Our evening routines have changed a lot in recent years. It used to be that we left work, maybe exercise, enjoy a meal with our partner or family, and watched some TV or read a book before going to bed. Yet, with the rise of technology, our evening routine has turned into an endless scrolling on social media, responding to yet another email and getting lost in a blur of never-ending episodes on Netflix.
It's only natural that body and brain struggle to wind down and get a good night’s rest. An unexpected email or a notification can trigger your stress response. The brain receives new information that requires immediate action, and so your stress hormones are released to help deal with the situation. While your body’s response isn’t a bad thing – otherwise we wouldn’t get up in the morning and get on with our lives – it isn’t exactly helpful when you are trying to fall asleep.
Luckily, we can use our body’s hormone responses to our advantage and with the right routine we can calmly snooze off and awake refreshed and energized. A 30-60 min technological detox before bedtime can work wonders if complemented with a couple of gentle yin yoga stretches.
Restorative is a type of yoga that’s perfect for the evenings. It lets you stay in the postures for longer, encouraging you to let your body relax, aided by the support of bolsters, blankets and pillows. This deliberate relaxation can help switch off ‘fight or flight mode’, stimulating instead your parasympathetic nervous system – the system that helps your body rest and digest.
Here is our LaSelva top list of relaxing soothing yin yoga poses, which can all be done directly in bed, on the floor or a yoga mat. Try to hold each one of the poses for at least 2-5 minutes - and enjoy!
Supported Child`s Pose
This is the perfect pose to start the sequence and the winding down of your day. It stretches out hips and back and is very soothing for our central nervous system. Take a pillow and sit on one end, with your thighs on either side and your sit bones against your heels. Gently fold forward to come to rest on the pillow, with your head turned to one side, keeping your sit bones and heels together if possible. If not, place a blanket or pillow between them. Relax into the pillow, letting it hold your weight and try to let go of any thoughts that are still bouncing around in your mind.
A wonderful forward fold for insomniacs helping to open through the hips. Sitting up, bring the soles of your feet together allowing the knees to fall outwards. Inhale and stretch your spine upwards, then gently start to fold forwards, curving spine and neck to bring your forehead towards your feet. Stop wherever feels as though you have found a good stretch, while you keep breathing into your back.
Supine twists are very nourishing for the digestive organs, help the spine to reset after a long day, and creates movement through the torso which often gets compressed from sitting and typing and texting. Lying on your back, start with your feet flat and knees bent up, shift your hips a little bit to the right and then wrap your right leg over the left thigh. Pull your wrapped up legs into your chest and then drop them gently over to the left. Spread your arms out and breathe deeply into your belly. Changes sides after some minutes.
Coming out of your twist, start again lying on you back, bringing the knees into the chest, and grab the soles of the feet or wrap your hands around your ankles, calves or whatever feels good for you. Gently start to spread your feet apart and bring them in line with your knees. Use the weight of your hands to pull the knees softly towards the ground. Happy Baby is a great way to relieve tension in both the lower back and the mind.
The ultimate pose of relaxation. Bring your hips and buttocks as close as possible to the wall before extending up your legs. Then try to adjust by bringing your hips even closer to the wall. It’s a gentle inversion, relieving your lower body and providing a calming effect on your central nervous system. It’s also a lovely way to stretch out those hamstrings, which are often tight from standing or sitting all day. If you are stressed, fatigued, or jet-lagged, this pose is especially refreshing. But its true greatness is that it teaches us that positive results can come from doing less, not more. On top, it helps sooth menstrual cramps. Feel free to try variations like opening your legs into a straddle, or opening yours knees, lowering your feet and heals for a waterfall butterfly.
Taking slow deep breaths throughout will help your mind to calm down. If you are not drifting off into dreamland directly make sure to keep your mind and body in relax mode after the sequence – either by reading a book, listening to soft music or drinking a cup of tea. Like with any routine, the effects and benefits become visible with time, and with each night, it will become easier to fall asleep.