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Yoga for Insomnia Part II

If you enjoyed the first part of Yoga for Insomnia, hopefully you will find the second part equally helpful.  We will explore more complex poses with simple instructions and explanation of benefits and contradictions.  The following two poses emphasize placing the head below the heart, thus giving the heart a rest and more blood to the brain cells to fight anxiety and stress.

If you are on any medications or have low or high blood pressure, you may want to consult a doctor or an experienced yoga teacher before doing these poses.

These poses can be done anytime of the day for a quick relaxation or at night before bed to prepare you for a restful sleep.

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold

  • Step your feet wide apart, turn your feet in so they are parallel and facing forward.
  • Hand on hips, lengthen your upper body as you breathe in,and fold forward from your hips as you breathe out.  Slight bent on the knees to protect the hamstrings and lower back. 
  • Rest your hands on blocks in front of you or on the floor.  Option to rest your head on a block to encourage the lengthening of your spine as you fold forward.   
  • If your back is fairly straight and you’d like to deepen the pose, shift the weight towards the balls of your feet (you may need to bend your knees more), wrap your hands around your ankles and let your elbows open out to the sides.
  • Relax your shoulders, lengthen your neck and spine, and gaze at a point behind you.
  • Option to adjust the stance of your feet; a wider stance helps your upper body fold down more.
  • Stay and breathe deeply for five to ten counts.  If you like to stretch further,
  • Rest your hands on the floor or a block, slowly lift up half way as you breathe in, then fold down again as you breathe out – aiming the top of your head toward the floor or block.  Repeat for five to ten counts.
  • To come up: hands on hips, slowly roll up with bent knees and lift your head up last.

Benefits:  Similar to standing forward fold, a wider stance further lengthens the spine and lower back, promotes flexibility in the hips, glutes, calves and hamstrings.  Forward bending stimulates our digestive systems by gently massaging the respective organs to provide detoxification benefits. 

Caution against tight hamstrings and calves muscles: please keep the knees soft throughout the pose.

Supported Shoulderstand

  • Use folded blankets or flat cushions for shoulders support.  Lie flat on your back with bent knees.  Bend both arms and walk the elbows underneath your shoulders.
  • Option 1:  Modified supported shoulder stand.
    • Put weight on your heels and lift the hips up as you breathe out, and then put one or two blocks just above your tail bone to support your hips.
    • Gently lower the hips down to the block(s) and then lift both legs straight up.  Rest both hands on your hips or on the floor.  Breathe here for five to ten breaths. 
    • To come out: lower your feet down. Lift your hips and take out the block(s) to allow your lower back and then your hips to gently come down on the mat.

  • Option 2: Supported shoulderstand.
    • Walk your feet closer to your hips.  As you breathe out, curl up to lift your hips and legs to bring the thighs/knees close to your face.
    • With your elbows grounded firmly under the shoulders, bring your hands (fingers facing up) towards your lower back for support. 
    • Slowly straighten your legs and point the balls of the feet towards the ceiling.
    • Option to walk your elbows closer together to strengthen the support of your hips and legs. 
    • Option to walk your hands further down towards the upper back as you continue to lift and lengthen the middle back vertically upwards.
    • Gaze at your feet.  Do NOT turn your head.  Gradually work towards aligning your feet, hips and shoulders into one straight line.
    • Hold the pose for five to ten breaths initially and work up to 15 to 20 breaths.
    • To come out: Release your legs over your head.  As you breathe out, slowly roll your spine down: upper, middle and lower back, followed by the hips with your hands on the side for support.  Then gently lower your legs on the floor.

Benefits: Shoulderstand stimulates the thyroid glands and improves its function.  It increases blood flow to the lungs and helps relieve symptoms from bronchitis, excess mucus or phlegm.  Similar to other inversions, more blood to the brain calms the mind and improves concentration.  You will feel refreshed and get an instant energy boost, especially if you suffer from lack of sleep. 

Caution against recent neck injury or stroke; diarrhoea, high blood pressure and glaucoma.  Women should avoid practising any full inversions during menstruation.

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