If you struggle with insomnia, yoga can help. Try this 10- to 20-minute sequence designed and demonstrated by Senior ParaYoga teacher Lauren Toolin. Set an intention to do the poses gently and quietly, she says, and let your breath be complete, smooth, and even. End with the soothing pranayama practice of chandra bhedana, described below.
Stand with your feet wide apart, toes facing front. Fold at the hips, placing the crown of the head on the floor or on a few pillows, with elbows bent and palms on the floor. Visualize all your burdens rolling off your shoulders. Hold for up to two minutes (about 15 relaxed breaths).
Sitting on the floor, draw the soles of the feet together, knees apart. Place a rolled blanket across the feet and tuck the ends underneath the thighs to support the lift of the knees. Recline with a long spine over three or four pillows, allowing the shoulders and chest to broaden and release to gravity. Soften the belly. Release into the support of the pillows and floor for up to five minutes.
Sit with your hips to the right of your feet and cradle your left ankle in the arch of the right foot. With a long spine and open ribs, turn the sternum and drape yourself over a stack of pillows. Place your right cheek on the top pillow, snuggling your belly into the support of the pillow pile. Repeat on the left side. Stay for one minute on each side.
Sit with a small rolled blanket between the heels and the sitting bones, knees apart. Tuck your stack of pillows between the thighs and fold forward. Turn your head to one side. Let the rib cage melt into the pillows and the arms drape to the floor. Relax for up to five minutes, turning the head to the other side halfway through.
This pranayama activates the left nostril and the ida nadi, the lunar energy channel. Activating this pranic channel has a quieting effect on the brain and nervous system and helps facilitate sleep.
With your right hand, assume the vishnu mudra by curling your index and middle fingers into the pad of your thumb. Your thumb and your ring and pinkie fingers are extended. Sit tall and tuck your chin slightly. Bend the elbow and close off the right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through the left nostril to the count of five. Then close the left nostril with the ring and pinkie fingers, exhaling through the right nostril for five counts. Continue inhaling left, exhaling right for 15 breaths or more.