This should be your go to deep sleep ritual. It incorporates aromatherapy, spa techniques, pranayama (breath-work) and restorative yoga poses - restorative yoga, is where you use props to support you such as yoga blocks and blankets so you can completely relax into the pose and hold the pose comfortably for a long time.
I have relied on this sleep ritual over the years and recommended it countless times to friends and family struggling to fall asleep. If are short on time, you can pick and choose from the steps below, but you will benefit far more if you complete the entire ritual in the order suggested below. The most powerful element of this ritual is the pranayama, because the breath is the only part of our autonomic nervous system that we can consciously control. The breath gives us a direct gateway into the regulation of the nervous system and the relaxation response that prepares us for sleep. With this is mind, focus on the calming and lengthening your breath throughout the ritual and really enjoy and immerse yourself in the breathing section.
Before you start, turn off all your electronic devices and phones, set your alarm for the morning, brush your teeth, and prepare for bed. Gather the props you need – find out essential oils for the foot soak if you are going to use them, and place a yoga mat (not essential but it will make each pose more comfortable), block (a small towel rolled up will work, if you don’t have a block) and a soft blanket and place by a wall near your bed. Dim the lights. The effect of this practice can be immediate, but for more chronic insomnia you may need to stick with it nightly for a couple weeks before you experience changes in your sleep. The effects of this ritual are both long and short term, so commit to it for at least a month and then you can continue or use it as needed after that. The entire practice should take about 20-30 minutes, depending on how long your spend in each step. Then turn off the lights or dim them as much as you can.
Relaxing aromatherapy foot-soak
A warm footbath anointed with relaxing essential oils is a calming and soothing way to prepare for bed. By drawing the circulation to the feet, we draw niggling thoughts and stress away from our head. Begin by running a footbath – in a large bowl, sink or bath. Run the water as hot as you can tolerate, then add a few drop of relaxing essential oils if you have them – lavender, ylang ylang, sandalwood are good choices. If you don’t have any oils, don’t worry, the heat and the very act of sitting still and soaking your feet will still help you relax. Remain here for at least five minutes. No reading, scrolling through your phone, checking emails or other activities here, just relax. When you are done dry your feet and put on some socks to keep your feet warm for the yoga practice that follows.
Let go of the day pranayama
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position of your choice. Close your eyes and start to notice your breath. Without tensing or worrying, begin by simply slowing down your breath until you can count to 4 on your inhale and 4 on your exhale. Lengthen your spine, drop your shoulders, tuck your chin under slightly. As you feel comfortable here, progress by slowly lengthening each exhale 1–2 counts each round until you inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 8. Staying relaxed is key here; only increase the duration of each exhale as much as you can staying relaxed. Release negative thoughts or stress with each exhalation. Let go of the day and welcome the healing power of the breath. Continue for 3–5 minutes, you can build up to as much as 10 minutes over time as long as it feels comfortable and relaxing.
Supported Seated Forward Bend
Sit tall on the edge of a folded blanket with your legs extended, toes pointing towards the ceiling. Inhale, roll your shoulders back and down, draw in your core muscles, exhale and lengthen your spine as you fold forward. Keeping your spine lengthened, hold onto your feet or shins, with your elbows bent and arms relaxed. Rest your forehead on a block. Relax and release with each exhalation. Remain here for 3-5 minutes.
Supported Child’s Pose
Sit back on your heels in a comfortable position then walk your hands forward and place your forehead on a yoga block on its lowest level or a rolled towel. Stay for 3-5 minutes and visualize the thoughts pouring out of your brain onto the floor as you allow your mind to empty here.
Modified Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
Position your yoga mat right up to the wall. Sit side on, with your outside of your hip and your shoulder right next to the wall. Scoot your bottom and legs round and lie with your legs up the wall. Make any adjustments necessary to get comfortable here with your head and pelvis resting on the ground. When you’re finished adjusting, begin to come back to the pranayama practice above, slowly lengthening your exhales to allow your nervous system to drop in even deeper this time. Make sure you are able to let the breath be leisurely, as you rest in the exhales so that each round you visualize yourself melting deeper into the floor. Do 5–10 rounds of the 4-count inhale, 8-count exhales then let go of the pranayama practice and let the breath be natural for about 5 minutes.
When you are finished, gently roll to your side. Slowly push yourself up to standing, turn the lights off and go straight to bed, without checking any devices.