We all know that sleep is absolutely essential for our wellbeing both mentally and physically, we just can’t function optimally without a decent night’s rest. It’s also vital for recovery and development, particularly if you exercise regularly or are training for kind of event. With that being said, if it’s so important why is it something we actively choose to sacrifice in favor of something more pressing or entertaining. Whether it’s Netflix, Candy Crush, the last chapter in the book, or maybe one more glass of wine, there’s always something.
Even if we do manage to drag ourselves off to bed and get our head down, the stress of the day just is never far behind us. According to a survey by The Huffington Post, 66% of respondents claimed that weren’t getting enough sleep and that in turn was triggering stress. It’s easy to see how the cycle begins: you can’t sleep and that causes you stress, you’re still stressed when you try and go to bed the following night but can’t, eventually things can spiral out of control. Thinking about the current of the world right now, being stressed is one of the last things we need right now, so what can be done?
Exercise has been previously identified as one of the most effective non-medication ways of dealing with insomnia. When it comes to aiding sleep, relaxing you and helping with stress relief, not all exercise is created equal. The last thing you want to be doing is performing a HIIT session or going on an intensive run, raising your heart rate and generally making yourself potentially more on edge when you’re supposed to be winding down.
For getting you into a more relaxed and hopefully blissful state of mind, choose yoga for stress. Not only is it low impact but yoga at its core is all about that strengthening that connection between mind, body, and spirit. Here’s a great selection of yoga poses (or asanas to give them their official name) that are going to help relax, wind down and get a good night’s rest. Yoga is an inclusive, non-judgemental practice, you don’t have to do these poses in any particular sequence or flow, nor do you need specialized yoga training. Find what feels right for you and enjoy it.
Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This pose is particularly great releasing any tension in the legs and back of the neck that may have built up over the day, particularly if you find yourself hunched over a computer during the day. If you need it, feel free to modify this pose by using a folded blanket or a bolster if you have one handy to support the back.
If you’re brand new to yoga for stress then click here for an easy to follow video demonstration.
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
A classic relaxation yoga pose if there ever was one. While it may look it, this isn’t simply a case of lying down with your arms out, this is a chance for you to consciously relax and observe any sensations in the body and any thoughts potentially racing through your mind. It can also act as a fantastic preparation for a few minutes of mediation.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is great for centring yourself and providing a few precious moments to just slow things down and rest. It’s also really effective for gently stretching the hips and thighs.
Click here for a quick video demonstration of how to correctly perform this asana and explain the benefits of yoga for stress.
Cat Pose (Bidalasana) / Cow Pose (Bitilasana)
These poses can absolutely be done in isolation but you’ll often find cat and now paired to form a nice gentle flow you can perform over and over. Together, both poses can be used release tension in the back, neck and shoulders, ideally if you’ve been feeling that tightness and discomfort building during the day.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
This pose is also known as Intense Forward Fold, but don’t worry if you look at this and instantly think you’re not flexible enough to bend in that way. Like all yoga poses, it can be modified as needed. This one is great for calming and relieving stress, as you enter into this pose, really feel yourself letting everything go. This is one of those positions that makes us love yoga for stress.
For a quick demonstration, including how it be can be modified, click here.
Written by Josh Douglas-Walton, health and fitness writer for HFE, the UK’s leading provider of personal trainer courses and group exercise qualifications including yoga and Pilates.