Sleep Better with Bedtime Yoga


I am a big believer in nighttime yoga. I fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and feel more relaxed the next morning. My only issue? I get so relaxed afterwards that the journey from my yoga mat to the bed seems a million miles away! My solution? Yoga in bed! Once you are done, close your eyes and drift off... perfect!

Unlike the typical, fast-paced yoga class you may have attended at your yoga studio or gym, this practice is very yin based: slow, relaxing, and deep. Spend a little while in each pose to enjoy all of the lovely benefits.

This is a short and sweet version of my nightly routine... aka: no excuses not to do it! Some nights I spend more time and add in additional poses, but at the very least, I do this routine nightly to release any stress and tension (and recommend you do the same).


Begin by sitting cross legged in the center of your bed. With your back straight, center yourself by focusing on your breath. Hands can either rest on your knees or held in front of your chest in prayer. Using Ujjayi breathing (yoga breathing where your breath sounds similar to ocean waves), take the first few moments of your practice to let go of the day's events and stress.


Place your right hand on your left knee and your left hand behind your back. Exhale while gently twist your torso to the left, and allow your gaze to follow. Breathe in deeply and allow the breath to fill the empty space being created by your stretch. Slowly release, and repeat on the right side.


Turn to face a wall (or your headboard). Laying flat on your back, scoot your butt a few inches away from the wall, and place your legs straight up against it. Relax into the pose, and make sure not to lock your knees. If the stretch is too much, back away slightly from the wall. Remember to breathe in deeply, and feel the breath filling your belly as you sink heavier into the bed.  Remain here for a full minute or two.

Next, lie on your back with your knees bent. With an exhale, bend both legs back towards your belly. Inhale and grip the outsides of your feet with your hands. Bring your knees towards your armpits by opening your knees slightly wider than your torso. Make sure your ankles are stacked over your knees so your shins are perpendicular with the bed. Breathe deeply, and slowly pull your hands down to increase the stretch to a point you feel comfortable with.


When you are ready, return to laying flat on your back with your arms and legs stretched out slightly away from your body. The goal is total relaxation, so if need be, place a pillow to support under your legs. Remain here for at least five minutes. If you're like me, however, you will snoring pretty quickly!

Enjoy the restful sleep, and namaste!

Center Yourself with Alternate Nostril Breathing


For thousands of years, yogis have believed in the power of breath. To this day, yoga instructors even go as far as to say that if you lose track of your breathing during your yoga practice, you basically void the benefits of your asanas. Long story short: breathing is a crucial part of yoga!

Pranayama, or yoga breathing, makes you more connected to your breath. Although it is important to practice during your yoga practice, it can be beneficial to practice before meditation, right before you go to bed, right before you wake up, or when you just need to recharge. I have found that returning to my yoga breath can really help when I am stressed and need to reset my brain, like when I am hanging off of a mountain on a hard rock climbing route.

A technique that I love and have been using everyday is alternate nostril breathing (also known as Anulom Vilom). It is a great beginning pranayama practice, and can be done by everybody!

Alternate nostril breathing can be an extremely therapeutic and calming ritual. It cleanses your lungs and your mind, calms your emotions and your nervous system, encourages the flow of prana (energy), and can relax a restless brain and body. Doesn't that sound wonderful? Lets get to it!

Begin by getting into a comfortable seated position on your yoga mat. Sit up straight, with your neck, back, and tailbone stacked. Using your right hand, place your pointer and middle finger on your third eye (in the middle of your forehead just above your eyebrows). Take a few relaxed breaths until you feel centered and ready to begin.

Using your thumb, close off your right nostril. Slowly breathe in through your left nostril for a count of four. Hold breathe for a count of four.

Close off left nostril with your ring finger, and release your right nostril. Slowly breathe out for a count of four. Inhale though the right nostril for a count of four. Hold for four, then release through your left side as before. Repeat a few rounds of this alternate breathing and feel how your body responds to this gentle and nourishing practice.

Remember:
Never be forceful with your pranayama practice. If holding four counts is too much, try shorter increments until you can work your way up to it.
Health conditions, such as high blood pressure, might mean that you shouldn't participate or hold your breath. (Translation: Talk to your doctor.)
If possible, try to practice on an empty stomach or if has been a few hours since eating.

Do you practice pranayama? How do you use yoga breathing techniques in your everyday life?