If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you already know that I have a difficult time falling and staying asleep. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life trying to figure out how to sleep better and for longer, because as we know, getting good sleep affects our health in so many different ways.
Practicing yoga before bedtime can help release tension in your body, as well as help your mind relax so that you can naturally drift off to sleep and have an easier time getting into a deep sleep.
Incorporating a nighttime yoga routine before bed has helped me tremendously. I set an alarm on my phone so that I put it away at least an hour before I go to sleep, and I run through some yoga poses to begin my bedtime routine.
Restorative yoga is a type of yoga that works well for evening routines. It uses floor-based poses, lets you stay in the pose for longer to encourage your body to release tension and can be accompanied by blankets and pillows.
You can do these poses in bed, so that you can feel relaxed and comfortable before trying to sleep. Sometimes, I find myself drifting off to sleep before I finish the practice, so it’s good to do this as the last part of your bedtime routine, just in case. This way, once you’re in a relaxed and comfortable state, you don’t have to get back up to do anything else afterward.
Simple breathing techniques can have a relaxing effect on your central nervous system. When we are stressed, we tend to breathe quickly and into our chest. By slowing our breathing down, and breathing all the way into our belly, we turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, calming our bodies and preparing it for sleep.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil as a variation of pranayama, an ancient yogic technique that helps to relax your body as it replenishes oxygen in the body.
1. Allow your lips to part gently and exhale completely as you do.
2. Press your lips together as you silently inhale through your nose for 4 seconds.
3. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
4. Exhale again for 8 seconds, making a whooshing sound as you breathe out.
5. Repeat this at least 4 times, and work up to 8 repetitions.
Alternate nasal breathing is sometimes referred to as alternate nostril breathing or nadi shodhana pranayama. This is not only a great exercise for preparing for sleep, but also to help with stress and anxiety.
1. Sit with your legs crossed and place your left hand on your knee and your right thumb against your nose.
2. Exhale fully and then close your right nostril using light pressure with your thumb.
3. Inhale through your left nostril.
4. Open your right nostril and exhale through it while closing the left nostril.
5. Continue this rotation for 5 minutes, finishing by exhaling through your left nostril.
The waterfall is a pose that most people know and have done before. It’s a gentle inversion, relieving your lower body and providing a calming effect on your nervous system. It also helps to stretch out your legs, where I am always tight from walking or sitting behind my desk all day.
1. Lie on your back, lifting and extending your hips and sit bones to make sure that your back is nice and long
2. Bring your knees up to your chest, then extend the legs, so that they’re at a 90-degree angle to your body
3. Your knees can be bent or straight, depending on how you are feeling. Bring your arms out to the side, close your eyes and relax, breathing deeply for 10-15 breaths.
4. You can also do this pose against your headboard for a more restorative version before bed.
The Happy Baby pose is easy to go into from the Waterfall pose, and also helps relieve tension in both the lower back and your mind.
1. From the Waterfall pose, bring your knees back into your chest and grab the outside of the sides of your feet.
2. Extend your legs a little and bring your knees wide, letting your elbows fall inside your thighs. Push into your hands, feeling a nice stretch.
3. You can gently roll from side to side or forward and backward to give your lower back a light massage.
4. Hold for 10-15 breaths
The Twisted Roots pose is great for your spine, and also is a welcome treat after sitting at a desk all day. It provides a gentle massage for your internal digestive organs, which helps aid in digestion of your dinner before you sleep.
1. From the Happy Baby pose, bring your legs down so that your heels are on the bed and your knees are pointing toward the ceiling.
2. Push through your heels, lift your hips and place them back on the bed, over to one side.
3. Bring your knees up toward your chest, stopping wherever you are comfortable, and then let them fall to the opposite side.
4. Spread your arms and look in the opposite direction to your knees to stretch your neck as well.
5. Hold for 10-15 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
The Sleeping Butterfly helps to open up your hips, which can become closed and tight while sitting, and helps to stretch your lower back.
1. Slowly bring yourself to a seated position from Twisted Roots, and bring your feet together in front of you, soles touching.
2. Your feet can be as close or far away from you as is comfortable. You can also use a pillow under you to elevate your hips or support your knees on either side.
3. Inhale and stretch your spine upwards, then gently start to fold forward, curving the spine and neck to bring your forehead towards your feet.
4. Stop wherever feels comfortable for you, and stay for 10-15 breaths, breathing into your back.
Supported Child’s Pose is the ending pose of the sequence because while it stretches out our hips and back, it also helps soothe our central nervous system.
1. Use a pillow (or bolster) and sit on one end, with your thighs on either side and your sit bones against your heels.
2. Gently fold forward to rest on the pillow, with your head turned to one side, keeping your sit bones and heels together (if possible). If you have trouble with this, you can use a folded blanket or pillow between them.
3. Relax into the pillow, letting it hold your weight and try to quiet your mind.
4. Stay in this pose for 10-15 breaths, then repeat with your head facing the opposite direction.