6 Yoga Poses For Bad Dreams That'll Help You Fall Back Asleep In No Time
I feel like nightmares aren't talked about nearly enough, but boy are those bad boys awful. It can feel nearly impossible to fall back asleep after a terrible and far-too-realistic bad dream, because you literally feel like it's playing over and over in your head, and no matter what you do, you just can't shake it. Personally, I've found that certain breathing techniques, combined with some yoga poses for bad dreams, can be an absolute lifesaver when it comes to clearing the mind after an especially terrifying nightmare. If nothing else, it's certainly better than lying there and reliving your bad dream over and over again while you try to will your body back to sleep.
According to Psychology Today, having nightmares from time to time is relatively normal, as it's usually your body's natural way of reacting to stress. What's more, the outlet explains, bad dreams are often a way for your brain to process and work through tough experiences that you may not have consciously handled yet. I mean, sure, it would be a lot nicer if this whole stress-processing thing wasn't in the form of mental images depicting a possessed baby doll trying to stab you with a kitchen knife, but the brain's got to do what the brain's got to do, you know?
However, just because you're majorly shook by a jarring nightmare doesn't mean you have to lie awake under the covers for hours and feel totally unable to go back to bed. If you feel like you just can't get back to sleep after an awful dream, try these six yoga poses and breathing techniques to calm your body and mind, anchoring you back to the present moment.
1. Balanced Breathing (Sama Vritti)
When you first wake up from a nightmare, you're usually so terrified that you probably have zero interest in doing anything too complex; all you want is a way to ease your pounding heart and calm TF down. Sama vritti is one of the most basic breathing techniques in yoga, and according to Verywell Fit, it can soothe your body from the inside out by "naturally reducing stress hormones in the body."
Trust me, there's nothing fancy going on here. Simply match the length of your inhales and exhales, and try to stay mindful of breathing into your belly as you wind down after your bad dream.
2. Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
Something that I like to do after a bad nightmare is get out of bed and sit on the floor so that I can ground myself and anchor my body to the present moment, kind of like detaching myself from the bad dream itself.
Sitting in easy pose and using ujjayi breathing — which is just deep belly breathing that sounds like the waves of the ocean — is a great way to center your thoughts and relax your tense muscles. Scan your body from head to toe while you're in easy pose, and focus on releasing any parts of yourself that are holding more tension. Consider repeating this mantra, too, if it helps: "I am here. I am safe."
3. Child's Pose (Balasana)
Child's pose relaxes and restores both the front and back of the body, and it's an amazing pose for reintroducing a feeling of sleepiness and contentment to your whole being.
Slipping into balasana is a great way to get back to sleep if you're tossing and turning after a bad nightmare. According to Yoga Outlet, this pose "centers, calms, and soothes the brain, making it a therapeutic posture for relieving stress." As you rest in your child's pose, envision all of your stress melting away, and remind yourself that the haunting thoughts of your dream can leave just as easily as they came.
4. Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
If you're feeling majorly overwhelmed and anxious after a nightmare, consider venturing over to your wall and putting your legs up to relax your body. Legs up the wall pose is a deeply restorative asana that allows you to easily tap into your body's "rest and digest" nervous system response, rather than the "fight or flight" response that's turned on during times of stress, like waking up from a nightmare.
Stay with your slow, drawn-out, and rhythmic breathing as you remain in viparita karani. If you'd like, you can place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart to gently nurture your body and mind.
5. Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shoddana)
If you're still feeling kind of wired, and nothing seems to slow your racing heart or stimulated mind, alternate nostril breathing will surely come to your rescue, friend. Nadi shoddana is an incredible breathing technique that works wonders for reducing anxiety, calming your mind, lowering your heart rate to release tension, and making your entire body feel utterly relaxed.
According to Business Insider, Hillary Clinton used the alternate nostril breathing technique to calm herself down during the 2016 election, a time that could more or less be described as a real-life nightmare, so yeah, that totally makes sense.
6. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Once you're ready to get back into bed, you can take a savasana under your covers to allow yourself to gently drift back to sleep.
Close your eyes, and allow your breathing to return to a natural, unmonitored state. Repeat the mantra, "I am here, I am safe," once again, and begin to relax your muscles from head to toe.