Do you have trouble falling asleep? If so, there could be a few reasons for that. For example, proper sleep hygiene (going to bed at the same time every night, not looking at a screen before bed, etc.) is an important factor in getting a good night's rest. The brain needs time to unwind and relax in order to fall asleep, which is where yoga for sleep comes in handy.
I've always had difficulty sleeping, but recently, I've made it a priority to work on my sleep habits. To help with this, I started developing a nighttime routine and practicing yoga. You might have heard that yoga is helpful for relieving symptoms of anxiety, but yoga can also help improve your quality of sleep, and that's a benefit we should all be taking advantage of.
I spoke with some of the top yoga instructors about which poses help promote relaxation at the end of the day. Keep scrolling to see some of the stretches that could help you drift off into a deep sleep.
Note: The information in this article should not be used as a replacement for medical treatment. Make sure to see your doctor to rule out more serious health-related conditions before starting a new exercise regimen.
1. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
Miriam "Mimi" Ghandour, the founder of Mimi Yoga, recommends a seated forward fold. "This pose can help improve sleep by calming an overactive nervous system," Ghandour says. "The deep breathing involved in this pose also helps soothe the nervous system and promote relaxation."
Directions: Press your sit bones into the mat as you draw your lower belly in and up. Inhale as you gently lengthen your spine. As you exhale, hinge from your hips and fold forward while keeping your back straight as your hands come next to your feet in front of you. If you can, grab the outside edges of your feet. With each exhale, fold deeper into the pose while maintaining a straight back. If you're a beginner, you may want to use props, such as a block or strap, to make this pose more comfortable.
2. Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
Ghandour also suggests doing this pose before bed. "It can help improve sleep by relieving tension in the lower back, spine, and groin," Ghandour says. "The gentle rocking motion as you breathe can also help ease stress."
Directions: Begin by lying on your back on the floor or on a mat. Bend your knees while bringing them close to your chest while keeping the soles of the feet facing the ceiling above. Reach forward to hold the inside or outside edges of your feet. While keeping your head and shoulder blades on the floor, gently rock from side to side as you inhale and exhale.
3. Cat-Cow (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)
Heidi Kristoffer, creator of the CrossFlow Yoga app, suggests practicing cat-cow during your bedtime routine. "While these are technically two poses, one is not often done without the other. Alternating between cat and cow several times in a row solidly links your breath to your movement and calms the mind," Kristoffer shares. "Cat-cow repetitions also relieve any abdominal cramping caused by anxiety."
Directions: Come to all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale, and look up with an arched spine, rolling your shoulders away from your ears for cow. As you exhale, press the floor (or mattress) away with your hands and knees, and round your spine like an angry cat. Do this for at least five complete breath cycles (five inhales of cat and five exhales of cow).
4. Supine Pigeon (Supta Kapotasana)
Kristoffer suggests pairing cat-cow with supine pigeon. "Pigeon on your back is a great one for the mattress and for anyone with knee issues," Kristoffer says. "For added comfort, you can place pillows under your hips in pigeon and bound angle, and roll a towel under your heels if your Achilles tendons are tight in malasana."
Directions: Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on your mattress at hips' distance apart. Bend your right knee, and cross your right ankle over your left thigh while keeping your right foot flexed. Lift your legs toward your chest, and lift up your chest enough to thread your right arm through the hole created by your legs. Take hold of your left thigh with both hands. Allow your back and head to relax back onto the mattress. Then reach your right knee away from your body. Your left leg can be long or bent. Breathe here for at least five deep breaths, and switch sides.
5. Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)
"Our stress hormones are peaked throughout the day from a variety of sources that are not an imminent danger, and therefore we don't get the consequent resolution that we used to receive in our ancestral past," Heimann says. "Lowering our stress responses before bed not only helps us prepare for sleep with more success, but it carries over into the next day, ensuring a better probability for continued optimal sleep."
This twist continues to wring out the tension from the day with a sense of grounding, which calms the nervous system.
Directions: From all fours, thread your right arm under, and rest the right side o your skull on the floor or bed. Reach the left arm forward for support, and lift into your back body. Hold for five breaths, and repeat on the other side. Breathe into the back body as it creates more space.
6. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Heimann also suggests giving bridge pose a try. This pose is grounding and helps to lengthen the spine, both of which will help the body prepare for sleep.
Directions: Lie on your back with your feet pressed into the floor or bed. Lengthen the tailbone toward the heels, and use your hips to lift off the floor. Keep the spine long, and stay for one minute, taking deep, full breaths.
7. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
And lastly, Heimann recommends this de-stressing pose. This restorative pose allows the mind and body to relax and relieve stress and tension. It's wonderful for most people because it does not require major flexibility or strength, and it calms the nervous system to better prepare you for sleep. Legs up the wall can signal a relaxation response, which leads to a lowered heart rate and a calming state for the nervous system.
Directions: Bring your legs up a wall, resting your feet on the wall and letting your back release into the floor or bed. Hold for two to four minutes, and let the wall support the weight of your legs.
Yoga Gear to Shop
This luxury, oversize matte yoga mat will provide a clean and comfortable space to practice before bed. It's available in over 10 colors.
Set the mood for your yoga practice with this candle that symbolizes the root chakra. It offers a tropical fragrance with notes of mango, guava, orange, and lemon.
This lightweight vegan-suede mat with 6mm of cushioned support will keep you comfortable during your practice.
This smooth, flattering bra comes with crisscross straps for a sleek and stylish look. It provides light support ideal for yoga.
When it's time to clean your mat, this cleanser made from odor-reducing probiotics gets rid of dirt and oil while preserving the mat's integrity.
Manduka's cork yoga block offers additional support for a variety of poses and promotes optimal alignment for beginners.
This is a bra that holds you in while providing a personalized fit with underwire construction and smooth straps.
Beyond Yoga's tank, featuring a shelf bra, makes it a great choice for light exercise like yoga. Both soft and stretchy, this tank is available in over 10 colors.
These breathable and spacious high-rise shorts are made from the brand's FreeForm fabric that holds everything in while leaving room for movement.
Add some resistance (one pound, to be exact) to your yoga practice with light weights that wrap around your wrists or ankles.
These leggings wick away sweat and eliminate odor with four-way stretch Airbrush fabric. They're yoga pants designed to move with you during those backbends and downward dogs.
Available in 12 colors, this pranayama wrap keeps you cozy and relaxed.
Next: 9 Yoga Poses That Just Might Cure Your Headaches
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.
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