stacked palms. Breathe here for 2-3 minutes, resting the eye pillow on your face or the back of your neck.
Come onto your back, and hug your knees into your chest. Let the legs fall over to the right side into a twist. Let the knees stack on top of the other, or place the folded blanket between your knees to support them. Let the arms fall open wide or bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle. Place the eye pillow on your face and breathe here for 2-3 minutes. Repeat on the left side.
Continue to roll onto your side, into fetal position, using your bottom arm as a pillow (or lay a blanket over your arm to cushion it). Place a blanket or small pillow between your knees and ankles. Breathe here for 2-3 minutes.
Come onto your back, and place a bolster or pillows under your knees. Let your arms move away from the body slightly, palms face up. Roll your blanket to support your head and neck, and if you have an extra blanket or pillow, cover yourself with it and place the pillow over your midsection. The heaviness on your belly will create a sense of being grounded. Place the eye pillow on your face and relax here for 5-10 minutes.
If you haven’t already fallen asleep on your mat, allow yourself to slowly transition to bed after you’re finished. Drink a room-temperature glass of water, lower the temperature of the room to somewhere between 68-71 degrees, and place some lavender oil underneath your pillow (using a diffuser is also a great option). Let there be minimal light, and no electronics on or near you (and no browsing before bed—you’ll reverse all the restful effects of your practice!).
Hopefully, you’ve now set the stage for a restful and restoring night of sleep. Sweet dreams!
Like us on Facebook!