Whether you spend each workday typing away at a desk, or up and moving around on your feet, one thing’s for certain — our bodies need a little bit of TLC when the day has come to a close. Yoga is one accessible technique that can help get your body and mind ready for a restful night’s sleep — after all, good quality Zzz’s are essential when it comes to feeling our best for tackling what lies ahead. We tapped two seasoned yoga teachers for a few poses that are ideal to do before hitting the hay, so read on and file them away as a worthwhile addition to your nightly routine!
1. Viparita Karani (Inverted Pose)
Why do it before bed: Viparita Karani or “legs up the wall” pose is safe, accessible, non-strenuous and creates a relaxation response in the body by awakening the parasympathetic nervous system. This mild inversion is also a great reprieve for our lower extremities to help counter all that time we spend sitting, standing or generally moving around all day.
How to: Lie down in front of a wall. With your tailbone flat on the floor, scooch your bottom against said wall and swing your legs straight up the wall’s surface (you’re basically creating somewhat of an L-shape with your body). You can choose to take this pose with your legs falling wide apart (like a split) or opt to keep them together (a yoga strap can help with that if needed).
2. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Why do it before bed: Child’s pose is a gentle stretch and release that simultaneously touches the hips, knees, spine and shoulders — it’s a fantastic pose for releasing the tension of the day and settling any mental gymnastics you may have going on.
How to: Sit on your heels with your feet touching together at the big toes. Your knees can be together or any distance apart that feels appropriate. Extend your arms out in front of you (or relaxed behind you) as you lower your torso down and rest your forehead on the ground. For added comfort, you can place a blanket, bolster or simply your hands underneath your forehead.
3. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Why do it before bed: When done properly, this pose helps to quiet both the mind and body in preparation of sleep — think of it as getting yourself as close to neutral as humanly possible. While the savasana pose may require less exertion and physical strength, the complete mind and body stillness can be rather difficult to master.
How to: Lie down on your back (preferably on the floor rather than the bed) with your arms out straight about six inches away from your body and palms open to the ceiling. Your legs will be outstretched in front of you as you allow your feet to drop to the sides. Close your eyes and try to relax as you find a combination of both physical and mental stillness. In this pose, you’re aiming to turn off active thinking — you want to stay alert (rather than sleeping or dreaming), but unattached to the world around you. Observe any thoughts and feelings that arise and allow them to pass over and float away rather than clinging to them.
From Catherine McDougall, Yoga Instructor based in Orange County, California
4. Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
Why do it before bed: This particular pose is wonderful for reducing fatigue and instilling a sense of relaxation after a busy day. A great one to practice before bedtime, reclined bound angle pose can help you fall into a deep, restful sleep. Bonus: it also opens the thighs and hips which is beneficial for flexibility.
How to: Grab a bolster or alternatively you can fold a couple of blankets and stack them to form a rectangular bolster shape. Sit in front of the bolster and slowly lower your back down over it making sure to keep your spine centered (the lower curve of your spine is what the bolster should be supporting). Bring the soles of your feet together and let the legs fall open. You can opt to add a pillow or folded blanket under each thigh for extra support. Another tip is to pop on an eye pillow and drape a blanket over your body to help create a warm, safe space for combatting overstimulation from the day. Make sure to breathe as you settle into this moment of restoration.
5. Upavistha Konasana (Seated Angle Pose)
Why do it before bed: Seated forward folds help to calm and cool the central nervous system and ease mental agitation — the pose also stimulates the abdominal organs which can aid in digestion.
How to: Sit on the floor, with your legs open wide and a bolster or stack of blankets between them. Bring your legs closer together if you’re feeling any discomfort in the hips and knees. Inhale and reach your arms towards the ceiling. On the exhale, reach arms forward and lower the palms flat to the floor (resting your torso, arms and head on the bolster). Breathe deeply and allow your body to be fully supported and relaxed as you enjoy these moments of peace.
One final note — you don’t necessarily need to do all these poses in one evening. As Meyerson points out, while there’s not necessarily any harm in doing a combination of them, sometimes it can be better in this instance to pick one and hold for an extended period of time (at least a couple of minutes, but of course listen to your body and what you feel comfortable with). We hope these postures help you settle down and feel at ease as you get ready for a tranquil night’s snooze!