When many people think of yoga, they envision hip classes in studios filled with chiseled people contorting in all sorts of directions. The truth, though, is that yoga can be simple and approachable, and yoga before bed can help prepare your mind and body for a great night of sleep.
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a broad term that refers to a mind-body practice involving certain positions (known as poses), controlled breathing, and meditation. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga can help to reduce stress and enhance relaxation. Combined with the physical benefits of stretching, a short bedtime yoga routine can be a helpful component of your sleep hygiene.
What Is Yoga for Sleep?
Remember that yoga for sleep is different than yoga that you might do as part of an aggressive fitness routine. Your goal isn’t to push the limits of your flexibility but instead to help settle your mind and relax your body in a way that makes it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed.
It’s also important to note that while most people can do yoga poses without issue, yoga isn’t for everyone. People with certain pre-existing medical conditions or injuries, as described by MedlinePlus, should use caution when beginning a new yoga routine and may want to consult with their doctor before doing so.
What Poses are Good for Bedtime Yoga?
If you’re ready to try out yoga for sleep, below we walk you through a number of poses that you can do in bed or in your bedroom.
Ujjayi Breath / Victorious Breath
Controlled breathing is a core element of yoga, and you can apply Ujjayi Breath during all of the poses below. It helps to regulate your breathing and settle your mind.
To do Ujjayi Breath, close your mouth and begin breathing through your nose. Your inhalations should be deeper than normal, and as you exhale, slightly constrict the muscles in the back of your throat. Exhale slowly. This should create a sound as you exhale, which is why this is also known sometimes as “hissing breath.”
If you’re struggling getting this breathing down, Mindful MVMNT has a detailed breakdown of the anatomy of Ujjayi breath.
This is one of the most basic and well-known yoga poses. It helps to stretch the lower body and back and is a good starting position to begin controlling your breath.
To do Easy Pose, start by sitting with your back straight and your feet in front of you. Slowly cross your legs in front of you and place your palms on your knees. Adjust your weight and positioning to be comfortable — remember, this is called Easy Pose for a reason! Hold this position for one minute and then switch the cross of your legs and repeat.
Source: Yoga Outlet
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
This pose, which you can do on your back in bed, helps to stretch your lower body and core.
Start on your back with both legs in front of you. Bring your right knee up toward your chest and place your fingers around your hamstring, calf, or if you can, your big toe. Choose a hand position that does not place undue stress on your leg or back. You can also hold onto a strap or band that goes over the middle of your foot. Straighten your right leg into the air above you while keeping your left leg pressed into the bed. Hold the pose for at least 5 breaths, then slowly bring your right leg down and repeat with your left leg.
Source: Yoga Journal
Child’s Pose can be done on your bed or floor and helps to stretch and relax the back, core, and arms.
Start on your knees with your hands on the ground out in front of you. While continuing to breath, lower your hips toward your heels. This should stretch your back and your arms if they are kept out in front of you. If it is more comfortable, you can bring your arms to your side. Your knees can be together or slightly separated depending on your comfort.
Source: Yoga Basics
Cat/Cow are two positions that involve slightly different arches in the back. Both can help to stretch out your back before bed.
Start on the ground (or your bed) on your hands and knees with your back straight. Slowly drop your stomach toward the ground while lifting your neck and tailbone. Then reverse this by raising your back up toward the ceiling while tucking your chin and tailbone.
Source: Do You Yoga
Reclining Bound-Angle Pose
This pose, which sometimes is also referred to as nighttime goddess stretch and can be done on your back in bed, helps to relax your body and stretch your legs, arms, and lower back.
Start this pose on your back with your knees bent and together. Gradually lower your knees to the bed while keeping your feet together. Extend your arms out from your body at an angle that feels comfortable.
Source: Yoga Journal
This pose is perfect to do before going to sleep because it mostly involves being on your back, in bed, and breathing deeply.
This simple pose starts by lying down on your back with your legs and arms spread out comfortably. Stay in this position and breathe deeply with your eyes closed.
Source: Yoga Journal
If you have time, you can do all these poses as part of a regular routine before bed, but if you’re short on time, you can pick the ones that feel best to you. Just remember to treat your body well, control your breath, and help get yourself relaxed for a restful night of sleep.