THE CASE FOR NIGHT YOGA
5 in-bed poses that will help you sleep more soundly
While the best time to do more vigorous exercise is unique to your chronotype, practicing yoga at night can lead to better sleep for virtually everyone. Going through a few postures before bed is extremely effective at inducing slumber, not only by getting you in a more relaxed mindset but by physiologically impacting your autonomic nervous system, explains Lara Benusis, a yoga instructor at Equinox locations in New York City and a graduate student researcher in the biobehavioral program at Columbia University.
To explain requires a quick bio lesson: The autonomic nervous system is comprised of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS, in concert with stress hormones like cortisol, increases blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. There’s more energy, blood flow, and oxygen rushing to your muscles and it’s the state created to help us cope with crisis.
On the other hand, the PNS slows the heart and lowers blood pressure, making you feel more relaxed. The magic of yoga, quite simply, is that it often puts you in this state. “When we are in yoga positions that require less attention to immediate action or reaction, we evoke the parasympathetic response,” says Benusis.
Specific poses are more effective at eliciting this reaction. Bee Bosnak, a yoga instructor at Equinox locations in New York City, developed the following sequence of five moves to help you wind down to prepare for sleep. “All these poses stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and get out of the sympathetic nervous system, where there is no room for growth and repair,” says Bosnak. “They will help quiet the mind and allow you to enter a state of full and deep relaxation.” They will also slow down your brain activity and encourage the alpha and theta waves that occur during sleep, she says.
This sequence can be done right in your bed or on the floor. Before you begin, Bosnak recommends creating optimal pre-sleep conditions. “Keep rest-disrupting technology out of the bedroom,” she says. Then hold each of these poses for about three minutes—and prepare for a great night’s sleep. —Caroline Schaefer