Yoga is a beautiful practice for many things; one of them being relaxation. One of my favourite things to do is 5 minutes of yoga before bed. I used to be an avid overthinker, talented ruminator and anxious self-doubter but after time with yoga, I can now let my thoughts go and relax enough to fall soundly asleep. Whilst yoga can be used for power, energy and strength it’s most powerful tool is for sleep and relaxation. So when you’re struggling to sleep at the end of the day, try these 7 calming yoga poses for sleep and relaxation.
Why is yoga good for sleep?
As we all know, yoga helps reduce stress. When we’re less stressed, we more relaxed. In order to fall asleep easily, we must first feel a degree of relaxation. Calming yoga also helps with the nervous system. We’re often in a state of fight or flight throughout our waking day, so our nervous system gets used. If this is happening regularly, our bodies naturally stay awake for longer. Yoga helps to balance that, and can calm our nervous system in minutes.
If you’re left with pain at the end of the day, these 7 calming yoga poses can help to ease that discomfort. Yoga is widely known to help with joint pain, hip pain, back and neck pain and more. Yoga helps increase strength and mobility whilst calming your brain.
Yoga also helps us to stay in touch with the present moment. As we focus on breath combined with movement, it’s hard to think about other things. This practice helps to condition the brain to be mindful – another well-known strategy for sleep and relaxation.
How to use yoga for sleep and relaxation
The best thing to do is start small and create a habit. Habits can be created anywhere between 21 and 66 days, so aim for a minimum timeframe between that! Choose a location, a time and duration and put it in your calendar. Create an alarm or post-it note to remind you, and if you like, ask a family member or friend to hold you accountable! Try for one day a week to begin with and slowly build up if you wish. One of the biggest mistakes we make is when we create too much change to our routine and become overwhelmed. This only leads to us completely giving up. Start small and build.
7 calming yoga poses for sleep and relaxation
Head to knee
Stick both your legs out and bend one in towards your inner thigh. Take a breath in as you sit and lengthen your spine, and on your exhale fold your body over your outstretched leg. You can choose to stay here for a few breaths and enjoy the stretch, or come to sit and fold alternately with each inhale and exhale.
Come to lie on your back, with a pillow under your head if you wish. Bring your feet together and let your knees drop to either side. You can place your knees on pillows as well if you really want to get comfy!
Bring your knees back together from lying butterfly and slowly lower them to one side as you exhale. Gaze over to the other side if you like and relax into the floor. Inhale to come back to the centre, exhale and lower to the other side. Try and soften your feet and knees to the ground – if this is too tricky you can either prop your knees on a pillow or straighten your legs a little.
Bring your feet back onto the floor with your legs bent. Pop one ankle above the knee of your other leg, weave one hand through the gap in your legs and the other around the supporting leg. With an exhale, guide your legs closer to your body to stretch your back body. Inhale to release and repeat on the other side.
Supported chest opener
Grab 2 firm cushions or a couple of blocks if you have them. Pop one on the floor around where your shoulders will land, and one just behind where your head will rest. Try to make the head cushion/block a little higher than the shoulder rest. Slowly guide yourself onto the blocks. The lower one to support the lower part of your shoulder blades, and the higher one to support your head. Bring your legs to any position you like and breathe here. Try and soften your belly, relax your arms and focus on how your breath feels.
Supported forward fold
Sit on a folded blanket with your legs stretched out. Inhale as you lift up tall, and on your exhale lean forward to rest your head on a block or pillow. Stay here for a few breaths or move with each inhale and exhale.
Legs up wall
This is nice and simple! Shuffle yourself as close to a wall as you can and stretch your legs up. Relax through your body as you breathe in and out.
And that’s it! Try these daily before you get into bed and your mind and body will feel far more relaxed, ready for sleep.