Does yoga help treat insomnia?

Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine Specialist

According to Ayurveda, insomnia is an indication that there is an excessive amount of air in the body as a result of aggravated Vata dosha. This is an imbalance that leads to dryness in the form of constipation and dry skin, and tends to affect those who exhibit both excessive movement of the body (travel, frenetic movement) and the mind (managing many small tasks throughout the day, surrounding oneself and interacting with many people at any given time). When the mind becomes too active, it can be difficult to dial down the thoughts so as to feel relaxed enough for sleep. But with a nourished, moisturized body and a soothed mind, insomnia can be reversed.

Certain yoga postures help to settle down the aggravated Vata dosha, and in doing so the body will become more nourished and the mind will settle down in turn. Examples of postures that are helpful for those with Vata imbalances include tree pose, legs up the wall, and plough pose.

Try the following sequence. In each posture you will want to breathe slowly and deeply. Many poses can be done on a more dynamic style or a more restorative style, which is what we are after here. You can use props to help you get comfortable, you’ll want to spend about two minutes in each pose. If you are not familiar with the postures, there are plenty of great places to look for pictures. is an excellent source.

  1. Childs Pose
  2. Supine double knee hug
  3. Supine twist
  4. Legs up the wall pose
  5. Corpse pose

Yes, while yoga in general will help you relax and maintain a restful night's sleep there are some poses that are known to specifically help with insomnia. Below are a few examples including Standing Forward Bend and Legs Up The Wall.

  • Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) naturally calms the nervous system and can help promote sleep. Start standing upright with bare feet. Ground into all four corners of your feet and be present in the experience as you feel the warmth of the feet on the earth. Tuck the chin and elongate the back of the neck, find a slight bend in the knees, and then let the head, neck, shoulders, and arms find the gravity pull as you very slowly begin to roll like a ragdoll all the way to the floor. Your knees can stay as bent as they need to be. Begin to draw your weight forward into the balls of the feet and let your torso pour over your hips. Hang your head, neck, shoulders,m and arms heavily. Your eyes should be closed and breath calm. Release any tension in the jawline. Take swaying motions side to side, and move the head and neck up and down and back and forth to lengthen and release muscles. After several moments, begin to press into your feet, and with bent knees, take your time as you roll the spine slowly back up to a standing position. All along the way you are hanging heavy and the head is the last to come up. Once standing upright feel and observe.
  • Viparita Kirani (Legs Up The Wall) is an inversion performed laying on the floor close to the wall and usually supported with a blanket under the hips. The legs and hips are above the heart and head, and the change in circulation can help with hormonal balancing and begin to soothe and relax the body while you keep the eyes soft and closed and breath relaxed. Take a folded blanket or pillow and place it up against a wall. Place your bottom on top of the blanket or pillow with your left hip almost touching the wall and your legs off to the side. Lean back with support of your arms, walk the legs and feet straight up the wall, and continue to scoot your bottom toward the wall. The base of your spine should be grounded into the blanket or pillow as your legs are straight over your hips and leaning on the wall. Place your right palm on the lower belly and your left hand on the heart. Close the eyes and relax all muscles in the face. Roll the shoulders down away from the ears and expand your chest and heart slightly. Breathe fully and practice being present for as long as you like.

Next time you can’t sleep try these:

  • Forward bends such as Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
  • Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged standing forward bend)
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing Dog pose)
  • Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee pose)
  • Paschimottanasana (seated Forward Bend)

Continue Learning about Yoga

Practicing Yoga to Enjoy a Perfect You
Practicing Yoga to Enjoy a Perfect You
Photo Credit: Leo Prieto, via Flickr Creative Commons Imagine if you started your yoga practice with the idea that you don’t need fixing; that you ar...
Read More
Can yoga relieve PMS symptoms?
Yoga, when practiced regularly, can reduce symptoms of severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menstr...
More Answers
7 Best Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
7 Best Yoga Poses for Stress Relief7 Best Yoga Poses for Stress Relief7 Best Yoga Poses for Stress Relief7 Best Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
Relax and breathe easier with these calming yoga postures.
Start Slideshow
What Yoga Poses Can Help Me with My Balance?
What Yoga Poses Can Help Me with My Balance?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.