Yoga is known for its restorative impact on the body. There are many different styles practiced today—some will infuse you with more energy, while others will promote peace for a deeper sense of calm. It goes without saying then that yoga can be a great tool to use before bed to prep yourself for a truly restorative night’s sleep. So, let’s explore five yoga poses* that can help relax your body for a restful snooze. All of these poses can be done in bed or on a mat, rug or blanket on the floor—wherever you are more comfortable.
*If the word yoga conjures up thoughts of handstands, pretzels and matching activewear, fear not. Zero acrobatics or yoga experience is required to get into these gentle and restful positions.
1. Child’s Pose
This pose activates the nervous system’s relaxation response which makes it an ideal precursor to sleep. It is thought that practicing this pose before bed can help you to unwind a busy mind. Start by kneeling with your legs underneath your buttocks and then lean forward until your head is resting on the floor. You want your buttocks to press into your heels and your stomach against your upper thighs. You can stretch out your arms above you or rest them beside your body, whatever is more comfortable.
The goal is to feel at ease so if you are tight in the hips and/or the knees, there are some variations which can help you to feel more comfortable. Try adjusting the space between your knees; you may find wider is better. You can also add pillows or bolsters between your knees and your buttocks and/or your tummy and your legs if getting right down without additional support feels too uncomfortable. Finally, you can add a pillow underneath your forehead to cushion your head resting on the ground.
Duration: Stay in child’s pose breathing deeply into your diaphragm for a minimum of a minute, so long as it does not become unbearably uncomfortable.
2. Happy Baby
With a name like happy baby, what’s not to love about this pose? But seriously, we didn’t just pick it for its name. Happy baby is a stress-relieving yoga pose that realigns and lengthens the spine while stretching the lower back. To get into this position, lie down on your back and bring your knees up to your chest. Grab hold of the outside of your feet (if you can’t reach, try using a belt or a band and wrap one around each of the soles of your feet to give you more reaching power) and open your knees so that they are wider than your torso. Your shins stay perpendicular to the floor as you gently push against your hands with flexed feet while pulling hands down to create a little resistance.
Many people find rocking side to side in this position feels great and can distract from any discomfort stemming from tightness in the hips. You may prefer to do this pose on your bed as the mattress will provide a softer cushioning for your spine and may help you reach your feet more easily. Please note, this pose is not suitable during pregnancy.
Duration: Ideally spend a minute or longer in happy baby, again breathing deep into your diaphragm. If a minute is too much, start with thirty seconds (or as long as you can) and work your way up as it gets more comfortable.
3. Legs Up the Wall
Legs up the wall places your legs higher than your chest which can be a wonderful way to help recirculate blood flow. This makes it great for those who experience leg or ankle swelling towards the end of the day. It’s also incredibly restorative to the nervous system, and some say that 20min in this pose can be as beneficial as taking a nap.
For this pose, get your buttocks as close to the wall as you can and then stretch your legs up as straight as they will go. For those with lower back or hamstring tightness, add a pillow, cushion or folded towels underneath your lower back to give your tailbone a little extra lift.
Duration: Spend as long as you can in this position. Aim for around 5min or work your way up to that if it’s not comfortable to begin with. You may find that your feet and legs tingle and this is absolutely normal.
4. Mother or Reclined Butterfly pose
This position provides instant relaxation for the mind, body and spirit. It helps to open up the groin, hips, inner thighs, heart space and abdomen which unlocks the front of the body and encourages a long, slow, deep breath. The position also enhances blood circulation to all of the reproductive organs—hence its name ‘mother pose’. It can be a wonderful salve to menstrual cramps and is the ideal pose for fertility and pregnancy.
To get into it, lie on your back and draw your knees out as if you are about to take a seated crossed-legged position. Instead, press the soles of your feet together and let your knees hang down toward the ground. To make this position more comfortable you can prop yourself up in various ways. First, you may like to use pillows, cushions or folded blankets to elevate your body so that you’re in a reclined sitting position. Secondly, you may be more comfortable if you place cushions, blocks or folded blankets underneath each knee so that the inner thigh stretch does not become too intense.
Duration: This is a deeply relaxing pose and the longer you spend here, the more you will benefit. Providing you have adequate support, you should find it comfortable to stay here for 5min or even longer. Try placing an eye mask over your eyes or turning off all the lights for this one as you allow your breath to deepen you into this pose and possibly even off into restful sleep.
5. Supine Twist
This gentle reclined spinal twist is calming and encourages naturally deep and restorative breathing. It also helps to release the lower back, elongate the spinal muscles, ease tightness in the shoulders, improve digestion and quieten the mind. Yep, all of that from a simple twist. To get into this position lay flat on your back, draw one knee up to your chest and grab it with your opposite hand. Gently draw your knee across your body and down towards the floor. Your other arm comes out into a ‘T’ position. You may notice that, as you draw your knee closer to the floor, your opposite shoulder lifts off the floor. That’s okay. Aim to get your knee down and lift your shoulder as much as you need. Follow the same process on the opposite side.
Duration: Spend a minute on each side, focusing on breathing into the stretched out ribcage to work on expanding your lung capacity.
Would you like to share your experience of these stretches? Comment on our social post @latex.mattress to let us know if they helped you to fall asleep.