Poised for a Good Night’s Sleep

Hana Grobel, M.D. is a board-certified Family Physician and Integrative…
Photographs By Armando Raphael

Hana Grobel, M.D. is a board-certified Family Physician and Integrative Medicine Practitioner in the Bay Area. She’s fascinated by the mind/body connection and the body’s innate ability to heal. Hana’s trained in many therapeutic healing modalities, is a yoga alliance certified teacher, and uses all disciplines in healing her patients.

Maya Grobel, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and yoga teacher in Los Angeles. Through her seven years of clinical experience, she has found that yoga can help build physical and emotional strength, help to ease mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression, and be a healing tool rather than just a form of exercise.

The Grobel sisters stand at a happy junction where East meets West. Daughters of a notable creative couple-—celebrity journalist/author Lawrence Grobel and artist/textile designer Hiromi Oda—the two take a yin-yang approach to their own careers. They learned natural healing from their Japanese mother, then earned medical degrees from top U.S. universities. That makes this dynamic duo expert in yoga’s healing and preventative aspects. So sit up straight and get ready to learn a healthful way to more sleep.

If you’re struggling for more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, try getting out of bed and doing some of these poses. Forward bending is one of the most helpful postures to promote sleep and can be done standing, seated, and laying down. Use these postures to relax the hardworking back and neck muscles that hold your body and head upright all day. Forward bends allow you to quietly activate parts of your brain and release  and stretch the muscles in the neck and back to promote a state of rest and calm. Bowing your head slightly turns your gaze away from the distractions of the outside world and directs your attention to the inside world.


1. Child’s PoseHana-&-Maya_0004


Kneel on the floor, sitting on your heels. Separate feet about hips’ distance and allow your torso to fold forward as your hips sink toward your heels. Arms can be stretched out in front of you or at your sides. If you have two blankets handy, you can place one under your forehead for support and one either under your knees, or between your calves and the back of your thighs, if you have trouble sitting on your heels. Take at least 15 deep breaths into the belly and back body, and feel free to stay put for several minutes to really take advantage of this resting pose. If your mind is really active, you can imagine all the thoughts and worries pouring out of your forehead and onto your mat. This is a classic calming and stress-relieving pose.



2. Seated Forward BendHana-&-Maya_0023


Sit on a blanket with your legs stretched out in front of you, feet flexed toward the ceiling. A rolled blanket tucked under slightly bent knees supports stiff legs and back and protects the hamstrings. It’s best not to over-stretch in this pose. Lengthen the torso on an inhale and fold forward from the hips on the exhale. If you can’t reach your feet, use a strap or simply let your hands fall where they reach on your legs. Practice exhaling for twice as long as you inhale for at least one minute, but only if you feel comfortable and relaxed. A seated forward bend isn’t comfortable for everyone, so choose the postures that feel best to your body. This pose helps to calm the brain and relieve stress and tension as well as stretch the spine and hamstrings.



3. Standing Forward Bend


 Stand upright with feet together or hip-distance apart. Feel your feet root firmly into the ground, toes facing forward. Exhale as you bend forward from the hips, allowing the hands to reach for the floor. A few blankets will raise the floor to meet your hands, and a slight bend in the knees is a great way to soften the pose, protecting the hamstrings and back. Release the head and neck fully, focusing on relaxing the jaw and the space between your eyebrows. For extra support, do this pose with your bottom against a wall. Come out of the posture slowly to avoid getting light-headed.

*Standing forward bends aren’t advised for people with high blood pressure or glaucoma.



4. Bound Angle PoseHana-&-Maya_0024

Baddha Konasana

Sitting upright, bring the soles of your feet together. Place a folded blanket under each outer thigh for extra support. You can sit upright here for a few minutes practicing left nostril breathing. To do it, block your right nostril with your thumb or index finger and take long, slow, deep breaths for several minutes, if you can. Breathing out of your left nostril is cooling and calming and helps to trigger the relaxation response. Then move into the forward bend by allowing your torso to come toward the floor to whatever degree is comfortable.

*Be careful not to force the knees down in this position or to hyperextend the knees in a forward bend.



• Exhale for twice as long as you inhale; pause at top of inhale and bottom of exhale.

• Use three-part breathing (dirgha breath): belly, ribs, chest, then reverse.

• Try left nostril breathing to tap moon energy for reflecting, calming, and cooling

Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) synchronizes both sides of the brain.



Keep a schedule to regulate your sleep cycle. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Start to relax an hour before bedtime (read, practice breathing techniques, do yoga, take a bath, etc.).

• Exercise daily for at least 20 minutes; finish 4–5 hours before bedtime.

• Deal with worries before bedtime. Write your troubles down to help expel them from the mind.

Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) synchronizes both sides of the brain.

• Adjust the bedroom environment for coziness. Avoid clock-watching.

• Refrain from screen time, reading, or eating while in bed. Reserve bed only for sleep, snuggling, and sex. End electronic screen time two hours before bed to decrease stimulation.

Eat a light snack before bed if you’re hungry, but avoid caffeine, alcohol, or smoking before bedtime.

• Get out of bed after 20 minutes and go to another room if you can’t sleep. Do something quiet: Read a book, write in a journal, do some yoga. Return to bed only when sleepy.

• Remember yoga’s benefits:
*Clears the mind’s clutter and calms the nervous system
*Balances the adrenal glands and regulates stress hormones
*Releases muscle tension and stimulates the relaxation response