A little nighttime reading
5 RESTORATIVE YOGA POSES FOR DEEP RELAXATION AND UNWINDING BEFORE BEDTIME
Anxiety, stress and the tensions of the day can sit heavy with your body at night, preventing you from comfortably slipping into sleep. Yoga is a powerful practice for releasing these tensions -- particularly the gentle form of restorative yoga. Yoga has also been shown to combat insomnia. The good news is, you don’t have to be a super-bendy yogi or have practiced for years to get started.
To help you unwind, Slumbr teamed up with LA-based yoga instructors Kalina Salvador and Melissa Okabe to share 5 relaxing restorative yoga poses, using Slumbr’s Ara Buckwheat Pillow. The Ara makes a great in-home prop if you don’t have traditional props on-hand.
The Ara’s unique qualities make it great for restorative yoga poses. Its buckwheat hulls can be maneuvered around to contour to your body, then locked into place for stable support. It’s denser and heavier than other pillows, with a heftiness that soothes when placed on the body. For more information about why the Ara is unique, click here.
These restorative yoga poses deepen your relaxation, calm your mind and release tension before bedtime. According to Kalina, "restorative yoga is a quieting and nourishing practice, which focuses on deep breathing while passively lying over props such as blankets and pillows. The support of blankets and pillows help to make poses more comfortable so that you can continue to breathe deep. By breathing deeply, our parasympathetic nervous system (the body’s “rest-and-digest” system) is activated, helping us to release both physical and mental stress."
Practice the following easy yoga poses 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. The poses can be done on the floor or in bed. Each pose should be held for 3-5 minutes for maximum effect.
Savasana (Corpse Pose) with knees bent
(Props needed: Ara Buckwheat Pillow, Yoga Mat)
- Start in a comfortable position on your back with your knees bent. Feet are at least hip-width apart or wider.
- Support your head and neck with the Ara to ensure that the natural cervical curve is fully supported. (This support helps to lengthen and soften the back of the neck, releases the throat, softens the muscles in the face and quiets the mind to settle.)
- Slowly inhale and exhale, as you begin to become aware of your breath.
- Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly to connect with each inhalation and exhalation. Feel the expansion of your belly and chest rise as you inhale, and observe your belly and chest relax as you exhale.
Hands-Free Supta Pada Gusthasana A
(Props needed: Ara Buckwheat Pillow, Yoga Strap, Yoga Mat)
- Lay your spine flat on your yoga mat, knees bent, feet flat to the mat.
- Create a small loop in your yoga strap (just big enough so your foot can fit into it).
- Bend your right knee into the chest (Eka Apanasana), and loop your strap onto your right foot.
- Extending your right leg towards the sky, heel flexed, take the free end of the strap behind the tips of the shoulder blades, just below the armpits.
- Rest your body back down to the earth- and allow the weight of the body to hold the strap and your top leg in place.
- If appropriate, extend your left leg forward along the mat, drawing both sitting bones toward your left heel to keep the low back long.
- Place your Ara Slumbr Pillow horizontally over the top of the left thighs like a sandbag.
Enjoy feeling long & lengthened in this restorative stretch.
Restorative Bridge on Bolster
(Props needed: Ara Buckwheat Pillow, Yoga Mat, Bolster)
- Lining up the tips of the shoulder blades onto the edge of your bolster, recline the over the length of your bolster, allowing just the upper shoulder blades and back of the head to rest to the mat. (Keep the natural curvature of the cervical spine so the chin is parallel to the floor, not overly tucked nor jutting to the ceiling).
- Taking the arms to a goal post position, allow the collar bones to broaden as you create space through the front of the chest.
- Knees can stay bent with feet to the floor (for any lower back sensitivity), or lengthen the heels forward along the mat to create even more elongation through the front body.
- Once you feel settled in the pose, place your Ara Slumbr Pillow horizontally over the tops of the thighs like a sandbag to create a grounding sensation & promote further relaxation in this gentle heart opener.
Supported Reclining Twists
(Props needed: Ara Buckwheat Pillow, Yoga Mat, Block/Folded Blanket/Soft Pillow)
- Place the Ara length-wise on your mat.
- Align your right hip next to the bottom of the Ara. Place a block, folded blanket or softer pillow between your thighs to avoid compressing your hips.
- Turn your torso towards the right. Lower your chest and belly to rest on top of the Ara.
- Use your hands and forearms as a pillow for your forehead. (For a deeper twist, turn your head away from your knees. For a milder twist, turn your head towards your knees.)
- With every inhalation allow your breath to lengthen your spine, and every exhalation to twist you a little deeper into the pose.
- Hold this position for at least 3 minutes before switching to the opposite side.
Tip: Set an intention to bring more self-compassion and love into your practice. Let go of any negative or harsh thoughts by bringing your focus back to the soothing rhythm of your breath to release any tension.
Savasana (Corpse Pose) – Final resting pose
(Props needed: Ara Buckwheat Pillow, Yoga Mat)
- Lay down in a comfortable position on your back with your legs extended and hip-width apart or wider.
- Place the Ara behind your knees. (This second variation of savasana provides support behind your knees to help relieve tension in the lower back.)
- Rest your arms by your side, away from your body with your palms up or down.
- Slowly inhale and exhale, as you release all the muscles of your body and deepen in your relaxation.
Tip: To help enhance a peaceful and calming atmosphere play relaxing background music and use essential oils such as lavender, ylang ylang, or bergamot to help send you straight to dreamland.
Darlene Kalina Salvador is a certified Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor and fitness model based in Redondo Beach, CA. Kalina is working with clients to help inspire them to live healthier lives through instilling enjoyable physical movement and mediation. She is currently developing a yoga program specific for bodybuilders based in the vinyasa style of movement synchronized with breath to build strength, flexibility and focus. She teaches yoga classes and workshops within the Los Angeles area and offers private sessions to those wanting to deepen their yoga practice. If you're interested in working with Kalina, you can contact her directly at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Melissa completed her 500 hour professional yoga teacher training at YogaWorks Los Angeles, apprenticing with Senior Yoga Instructor David Lynch. She teaches Vinyasa Flow & Restorative Yoga Classes, Workshops, and Privates at Various Studios & Corporate Locations in Los Angeles. She was educated at UCLA, The American University of Paris & La Sorbonne. If you're interested in working with Melissa, you can contact her at: [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram.