Could candlelit yoga help you sleep better?

Fitness instructor Amanda Vogel swears by her nighttime yoga class to help quiet her mind, calm her body and bring on her best sleep of the week

Could candlelit yoga help you sleep better?

Source: Best Health magazine, March/April 2013; Image: Thinkstock

Every Monday night at 9’p.m., I gather with about 15 other people in a small exercise studio dimly lit by candles. Yoga music plays gently in the background, lulling me into relaxation as I breathe deeply and stretch the day’s tension away.

This is ‘Candlelight Yoga,’ a weekly class held at Creekside Community Centre in Vancouver’s Olympic Village, near where I live. I wouldn’t normally go to a gym this late at night. But Candlelight Yoga is an exception.

Designed to prepare the mind and body for a good night’s sleep, the program offers unique benefits that I don’t get from my workouts with a personal trainer or from my own work as a fitness instructor: It’s a chance to slow down, focus inward and gently stretch’without breaking a sweat. Most daytime yoga classes I’ve looked into are either too long at 90 minutes (cutting into my workday and being a mom to my seven-year-old daughter) or too intense. I craved a class that could balance out the tougher workouts I already do. Candlelight Yoga, a 75-minute pre-bedtime relaxation class, fits the bill. In fact, I often have my best night’s sleep of the week after the session.

Classes are popping up across Canada (Google ‘candlelight yoga’ or ‘nighttime yoga’ to see what’s available in your area); my class was created and is led by certified yoga instructor Pamela Ferman of Yoga 4 Heart n Soul. Candlelight Yoga incorporates several styles including Yin Yoga, where still poses such as Lying Twists are held for up to five minutes, and Restorative Yoga, with a focus on relaxation and healing through postures that use props such as bolsters. Holding poses for several minutes has helped me be more flexible and adds to the restful quality of the class (confession: I once dozed off while nestled up to a bolster).

‘There’s lots of stretching with long holds,’ explains Ferman. ‘And the use of props creates a sense of support, and helps with unwinding.’ Along with tension-releasing postures such as Child’s Pose’which gives special attention to commonly tight areas like the hips and thighs, while promoting circulation to the discs and joins of the back’Ferman leads the class through breathing and meditation techniques. ‘This helps relax the nervous system and quiet the mind from constant thought,’ says Ferman.

As a Type A personality, I’ve always struggled with quieting my busy mind. I find it’s easier to tame in this class.
I notice better concentration and fewer worries during class about my to-do list, because my mind is gearing down for the day. And I carry that calm home with me. By the time I’m rolling up my yoga mat at 10:15 p.m., it truly feels like bedtime.

This article was originally titled "Candlelit yoga helps me sleep well" in the March/April 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!