Yoga & Insomnia

Most of us have probably been in a situation of tossing and turning in bed, while staring at the clock hit an unearthly hour. This could be caused by tension in personal life, anxiety, or physical discomfort. Through asanas, pranayama, complete relaxation, more restful sleeping patterns can be achieved without turning to sleep-inducing medication.

From an asana perspective, there are a few postures that will aid in falling asleep.

  • Postures which send blood to the head, are suitable for most people except for those with glaucoma or high blood pressure.

    • Uttanasana: helps to also stretch back muscles.

    • Balasana: gently stretches the hips, thigh ankles while calming the brain, helping to relieve stress and fatigue.

  • Postures which help remove fatigue from long hours of standing or walking.

    • Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-wall): lying on the bed and resting the feet perpendicularly on the wall with arms extended alongside. It also gently stretches the neck muscles, which are often the source for tension.

    • Baddha Konasana (Butterfly pose): also a good stretch for inner thighs, groin and knees

  • Spinal twists gently relieve tension throughout the whole spine, and also aids in digestion.

    • Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine spinal twist): can be easily done on the bed by lying on the back, and bring the right knee into chest and letting it fall to the left. Extend the right arm out, turn your gaze to the right and hold for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side, all the while taking deep long breaths.

  • Resting postures providing grounding to enhance relaxation
    • Savasana: laying down on the bed with legs separated, palms are facing up. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and consciously relax each part of the body.

Pranayama can stimulate the nervous system, releasing anxiety while improving blood circulation in the body. Traditionally, the left nostril is associated with the body’s cooling energy and focuses the mind away from stress, therefore the following practices can help in easing oneself to sleep.

  • Anuloma Viloma – alternate nostril breathing in a 1:2 ratio

Deep inhale from the left nostril and slow exhale from the right nostril in twice as long a duration. Practising this for at least five minutes taps to tap into a brain part called the insular cortex, which will help calm the mind.

  • Chandra Bhedana – left nostril breathing

Sit in a comfortable position and make Mrigi mudra, block the right nostril and inhale through the left, then close the left and exhale through the right, for at least a few minutes.

One can also practise Yoga Nidra to achieve sleep with awareness, which induces full-body relaxation and a deep meditative state of consciousness through the use of guided imagery and body scanning. There are many audio resources online providing guidance on this practice.

Lastly, while practising yoga regularly removes toxins from our body and gives positive energy, perhaps we could also consider a more gentle or restorative practice in the evening to prepare the body to go to bed, instead of getting the heart all pumped up in a vinyasa class after work. Wishing all a restful night, peace out!


-Nikki Cheong