With the seasons changing and our bodies adjusting to the shift, it’s important to support our immune systems with sufficient sleep each night. Although sleep is always an important aspect of our health, it can be difficult to wind down and properly rest each night after a manic day. Restorative yoga can be a natural way to aid your body into a deep and rejuvenating sleep.
For centuries people have used restorative yoga as a means to quiet the mind and relax the body. Scientific circles are catching on and validating the practice in the medical communities. A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) found that the unified practice of relaxing the body and the mind significantly improved immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion which produces serotonin. Manoj K. Bhasin, PhD, co-lead author of the study noted, “People have been engaging in these practices for thousands of years, and our finding of this unity of function on a basic-science, genomic level gives greater credibility to what some have called ‘new age medicine.'” Regardless of your experience with yoga, this is a practice anyone can do almost anywhere. The practice can range from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, but consistency is key. Finding a routine that works in your schedule will help you stick to the practice and enjoy the process!
The most important part of any restorative yoga practice is your quality of breath. The breath in yoga is what increases the circulation of oxygen throughout your body, releasing built up toxins and tension. Tiffany Cruikshank founder of Yoga Medicine explains how “…the breath is the only part of our autonomic nervous system that we can consciously control it gives us a direct gateway into the regulation of the nervous system and the relaxation response that prepares us for sleep.” The full effects of a restorative practice truly depend on how aware you are of your inhales and exhales. Be mindful to deepen any posture, inhale to prepare and exhale to release or twist more. The breath is a powerful tool to help our bodies understand true release. Let’s dive in!
- The great part about this practice is that you can do it all in bed! If the floor is where you are practicing, make sure you are on at least a mat if not some cushy blankets. We are aiming for maximum comfort in our experience.
- Make sure you have completed your nighttime routine before beginning. Set your alarm and keep your phone in do not disturb to remove any unexpected distractions. If you can, dim your lights to take away as much stimulation as possible.
- You will need a blanket or towel that you can roll up as a bolster and a favorite small pillow to use as a block. You may also want a timer to gauge how long you’ve been in each posture. If you do want to use a timer, set the sound to be a more relaxing soundscape that is less jarring or familiar than your usual alarm sound.
Postures to Try
Balasana – Child’s Pose: Make your way into a supported child’s pose, placing your pillow underneath your chest and the rolled up blanket or towel underneath your forehead. Sink your hips back towards your heels, keeping your knees fairly narrow to feel a release through your low back. Rest your arms by your sides. Picture falling through the bed in an endless cycle, releasing every bit of tension or thought that arises along the way. Stay here for 3 minutes.
Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana – Supine Spinal Twist: Make your way onto your back and hug your knees towards your chest for a few breaths to recalibrate your posture. Maintaining a neutral spine, drop your knees over to your left hand side. You can use a pillow or blanket under your bottom knee if it doesn’t reach all the way down. Gently rest one hand on your top hip and your other hand on your top knee, further cuing the body to release downwards. Stay on one side for 2-3mins and then switch out to your right supported twist.
Viparita Karani – Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose: Make sure to find a wall here where you can place both legs up against it. Start by lying either on your right or left side. Aim to bring your pelvis close to the wall and roll onto your back, sliding your legs up the wall. They should be comfortably reaching straight above your hips. If you are on the floor for this practice, try a towel under your sacrum for more comfort. Rest your arms either by your sides or on your lower belly and let your legs be neutral and your heels connect to the wall for balance. Try and stay here as long as you can, but if you are experiencing too much sensation through your feet move out of the pose the same way you moved into it.
Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclining Goddess Pose: Lying on your back, hug your knees into your chest and grab for the outside edges of your feet. Start to open up your knees to a turned out position, keeping them bent. Gently flex at your feet to work your knees farther down towards the sides of your hips. Aim to keep the lower back on the surface below you, this is also a great place for a towel under your sacrum as extra height. Either continue to hold the outer feet, or work your hands further down your leg to support the shape’s structure.
Supported Reclined Savasana: Begin lying on your back, the soles of your feet placed wider than your hips on the bed and your knees knocked in towards one another. Place your hands either by your sides or on your lower belly to aid your grounding and breath. Start by counting to 4 on your inhales and counting to 4 on your exhales. Progress slowly by adding on to only your exhale- inhaling for 4, exhaling for 5 – and so on, until your exhale count reaches 8. Practice this for at least 3-5minutes.
~Maggie Vannucci, LulaFit Yoga Instructor