Lack of sleep goes hand in hand with stress. If you’re someone who is not getting the sleep you need, you’ve likely noticed that not sleeping can take a serious toll on your overall well-being. Sleep experts say we need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Most of us consider ourselves lucky if we get six
A yoga routine can help. Practicing a few specific yoga postures before you go to bed can have a tremendous impact on helping you fall and stay asleep. Yoga for sleep has become increasingly popular as a natural way to help people of all ages and lifestyles get the sleep they need.
A simple bedtime yoga routine is what you need. Allow yourself to soothe your senses before bed by engaging in the following yoga for sleep sequence. These gentle postures, combined with a focus on your breath, will help calm your mind, body and soul and will soon have you sleeping easily.
Yoga for Sleep: Get the Rest You Need With This Simple Bedtime Yoga Sequence
1. Perfect Pose (Siddhasana)
Begin this simple sequence in perfect pose, or Siddhasana. Perfect pose is the seated posture traditionally used for meditation and pranayama (yogic breathing exercises). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a yoga text from the 14th century AD, suggests that Siddhasana is the most distinguished of all yoga poses. It’s believed this revered posture is a way to achieve samadhi, or ultimate bliss.
Perfect pose is a simple cross-legged position. Start by sitting on your mat, legs extended in front of you. Bend your left knee and bring your heel to press into your groin. Then, bend your right knee and cross the right ankle over the left ankle, resting your right heel at the top of your pubic bone. Rest your hands on your thighs, palms facing either up for receiving or down for grounding, sitting up tall.
Close your eyes, relax your shoulders down your back and begin to focus on your breath. Inhale slowly and gently, exhale slowly and gently. Continue to sit and focus on your breath moving in and out of your body for a count of 10-15 breaths. Do this for three rounds of 10-15 breath counts, bringing your awareness to each moment as you begin to prepare your mind and body for sleep.
Begin releasing any tension from the day by rolling your head and neck with a focus on slow, controlled movement. One roll of the head and neck should be one complete breath. Do this for a count of 10-15 breaths in each direction.
Bring your palms together at your heart center, or Anjali mudra, the familiar drawing together of the hands at the beginning or end of a yoga class. Bow your head to your hands and continue to slowly breathe and let go of any lingering tension in the neck and shoulders. Hold this for a count of 10-15 deep breaths.
2. Head to Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirasana)
From perfect pose, extend your right leg out in front of you, keeping your left heel pressed firmly into your groin. Place your hands on the floor next to your buttocks, sit up tall and inhale deeply. On your exhale, fold forward over your right leg, reaching first with your left hand to hold the inside of your right foot. Keep your belly button in line with your right thigh and bring your awareness to your breathing.
With each inhale, feel your lungs become full of prana, or life force energy oxygenating and rejuvenating each and every cell of your body. On the exhale, you can simply stay in stillness as you are or invite a deeper stretch by extending forward from the groin. Listen to your body and continue for a count of 10-15 breaths. Repeat on the left side, making sure your inhale is long and your exhale is even longer.
Head to knee pose offers a calm respite from a busy day. It is known to be both calming and relaxing and is often used in yoga for sleep sequences for its soothing properties.
3. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
From head to knee pose, bring your heels together as close to your pelvis as you can for bound angle pose, or Baddha Konasana. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, slowly bend forward and grab your big toe of each foot with your hands. If you can’t touch your toes, grab onto your ankles or shins. Let gravity draw your knees towards the floor, close your eyes, and focus on your breath as you find your center. Hold this pose for 10-15 slow, deep breaths, release and repeat.
Bound angle is also great for opening tight hips and relieving fatigue and stress.
4. Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)
From bound angle pose, slowly lay back either onto your mat, blanket or bolster for reclined bound angle pose or Supta Baddha Konasana. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart, or relax your arms at your sides and melt into this super relaxing pose. Bring your awareness to your breath as you take slow inhales and exhales. Hold this pose as long as you like, but a few minutes is best when engaging in a yoga routine to promote sleep.
Reclined bound angle, sometimes referred to as reclined butterfly pose, is one of the most restorative yoga poses there is. Not only does it help calm the mind, but it also reduces heart rate, decreases muscular tension and offers stress relief.
5. Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
From reclined bound angle, slowly make your way into shoulder stand, or Sarvangasana. Watching a YouTube tutorial or asking your yoga teacher to show you how it’s done is suggested if you’re unsure of how to correctly practice this posture. Once you have gotten yourself into proper positioning in shoulder stand, hold for a count of 10-15 mindful deep breaths.
Shoulder stand is sometimes referred to as the Queen of Asana and is excellent for promoting a good night’s sleep. This is because of the way it calms the nervous system and cools down the body. Shoulder stand literally turns your world upside down, and, in a yoga for sleep sequence, it’s fantastic for moving into a more relaxed mindset and slowing down from your day.
Note: Shoulder stand should be avoided during pregnancy and by individuals with neck or shoulder pain or injury, slipped disc, high blood pressure, spine issues, heart problems and liver or spleen problems.
6. Plow Pose (Halasana)
From shoulder stand, gently move your body into plow pose, or Halasana, by bringing your legs back behind your head and touching your toes to the floor. Once you are comfortable in this position, focus on your breath and hold for 10-15 slow, mindful breaths.
The benefits of plow pose in a yoga routine for sleep are unprecedented. It’s widely used to assist sleep and many routines meant to calm will incorporate plow pose. This pose helps melt away any stress or fatigue you’re still holding onto from the day, while gently relaxing the mind.
Plow pose offers a good stretch to the neck and spine and is known to relieve headaches and gently soothe discomfort. If you work at a computer most of the day, you’ll love plow pose. If sleep evades you, it might just become your new favorite.
Precautions: Avoid plow pose if you have a serious neck injury, high blood pressure, asthma, or are pregnant.
7. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
From plow pose, move close to the wall for legs up the wall pose, or Viparita Karani. Start by sitting with your left side closely against the wall, turn your body gently to the left, bring your legs up the wall, slowly lower your back to the ground and lie down. Next, scoot your buttocks as closely to the wall as possible, rest your arms loosely at your sides, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. Stay in this relaxing, rejuvenating pose for at least 15-20 slow, deep breaths. Feel free, however, to stay as long as you wish.
Legs up the wall is one of the best poses for gently easing the body into a state of blissful relaxation. What’s more, it can be done by anyone, regardless if you’re a beginner or have been practicing yoga for years. Bring your legs up against the wall, and you might be surprised at how well this pose eases you into a state of blissful relaxation.
7. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
After spending a few minutes or more in legs up the wall, gently lower your legs and lay your body down on your mat for corpse pose, or Savasana. Keep legs straight and a few inches apart. Allow your feet to fall open. Arms should be resting gently on your mat just away from the stomach, with palms facing upward for receiving or downward for grounding. Allow yourself to let your body sink heavily into the mat, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath moving slowly in and gently out of your body.
Let yourself stay in corpse pose for at least 5-10 minutes (general rule of thumb is 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of practice), doing your best to stay focused on your breath. Be aware of, yet unattached to, the present moment.
This is the final resting pose of almost every active yoga sequence and is one that most yoga teachers and traditions consider the most important part of yoga practice. Why is Savasana so revered? For one, it offers the body and mind time to absorb the practice just completed. It’s also extremely beneficial for restoring mind, body and soul. If you’re interested in yoga for sleep, corpse pose isn’t a pose to skip at the end of your practice.
It is one that is difficult to master. To lie perfectly still without focusing on where the mind wanders takes practice. The benefits of corpse pose, however, are unprecedented. It’s excellent for alleviating stress, increases self-confidence, helps improve focus and concentration, is known to offer relief from fatigue, relieves muscle tension and more.
Do you have any other favorite before-bed yoga poses? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Thanks for reading! To show how much we appreciate you, we’re going to give you 16% off your next order. Just use code READER16 at checkout!
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.