From improving your flexibility to building up muscles and boosting your mental health, yoga has a multitude of benefits that are widely publicised. But did you know that a regular evening practice can even benefit your sleep?

What's so great about yoga?

Yoga has a whole range of benefits for both physical and mental well-being. The gentle stretching, breathing, balancing, and strength exercises are a great way to tone up and lose weight without putting your joints under the strain that can come with other forms of exercise. Improving your general flexibility and strength is also good for staving off injuries or strains, as well as guarding against aches and pains such as a bad back or weak knees. Stretching our muscles helps boost immunity by encouraging lymph drainage and can even help to lower blood pressure.

From a mental health perspective, regular yoga practice has also been found to lessen stress, boost happiness, increase concentration and help combat the effects of conditions such as anxiety or depression.

Why is yoga good for sleep?

Since yoga is all about calming down and relaxing the mind, it should come as no surprise that it’s great for getting you ready for a good night’s sleep too. We live in such a fast-paced environment and are constantly stimulated by our phones and laptops, which can really affect our nervous system. An evening yoga class can really help to unwind and destress at the end of the day, which will assist in getting a better night's sleep. By lowering stress levels, calming the mind, and relieving tension in the body, this soothing practice can be an effective natural sleep remedy.

Which poses are best before bed?

Different yoga flows or poses are designed for different times of day – for example, a sun salutation is designed to warm up and wake up the body for the day ahead. So, it’s important you find the right practice and poses to help you wind down rather than wake up. Certain resting and inversion poses can be particularly helpful for combating restlessness and insomnia, especially when practiced in the evening or in bed before switching off.

My favourite pre-sleep pose is called Legs-Up-The-Wall; fear not beginners, it’s not as hard as it sounds!

Here’s how to achieve the pose in a few easy steps:

  • Sit sideways with your right side against the wall.
  • Gently swing legs up onto the wall and shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor. Sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, depending on the tightness of your hamstrings.
  • If you feel pulling in the hamstrings, move away from the wall. Keep the lower back grounded to the floor. Release your hands and arms out to your sides, palms up.
  • If you struggle to keep your legs upright, take a yoga strap, place it around your legs just below the knees, and gently tighten.
  • Deepen your experience and the calming effect of this pose by focusing on breathing.
  • Stay in this pose for between five and 20 minutes, allowing your breath to return to normal for the last few minutes.
  • Although Legs-Up-The-Wall is safe for most individuals, those who are pregnant or that have been diagnosed with glaucoma, high blood pressure, or any serious problems with the neck or spine should consult their doctor first.

Going to bed feeling wide awake and stressed is a surefire way to guarantee a restless night. Winding down with just ten to 30 minutes of yoga can help to relax both your body and mind, ridding yourself of anxious thoughts and signalling to your brain that it’s time to switch off and sleep. Combine your new evening yoga practice with a restful bedroom environment and a comfortable, supportive mattress that contributes to good sleep, and you should have a winning combination.

If you’d like to learn more about yoga and its benefits for sleep, come along to my regular Yin class at Karma Yoga Studio or join me for a pop-up class at Bedco via Facebook Live later this month.