4 Benefits to Performing Yoga Before Bed
by Lisa Smalls, Guest Blogger
Anyone who loves doing yoga can appreciate hearing what I read the other day from a writer who also practices the ancient Hindu discipline.
She said that it is ironic how eagerly people want to settle into the resting pose at the end of a challenging class, but can’t seem to do the same — mindfully release tension and worries — after a challenging day.
We’re missing out. Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies and be present in the moment. When practiced correctly, it’s a powerful tool to reduce stress and enhance our focus. Yoga before bed can help with sleeping issues.
If you operate at a sleep deficit, you face a higher risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes and will definitely suffer from a lack of energy and decreased productivity. Yoga can help in a handful of ways.
First, yoga helps us relax.
Americans love the rat race. If we aren’t barreling down the proverbial pike at Mach 1, something feels off to us. And that’s fine if we’re doing work. The leftover adrenaline is not so helpful when we need to wind down.
Mindful meditation and yoga can help out the one in three Americans who fail to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Many of us are strangled by our own thoughts as we try to sleep. We have to stop and slow down to breathe when we meditate or do yoga poses and that makes us more ready to sleep.
Second, yoga can help us avoid sleep meds.
While sleep aids can help some people for a short-time, prolonged use is a bad idea, says WebMD.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium work by making you drowsy, but come with side effects like weakness, diarrhea, headaches and heartburn, none of which will ease you to sleep. And barbiturates sedate you by depressing your central nervous system. Barbiturates are addictive and taking too many can kill you.
The good news is that science has shown that practicing yoga before bedtime acts as a natural sleep aid. That is because meditation increases melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, in our system.
Third, the gentle stretching can decrease back pain.
Scientists at the National Institute of Health say that most people seek alternative remedies like yoga and meditation in order to treat pain. Taking any pain-reducing medication on a regular basis isn’t the best for your body.
But yoga, with deep breathing and prolonged stretching, can be just as effective a practice to relax tense muscles, reduce back pain, ward off the stress of anticipating pain and develop parts of the brain that increase pain tolerance, according to scientists at Harvard. If you suffer from sciatica. See the photo above and watch this short video.
Just know that some aggressive yoga poses could be harmful. Consult a doctor and your yoga instructor so you understand how to adapt poses or avoid them altogether when practicing yoga.
Some final thoughts
While you work on your poses, also pay attention to how you feel at rest and when you wake up in the morning. If you are regularly sore or numb upon waking each morning, maybe your mattress is to blame. An old or improper mattress could be causing you added pain and discomfort, holding you back from your best night’s sleep.
If you decide to start implementing more yoga into your evenings to help with your sleep and pain, you may want to consider investing in a good yoga mat. This one from YogaForce is lightweight (4 lbs.) and made of recyclable and antimicrobial materials. It even has stripes that establish zones to help you maintain body alignment.
Just remember that your health and sleep are intertwined and act accordingly. Annie will be discussing sleep issues in more detail in the coming weeks. It is also helpful to stick to a sleep schedule
- Lisa Smalls is a freelance writer from Raleigh, NC. When she isn’t working on a new story, you can find her teaching yoga classes at her local gym or working on a new recipe to try.