Restless sleep is a product of an anxious mind and unsettled body. As we go about our day, stress from work, family, friends, finances, and fitness builds up, affecting our moods and physical health. That stress, combined with our busy schedules and our need to scroll through Facebook and Instagram when we're lying in bed—FOMO is a real thing—interferes with our ability to reach the state of relaxation needed for a good night's sleep.
Using yoga to retrain your body and mind to wind down slowly before bed is simple and can improve the quality of your sleep. Flowing through a few yoga poses before winding down for the night can clear your mind and help relieve the emotional and physical stress of the day.
Before you begin the sequence below, take a few moments to slow down your breathing. Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and breathe in and out through your nose, counting slowly to four for both the inhale and exhale. Use this same breathing pattern as you move from pose to pose.
Here are a few tips before you begin:
- The goal of these six poses is to help you slowly make your way into bed. Start your yoga practice after your chores for the night are complete. Things like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and putting on your pajamas should be done before you begin.
- As you enter each pose, remember that these are meant to be relaxing. Focus less on perfecting the stretch and more on sinking into the movement to the best of your ability. Reduce the struggle, and seek out the stretch.
- Don't forget to breathe. Spend 10 slow breaths, or 45-60 seconds, in each pose.
Find Your Flow: Your Pre-Bedtime Yoga Sequence
After this sequence, you'll be ready to crawl into bed, shut your eyes, and drift off to restful, restorative sleep.
1. Seated Forward Fold
The seated forward fold allows the mind to settle and the body to stretch. It gently releases the tension in the hamstrings and lower back.
- Sit with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Relax your legs, fold forward, and gently reach for your toes.
2. Seated Straddle
When you transition from a seated forward fold to a straddle, you'll continue to work on opening the hamstrings while also relaxing the chronically tight groin muscles. But this only works if you keep breathing deeply! You aren't going to release any tension if you're clenching up and focusing on discomfort.
- Sit with your legs wide apart.
- Walk your hands forward, and fold your torso.
This pose provides you with greater awareness of your space and your breathing pattern while allowing the tension in your chest and shoulders to release prior to a long night of sleep.
- Lie on your back. Bend your knees, and place your feet hip-distance apart. Your feet should be flat on the floor and close enough that you can touch your heels.
- As you press through your feet, gently lift your hips. Press into your upper arms to create space in the front of your chest.
4. Reclined Hamstring Stretch
Like the seated forward fold and seated straddle, this pose gently stretches the hamstrings and relieves tension in your lower back, which might have gathered after a long day of work. It's also a cool-down pose and helps calm your nervous system.
- Lie on your back. Bend your right knee, and draw it close to your chest.
- Wrap your hands around the back of your right thigh, and slowly straighten your leg. Switch sides after 10 slow breaths.
5. Happy Baby
Happy baby cools and calms the central nervous system. It also stretches and lengthens the lower back and hips, which can help reduce back pain and improve posture and balance.
- Draw both knees to your chest, and grab the outside edges of your feet or ankles.
- Place your elbows inside of your knees, and lift your feet up.
- Gently reach your tailbone toward the floor or rock side to side.
6. Easy Reclined Spinal Twist
This final pose will help ease any neck and shoulder tension while improving circulation.
- Lying on your back, bring both knees to your chest.
- Reach your arms out wide, and gently draw your knees over to the right.
- Rest here for 10 slow breaths, then switch sides.