Yoga is a form of meditative movement that focuses on breathing and different postures. A popular form of exercise, yoga is proven to have positive effects on health–both mental and physical. Practicing yoga before bedtime, and in general, is an excellent way to relieve stress, release tight muscles, stretch, and perhaps most importantly, help you sleep. A CDC survey of yoga practitioners found that 55% reported improved sleep and 85% reported decreased stress.
Remember to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program. If you have any physical limitations or injuries, there are numerous modifications for yoga poses. Interested in practicing yoga for sleep and relaxation but aren’t sure where to start? Read on to learn what yoga poses are the best for sleep and how to do them.
One of the most popular yoga and beneficial yoga poses, Child’s Pose is a tabletop position pose. Tabletop poses are for beginner practitioners and start with both hands and feet on the ground on all fours with a flat back. Child’s Pose is a five step pose that stretches and lengthens the spine. Pop into Child’s Pose before bed to relax and loosen up your back muscles.
Corpse Pose is the ultimate pose for relaxing and focusing on your breathing. Like the name implies, Corpse Pose is a still pose that allows you to relax and be still. Called The Final Relaxation, Corpse Pose is usually saved for the end of a yoga class/practice sequence. When in this resting pose, try to stay present and aware of your breath.
Reclined Butterfly is perfect for a deep stretch. This pose improves circulation, stretches the inner thighs, groin, and knees, and is shown to help relieve stress and menstruation symptoms. Reclined Butterfly is recommended for those who sit frequently at work. Can’t sleep from back pain? The deep stretch from this pose is excellent for sciatica pain.
This self-explanatory pose is simple yet packs big benefits. Legs On The Wall is a restorative posture that lets your mind and body relax preparing you for sleep. One of the easiest yoga poses that requires little flexibility or athletic skill, Legs On The Wall is recommended by doctors to ease swollen feet and ankles.
Tight hip flexors are a common concern many don’t know they have. Experiencing tight hip flexors can lead to a myriad of other problems like low back pain, stiffness, or sports injury. Lizard Pose is a great way to loosen up tight muscles to help you relax. This pose is recommended for intermediate practitioners and can be more of a challenge. Start slowly and work your way up to feel the full benefits of Lizard Pose.
This plank-style pose requires some experience and core strength to reap the full benefits of pose. Locust Pose has several variations but all provide similar benefits, like spine strengthening, opening the chest muscles (which are compressed by sitting all day), and helps ease anxiety.
Tight hamstrings? Not with Standing Half Forward Bend! Not only will practicing this pose improve flexibility, but it can help you sleep by relieving tension in the back, neck, shoulders, and legs. Start with your feet about hip width apart and bend over until your hands touch your shins and you feel the stretch in the back of your legs. For those more experienced with yoga, place your hands on the floor or use blocks.
This pose will look familiar to the runners and other athletes. Also called Seated Forward Bend, this pose is excellent for deep stretching of the legs and feet. This pose is especially helpful for those who stand multiple hours at a time and have tight hamstrings.
Runners and power lifters will also find this pose helpful. Sit down, curl one leg up to the inside of your opposite thigh, bend forward towards your outstretched leg, and point your toes up. Head-of-the-Knee is great for easing anxiety and menstrual cramps.
Don’t let the long name fool you; this is a simple pose with big benefits. Wide-Legged Standing Forward Fold (or bend, depending on the source), is another relaxing deep stretch. With your legs spread about 4 feet apart, inhale, lift your chest, bend forward and place your hands on the ground.
More advanced practitioners will turn this pose into a complete inversion pose in a headstand, but beginners can use a block. This pose helps relieve upper back and neck tension, and is shown to help ease headaches.
This reclining pose is both relaxing and provides a deep stretch to your inner thighs. Bound Angle Pose requires laying down, outstretching the arms to the side, placing your feet together, and spreading your knees outward. This pose can be slightly uncomfortable for beginners, especially those with tight hip flexor muscles or groin injuries.
To modify, use a block or a folded blanket. Besides providing deep stretch to an often neglected area of the body, Bound Angle Pose improves circulation, relieves stress, helps with mild depression, and menstrual cramps.
Any runner or athlete knows sore quads can leave you tossing and turning in pain. If you’re suffering from sore quads, Reclining Hero Pose can give you the deep stretch you need. Another pose that also helps release tension and tight hip flexor muscles, this restorative pose is considered a more advanced pose and should be practiced with care. Along with a deep stretch, Reclining Hero is proven to relax your body and relieve tension.
One of the most well-known yoga poses for sleep, Plow Pose, is an intermediate to advanced pose that is worth practicing for the documented benefits like calming the brain, stretching the shoulders, reducing stress/ fatigue, and helps with headaches.
Plow Pose can help you focus on breathing and clearing your mind. The position of this pose is one of the more challenging poses that help with sleep. Make sure to practice carefully to avoid straining your neck.
This classic restorative yoga pose can help you get to sleep and strengthen your core by performing a pelvis tilt and forcing your body to hold up your lower half. The positioning of Bridge Pose puts your head and neck lower than your heart, which suppresses your body’s “fight or flight” mode that causes stress. Bridge Pose also helps open up the chest to improve breathing as well as calm the mind.
Want to sleep like a baby? Try the Happy Baby Pose! Soothing and gentle, this pose increases relaxation and stretches the body. Start by lying flat on your back, bend your knees to your chest, and grab the outside of your feet. Flex your heels and rock side to side, like a baby in a crib. This pose is perfect for relieving stress and giving your body a deep stretch to relieve tension before bed.
It’s no secret we carry a lot of stress in our backs. According to Georgetown University, 8% of adults in the United States experience back pain. This pose, as well as others on this list, can help open up the spine and relax the entire body. Reclined Spinal Twist is a beginner pose that anyone can do to help you relax and get to sleep. The spinal twist in this pose is also great for any athletes to stretch out their spine and tone the core.
A classic restorative pose, Reclining Bound is a great pose for stretching out the inner thighs, groins, and the knees. Stretching out these commonly overlooked muscles is a great way to unwind and destress. Reclining Bound helps relieve mild depression, stress, and can help with symptoms of menstruation and menopause. Use caution with this pose if you have any knee, hip, or groin injuries.
Channel your inner feline with this relaxing pose. Named after the famous Egyptian statue, Sphinx Pose is a common beginner pose anyone can perform. As the name suggests, your body will end up in a downward position with your forearms on the ground and your chest extended. Get down in Sphinx if you want to relieve stress, open up the chest, and help strengthen the spine.
For beginners, getting your head to the mat during Child’s Pose can be a challenge. Supported Child’s Pose provides the benefits of the full version of the pose, but with some added core support.
The perfect pose to end any relaxing yoga sequence, Supported Child’s Pose is the same as Child’s Pose but with a pillow, blanket, or yoga bolster supporting your chest. This pose soothes the central nervous system, eases lower back pain, and improves circulation.
This self-explanatory pose is the yoga equivalent of a hug. Knees To Chest, like Child’s Pose, is an ideal pose for winding down a session. Knees To Chest relaxes the whole body, especially the back-a common area of pain and tension. Not only does this pose relax the body, it is also a great lower back stretch and can strengthen the core.
Perhaps the most popular and beneficial yoga pose, Downward Facing Dog, or Downward Dog is equal parts relaxing, strengthening, and provides a deep stretch to the hamstrings. Downward Dog doesn’t look particularly difficult, but is surprisingly challenging as it targets many muscle groups and strengthens bones and joints. Despite offering a decent workout, Downward Facing Dog also decreases blood pressure and has a calming effect.
Besides the physical health benefits of yoga-like increasing strength, yoga is a great way to unwind and help you sleep. Whether you are a beginner or a full-fledged yogi, practicing yoga on a regular basis is a great way to stay in shape and improve your sleep. If you have any physical limitations or injuries, proceed with caution when starting a new fitness program and seek the advice of a doctor or yoga instructor.
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