11 Yoga Poses for Your Best Sleep Ever
During the series on my pursuit of my " best sleep ever," I wrote about my experiment with yoga before bed (spoiler alert: I was a fan). After publication, there were many reader requests on the poses I do to prepare myself for a nice night's rest.
My routine is largely based on the yoga routine of the wellness editor of Mind Body Green (one of the leading yoga and healthy living websites on the internet), but I have adapted it somewhat to fit what I think feels nice in my body and where my personal areas of tension are.
If you're familiar with yoga, feel free to adapt the routine to your own needs. For those just beginning, I've noted the more intense poses below. But remember to go easy and only perform this routine if you are in your best health and have been approved to perform yoga by your doctor. You're getting ready for bed, not stretching for a marathon, so enjoy these yoga poses for sleep and get to relaxing!
1. Neck Stretch
To start my yoga for sleep routine, I begin in a seated position and roll my shoulders back and down to straighten my spine. Then I stretch my right arm out while stretching my neck in the opposite direction. I do this because after a long day of "hunching" over a computer screen, it feels amazing.
2. Cat and Cow
This is one of the most "basic" yoga poses that is done at the beginning of almost every yoga class. It's gentle, but it warms the body up for the more active poses. To get into these poses, get on all fours and make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips are over the knees
To become a "cow", create an arch in your back like you're going to hang your belly low on the floor.
To become a "cat" move your torso in the opposite direction so that your back is now higher in the air. Do this shift (from cow to cat) several times until your body loosens. Feel free to move your hips in a circle if that feels nice.
3. Downward Facing Dog
Now for the first inversion, downward dog. An inversion is where your heart is above your head. This pose will give your heart a moment to relax, which can deepen your sleep and be very relaxing for your whole body.
This stretch may feel "tight" in the backs of your legs, your lower back, and your hips.
4. Three Legged Dog
Here is where I deviate from the Mind Body Green routine for my version of before bed yoga. I like to do extra poses to loosen my hips because a) it's my favorite kind of stretching and b) after sitting all day, my hips are super tight.
The three legged dog is like downward facing dog, except your lift one of your legs in the air. If it's comfortable, slightly open up your hip to the ceiling. This will help promote additional blood flow to your hip area. Repeat on both sides.
Swing your leg through to place it in front of your body for a lunge. Sit up straight and feel this stretch in your hips. Sink deeper to feel a more intense stretch. Repeat on other side. I like to reach my arms for the ceiling to feel the stretch even more along the side of my body.
6. Low Lunge
To continue stretching my hips, after a regular lunge, I softly place my back knee down on the mat and place my hands on my hips.
I take the arm on the lunging side and reach for the floor. My opposite arm goes up to the ceiling, and I lift my gaze. (This stretch is one of my favorites!)
7. Runners Stretch
Shift your weight back as you straighten your front leg. This stretch may feel tight in the back of your legs (your hamstrings) but is also very beneficial after a long day of sitting.
I wouldn't attempt pigeon if you haven't attended a few yoga classes. It is a very deep, intense stretch. I love it, but please don't try it if you are unfamiliar. For pigeon, I go back to three legged dog, swing my leg through and place my knee so it is laying flat against the mat in a half triangle. If this feels funny in your knees, discontinue stretch.
Repeat on other side. For me, I feel the most difference in my hips after completing this stretch. You can stretch with your arms holding your shoulders up off the floor, like in the photo above, or for a deeper stretch you can come to your forearms.
10. Child's Pose
Now for a few stretches to calm anxiety in the mind and body. For child's pose, spread your knees and stretch your arms forward onto the ground. Stay here as long as you like, breathing deeply.
11. Legs Up the Wall
For my final pre-bed pose, I do another inversion and simply sit with my legs against the wall. This not only pushes blood back into your hips and lower back, but is incredibly restful, especially if you close your eyes.
From there I get into the bed and I can feel a noticeable difference in how relaxed and loose my body feels. Give it a try and let me know what you think!