Have you tried all of the recommendations you can find for a better night’s sleep and still aren’t sleeping well? The National Sleep Foundation recommends young adults and adults receive 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Like many working adults, your sleep patterns and lifestyle might be causing you to experience sleep debt.
If you’re burning the candle at both ends and not getting enough sleep, now is the time to create a new bedtime ritual that will prepare you for a restful night of sleep. These five yoga poses for before bed will help reduce stress, relieve anxiety and relax your body by stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system, i.e., your relaxation response, also sometimes called your rest and digest response.
5.) Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a classic yoga pose that is both nurturing and grounding. Practice this restorative child’s pose variation on your bed. Come into a kneeling posture and then sit onto your heels, take your knees wider than your hips, bring two pillows lengthwise in front of you and then lower your torso over the stacked pillows. Finally, turn one ear down to the pillow and close your eyes. Hold for two to four minutes and make sure to switch ears about halfway through.
As you settle into the posture begin to deepen your breath. Breathe in through your nose and sigh out through your mouth. Why sigh? When you experience strong emotional states like anxiety, fear, or stress your breathing pattern is disrupted and made shallower and shorter. Letting out a sigh, or many sighs, is like hitting the reset button and can shift your body and mind back to equilibrium.
4.) Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Supported bridge pose is one of the best yoga poses to do before bed for both office workers and those who spend most of their working day on their feet. Supported bridge pose helps reestablish the lumbar curve of your lower back and can help relieve lower back pain. It is also a wonderful counterpose to child’s pose. Before bed it is best to keep your yoga poses more restorative and calming, so practice this supported version of bridge pose for ultimate relaxation.
For this version of bridge pose stack a couple of pillows or use a yoga block if you have one. Lie down on your back, bend your knees and bring your feet to about hips width distance. Bring your feet pretty close to your bum. From here, press into your feet and lift your hips up off of your bed and slide your yoga block (or pillow stack) underneath your sacrum. If you’re using the pillows it might be easier to sit on your stack of pillows and then lower yourself down into the yoga pose. Once you’re in the posture close your eyes and balance the lengths of your inhales and exhales. Try to slow your breath down. You may find it helpful to count the lengths of each inhale and exhale. Hold this posture for a few minutes.
3.) Supported Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Supta baddha konasana, or supine bound angle, opens up the chest, softens the belly, and relieves tension and tightness in the lower back, inner thighs and groin. For supta baddha konasana, stack your two pillows, turn them lengthwise and place them behind you. Make sure that your entire back and head are supported by the stack of pillows. Bend your knees, bring the soles of your feet to touch and allow your knees to drop out to the side like the pages of a book. Rest your arms by your side with the palms facing up. If you experience any pain or discomfort in your knees or hips use a couple of extra pillows to support your thighs. Hold the posture for 5-8 minutes.
According to author and yoga instructor Cyndi Lee, “Like all restorative yoga, [supta baddha konasana] dials down the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response (the hyper-alert state we go into when stressed) and turns up the parasympathetic nervous system, sometimes called the “rest and digest” response, which supports digestion, relaxes muscles, lowers the heart rate and promotes a good night’s sleep.” When we give our body time to rest and restore it improves the health of our immune system and improves our overall quality of life.
2.) Simple Supine Twist (Jathara Parivartaranasana)
One of our favorite yoga poses before bed is a simple supine twist. Yoga twists help improve digestion, create a supple spine and when held for a few minutes stimulate our relaxation response.
Lie down on your bed on your back. Give your knees a gentle hug in toward your chest and rock a little side to side. Afterward, extend your arms out to the side and release your knees to the right. If it feels okay for your neck, turn your gaze to the left. If the stretch feels too intense, place a pillow either under your knees or between your thighs. Remember, this posture should be relaxing and restorative, not a deep stretch. Rest here and work on lengthening your exhale breath. After three to four minutes repeat on the other side.
1.) Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Legs up the wall pose is yet another yoga pose to do before bed. Dr. Weill confirms that viparita karani and similar yoga poses may help relieve the following: stress and anxiety; menstrual and menopause symptoms; swelling, cramping and fatigue in legs and feet; and lower back pain.
You can practice legs up the wall pose on your bed or on the floor. If you choose to practice on the floor lay a blanket or yoga mat down where you will practice the pose. Wherever you choose to practice, you will want to come onto your side and move your bum as close to the wall as you can. Once your bum is touching the wall, roll onto your back and extend your legs up to the ceiling. Bonus: if you can, have someone place a heavy-ish book or small sandbag onto the soles of your feet. The extra weight helps ground the pelvis and therefore ground the posture. Close your eyes and rest for 5 minutes.
And there is one more bonus pose. Click “Next” to see what it is.
Bonus Pose: Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Savasana is one of the most important yoga poses in any yoga practice, especially for deep rest. The pose itself is easy: simply lie on your back and you’re in savasana. For some, it is hard to quiet the mind. For those with busy minds I recommend practicing yoga nidra, also known as yogic sleep. Yoga nidra is a guided deep relaxation exercise and has loads of benefits, for example: yoga nidracreates delta waves in the brain, helps one heal from trauma, reduces stress and improves sleep.
A good night’s rest has a host of benefits from being more alert to being happier. Do you practice any particular yoga poses before bed or have a favorite bedtime ritual? Share in the comments below.
Want to learn more about the benefits of a yoga practice? Get more information here.