Therapeutic Yoga Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 5

Yoga for Insomnia

40 min - Practice


Cheri, with the help of Ellen, guides us in a gentle restorative practice to promote a peaceful and satisfying night's sleep. With the support of pillows and props, we release and breathe out any stress or tension from the day, quieting the mind and soothing the nervous system. You will feel deeply relaxed and ready for bed.
What You'll Need: Eye PIllow, Square Bolster, Blanket (3)


Read Full Transcript

(waves crashing) Welcome to Yoga for Insomia. It's marshmallow yoga today, which means that we'll be using pillows and some of the things that you have around your house or if you're traveling in a hotel room. You might want to look back at the tutorial on prop making. So if you're someplace where you don't have a bolster or the typical yoga props, you can grab things that will work for this practice. So insomnia is quite common for a lot of people.

And as we all know, losing a good night's sleep can be very difficult on your body. Sleep in fact is very healing and we've even found out recently that when we sleep, our brain is actually cleansing itself. So there's important reasons to have practices that support you in relaxing, releasing the day, so that you can get into bed and have a really good, deep and healing sleep. This practice is designed to support that. Today, I have Ellen with me and Ellen will be assisting me today and showing this practice to you.

So, Ellen, I'll have you come off of your bolster over here for a moment. And I'll take the yoga blanket, an additional blanket, and this is preparing for a pose that's gonna come a little bit later. And we'll place it a T shape. So we have one blanket down on the sticky mat for a bit of extra softness. And then we have this blanket lengthwise across the mat.

And we'll take a bolster and we'll place it lengthwise on the mat. And we'll add one of these great soft pillows. So the pillow, I chose a long pillow. She's got a long torso to hold her spine and create some extra cushioning. Now we're gonna use regular throw pillows here to go under the knees.

So for Resting Star, the legs will go wide in sort of a straddle split. And the pillows are gonna go directly under the knees so you can place those under your knees a comfortable distance apart. So for you, wherever that is. And make sure that the pillows are of equal size and lift so that one isn't smaller than the other. You can also use blankets for this if you don't have extra pillows.

You can take one of your yoga blankets in this fold. So you've taken it from the regular fold, fold it in half. And then make a nice thick roll. This works great also beneath the legs, beneath the back of the knee to support you here. Now taking your additional pillow and placing it right on top of the wonderful cushiony bolster and pillow that you set down behind you.

And then you'll slowly recline back. Now when you come back, you'll make sure that everything feels just so. If your forehead is tilting back, that means that the support under your head isn't quite high enough, so you can add an additional pillow, you can fold the pillow in half, you could add another blanket. Sometimes if you have a little rounding in your thoracic spine, the kyphosis, you may need more support under your head here. So just checking in and making sure the forehead isn't tilting back and that's it's higher than the Adam's apple.

So, this pose is a wonderful pose in the way that it opens the body. We're gonna take a few moments before going just into the relaxation of the pose. And take a few moments to do some gentle yoga that's really wonderful. And using some focus through this movement to release your day on the exhalation and to draw in positive energy on the inhalation. So you'll bring your hands to your heart and feel the warmth between your hands, feel the sensation, the energy between your hands.

And as you inhale here, breathe in positive energy. Breath in peace. And as you exhale, let your arms go overhead and sweep out to the sides, releasing your day, letting go of stress, tension, anything you're ready to release. They'll come all the way around. Back to the heart.

And again, deep inhalation, breathing in peace. Breathing out tension. Breathing out anything you're ready to clear. Now Ellen is doing a gentle movement out to the side, but if it's comfortable for you, you can go all the way overhead as you extend your arms and then stretch out. So find for you the movement that feels the best to you.

Also if there's tenderness in the chest for any reason. If you're feeling that you want a gentler movement, you can make it smaller, make it softer. Or even do a nice movement with the shoulders with the fingers touching the chest. Breathing deeply starts to relax the body so the deep breathing, inhaling, long inhalation, long exhalation. And the inhale is a time to take in that which you need.

So fresh oxygen, peace, positive energy. And the exhalation is a time that we release toxins, tension, and it may be mental stress that you're experiencing. If you've had a challenging day this can be a great time to let that go. Just a few more at your own pace. Breathing deeply.

And when you're complete, you can let your hands rest by your sides. And in resting start, it can be nice sometimes to take the arms out a little wider. But see what feels good to you. You'll feel a deeper chest if the arms are wide. If there's strain or tension in the shoulder joints, bring the arms down.

Because we spend a fair amount of time sitting at the computer, driving cars, working on things in front of us during the day, this can be a beautiful pose to do at the end of the day to release that congestion, to really open the heart center, open many of the muscles of respiration, and release physical tension. This is a sweet time to put your eye pillow over your eyes which will also enhance the relaxation response in the body. And there's many ways to do it. I like when you put your eye pillow on to do so as you would close your eyes. So from the forehead down over the eyes.

And making sure that it feels centered. At this point in time, you can allow your breath to return to its own gentle wavelike movement. And just observe the breath, following the path of it as it flows in through the nose or mouth. As the body expands and softens with each breath. And invite in with each exhalation your body to soften down into the support beneath you.

So feeling how the bolster is holding you in such a way that it creates this beautiful feeling of space and openness in the body. And the more you can relax down into the pull of gravity, the more you'll feel that wonderful sense of deep rest and relaxation. Bringing your awareness to the space between the brows, allow that area to soften and to open, almost like a flower opening to light. Ajna chakra, the Third Eye, it's a place of intuition, of looking more deeply, not just with the physical eye, but with an internal eye, an intuitive eye. And as you feel this area opening, allow your eyes to soften.

The corners of the eyes relaxing. Feel the weight of the eye pillow or the scarf, whatever you have over your eyes, washcloth. Feel how it touches your face. And let your skin soften. And then allow the relaxation to move down across the temples and into the cheeks and the jaw.

And you can allow your teeth to slightly part. As the jaw muscles relax, feel free to take a deep breath and make a soft ha sound. Haaaaaaaa. And do this just a few times, letting go with each exhalation any tension in the jaw. Haaaaaaaa.

And feel the tongue softening, the root of the tongue. And feel that wave of relaxation flowing down into the organs, down into the deep recesses of the inner body. Everything softening. Everything letting go. Moving into a deep state of relaxation.

Take a few slow, deep breaths as you prepare to transition out of Resting Star. And before you do, I just want to show that if for any reason Resting Star doesn't feel comfortable here, you can bring the soles of your feet together in Butterfly. And just keeping the pillows where they are or even drawing them up a little bit, you can always go into Butterfly here. So it's good to know if during the pose you feel like doing some Butterfly and some Resting Star, you're welcome to do that. And this is a good position to come into to prepare to transition.

Can take another nice deep breath. And when you're ready, you'll draw your knees with your hands together. And you'll prepare to roll gently onto your side. Whatever side feels most comfortable. You can remove your eye pillow.

And then take a hold of your pillow and draw it with you onto your side. So it goes under your head. You can just, just pull a little bit out so that it's just enough to support your head. And then reach down and take the pillow that was under the outside of your leg and place it between your knees, ankles and shins. And the bolster behind you, you can just reach back and roll it onto its side.

So you have this wonderful feeling of being cocooned. Now I also like to take the blank, the pillow rather, that was on top of the bolster and place it underneath the upper arm which creates this really nice feeling of being protected, almost in a cocoon. And as you come into this position, feel free to adjust, to scoot back if you need to, to make the pillow higher. Whatever you need to find that sweet spot that feels really good. Also, if you have a scarf, you can just keep the scarf over the eyes here.

Or the eye pillow can rest in the palm of your hand which can also be really nice. Just to allow for that feeling of grounding. Grounding and sinking into the earth and becoming, getting ready rather for a deep sleep. One of the things that happens when we meet our day is our energy comes up as we awaken and we go and we get busy and we do a lot of things and the energy is very up. So when we're preparing for bed, it's one of the reasons therapeutic yoga is so beneficial it's very grounding.

So it helps us to bring our energy down to the earth. And to sink down and to start to move into the evening time with that peacefulness that comes as we let go of the day. And as we start to meet the quietude of nighttime. As the sun sets and the moon rises. Moon and the sun are perfect examples of the yin yang energy and so, we're meeting the yin of the moon and we're softening and resting.

So especially if you have insomnia it's a really good idea in the evening time to turn off electronics because that affects our brain, the light and so forth. And to put on beautiful soft music if you like. To bring the light to a natural light, even candlelight. And to start to slow down. To let go of the busyness of doing and come into a practice of being and resting.

So imagine as you rest here that you are held in a beautiful bubble of light. A safe, nourishing energy that's cradling you. And this light protects you from any negativity. It's a beautiful vibration of positive energy. And supports you in resting your mind and growing quiet within.

Feeling safe. Feeling protected by this light. As it holds you in the soothing energy of peace and relaxation. And preparing to emerge from your bubble of light you'll take a few deep breaths. And you'll just allow your body to come up slowly to seated, so the top hand can press down in front of you.

And you can keep your head heavy as you roll up. Beautiful. From here, we'll prepare for Resting Frog pose. So taking a bolster lengthwise on the mat. We'll bring the pillow on top.

And then adding our additional blanket that's folded in half. This will support the head. And we'll also use the eye pillow to go right under the forehead here. So, Ellen when you're ready and watchers when you're ready, you can come up and come onto all fours as you've done. Yeah, hands on the floor.

And then slowly come forwards so your pubic bone is on the bolster and your chest is on the bolster. Your head will come down to, forehead to rest on the eye pillow, but not so it's pressing into the nose. So you'll want to move it to the place where your nose is free. And you should feel some space under the throat. So you don't want to feel the pillow pressing into your throat.

But the chest is touching the bolster, good. And adjusting is part of it. I always say scooting is good. Scooting into the pose and finding for you just the right position. Does that feel comfortable?

Good. Finding that place of comfort. And then gently allowing your knees to go out into a Frog position. So as the knees go out, the insteps of the feet go down. So it's an external rotation into the hip area.

And the knees are on the blanket. So if your knees aren't on something soft, you want to make sure that your blanket's in the right position for you. From here, your arms can also go out, almost like a cactus, but just resting on the floor. So wherever it feels the most open for you across your back. And as you come into this position just make sure that everything feels even too.

That you're not more on one side of the bolster than the other. The chest and the pubic bone are evenly supported. And the pillow is wonderful. You can do this in many of the forward folding poses for therapeutic yoga, restorative yoga. It helps to really create additional softness for the chest and for the body.

So we'll start with a pelvic rock here. And this is really good for releasing tension in the low back. You'll gently press your pubic bone down, that's it. And you'll feel your low back open. And then you'll gently tilt the tailbone up towards the sky.

I like to imagine as I inhale that I'm pressing the pubic bone down and actually drawing the breath up the spine as you inhale. And then as you exhale, let the tailbone tilt up and breathe out through the tailbone. And just allowing for a movement here of gentle contraction and then release. What you'll feel too is if you're very tight in your groin or your hips, this gentle rocking helps to contract and then relax many of the muscles in that region. And then when you go to rest in Resting Frog, you're able to be much more at ease and comfortable there.

Remember if you're tight in your hips and you're looking at this and saying, "Wow, that's just not possible to go out that wide." That's fine, take your legs down as far as you need to. Straighten them as much as you need to to really find your comfort level. And for those of you that are really flexible, take your knees up high, so the knees are extending out from the hip joints and you're getting really deep into the groin. It's a kidney meridian. So kidney, as I mentioned in a previous sequence, is the battery of the body in Chinese medicine.

And as we nourish our kidney chi, it's very good for our health and well-being. Good for healing, it's one of the things that gets depleted from not sleeping well is the kidney chi. So sleep is one of the best ways to nourish our kidney energy and wonderful opening poses that get into those specific meridians. The neck should also feel really comfortable. And some people after they've been in the pose for awhile, they may remove the eye pillow from under the forehead and let the head tilt down a little bit more.

Let's try that. Just taking that out for a moment and just see how that feels to let the base of the skull open a little bit. And or if it feels more comfortable to keep the eye pillow there, you're welcome to stay there. And from here, just allowing yourself now to rest in stillness. These poses where our heart center is towards the earth, I always feel a wonderful time of feeling into the electromagnetic field, the energy of the earth, and drawing that into the body.

So you can just imagine as you rest here that the earth's nourishing, nurturing energy is flowing up into the front of your body. And that you can just drink that in, absorb it, receive it, with each breath. Then as you exhale, allow everything to sink down and to soften down. Feel how you're completely supported here and you can let go. Forward bends are quieting for the mind and soothing for the nervous system.

Good poses to do at the end of the day or when you're under a lot of stress. As you prepare to transition, take a few deep breaths here. Feel the body rising with each inhalation. Sinking down with each exhalation. When we lay on our bellies, we can often feel the movement of the diaphragm, one of the main muscles of respiration.

Draws down as we inhale and it flows up as we exhale. Or moves up rather. So, just noticing if you can feel that movement. And then when you feel ready, the first thing you'll do is you'll just slowly slide your leg straight back behind you. And you can do one at a time, walking them in.

That's it. (chuckles) Some people like to slide, some people like to lift, whatever is comfortable. And the knees can be about hip width apart. And then just allowing the hands to press under the shoulders to bring you up, and you can engage the stomach muscles. Good.

Good, as you come up, you'll sit back for a moment and we will prepare for the final pose. So, I'll take this blanket off for our final pose and I'll fold it in half and then make a roll. This will go on top of the bolster for final relaxation. You're gonna come here and let's use our pillows. We've got these great pillows.

So we'll bring a pillow under your head here. And you can sit, yeah, maybe even a little bit higher. Good. And slowly recline back. Always be active with your stomach muscles as you come back and tuck the chin in towards the chest.

You can also use your arms if you need to when you come into a reclining position. And knees can come up into the chest and you can rock a little bit from side to side if that feels good. Also, you can do this and then you can position your props or you can position your props before you lie down. Which is nice to just then be able to come right back into it. Also keeping your eye pillow nearby is great 'cause it helps you to just find it easily when you get ready to use it.

I'm gonna put that right there so you know where it is and when you're ready you can put that over your eyes. And before you extend your legs, I'm gonna use this additional pillow since we have it also for your legs and give an additional little softness to the pose, that's it. And then extending the legs and letting them relax down into the earth. So as you get ready for Savasana, you can put your eye pillow over your eyes. You can place a blanket over you to keep you warm.

And your hands can either rest on your body, which can feel very comforting to put your hands on your own body, or you're welcome to rest the hands out to the sides with the palms turned up. Before though you position your hands you may want a drop of essential oil to enhance your relaxation. Placing, you can keep your eye pillow on and I'll just put a little drop in your hands. Okay. So as you receive your oil, you'll rub your hands together.

And then cup your hands over your nose and breathe it in. Some of the good essential oils for relaxation are lavender, marjoram can be nice. Anything that you respond to, so you can try different things and see what works for you. And once you've anointed these areas then you can bring your hands into deep relaxation position for yourself, whatever feels good here. So feel the marshmallow sensation of the pillows.

Soft, can relax down into the pillows. Imagining now in your mind's eye the pillows are soft, fluffy, white clouds. And feel your body resting into this extremely wonderful softness. Sinking down into the support and at the same time feeling lighter and lighter. Feeling as if you're floating on the clouds.

Not a care in the world. Feeling wonderful sense of peace and tranquility. And resting in that essence as you float upward. Growing lighter and lighter. More and more peaceful.

Allow your breath now to gently deepen. And with each breath returning from your deep relaxation feeling ready for a deep and healing sleep. Feeling peaceful and relaxed. You can begin to turn your head from side to side. Wiggle your fingers and toes.

Remove your blankets and draw your knees slowly towards your chest. And from here making your way slowly onto your side and remove your eye pillow. And then as you come onto your side, take a moment here to just connect. So it can be hands on the shoulders or heart. And take a moment to feel the effects of your practice.

Feel the peacefulness within. And then when you're ready to return to seated, take your time, there's no rush. You can slowly come up, put that here for now. And right behind you is a bolster and you can sit right up on this and turn towards me, sure. Sitting nice and tall, bringing your hands into Anjali Mudra at the heart.

And take a few deep breaths. Namaste.


1 person likes this.
This video is amazingly helpful and I depend on it when I have trouble sleeping. I am very appreciative of Cheri for creating this practice. You do need a bolster of some kind but the rest of the props can be towels, bed pillows, couch throw pillows and an eye pillow or scarf. Cheri recommends an aromatherapy oil as well.
Hi Rachel, Thank you so much for your comment! I'm so glad you have found this practice helpful when you are having trouble sleeping. Sending my love and heartfelt blessings xoxo

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