If you have trouble sleeping, restorative yoga may be the key to unlocking a good night’s shuteye. Midlife is rife with sleepless nights, especially for women. Menopause can cause racing heart, night sweats and anxiety, which interfere with our rest. The regular tips to get yourself in a relaxed state before bedtime, like turning off electronics and listening to calming music are great. But also practicing a few minutes of restorative forward folds at the end of the day helps me really prepare myself, mentally, physically and emotionally for a good night’s rest.
Forward folds are calming in and of themselves. If you add to them props like a chair, bolsters, blankets or even pillows, then they are even more effective for winding down. When the muscles are supported by props, they can truly relax, triggering the “rest and digest” response in our nervous system. This is the opposite of “fight or flight,” which is where we may find ourselves a few times a day in response to stressful situations, and sometimes simply due to unpleasant bodily sensations such as hot flashes.
No matter which of these options you choose, or even if you practice a forward fold in bed, it helps to set the mood by maybe using a calming essential oil, such as lavender, on your pulse points, or even using an aromatherapy diffuser in the room. I like to focus on breathing in and out of my nose and count to four while I breathe in and then extend the exhale, counting to eight. One way or another, when the exhale is longer than the inhale, that also calms the nervous system.
Try these all out and see which forward fold is more comfortable and feels more calming and luxurious to you. How long to stay in one of these poses is up to you. If you feel supported enough and focus on relaxing your muscles, you may even fall asleep! Only stay for as long as you are comfortable. Restorative yoga poses are never meant to make you feel strained in any way.