Lack of sleep and stress go hand in hand. If you’re one of countless individuals not getting the sleep you need, you’ve likely noticed that not sleeping can take a serious toll on your mental and emotional well-being. Sleep experts say we need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Most of us are lucky to squeeze in six.
A yoga routine can help. Engaging in 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. Invite yourself to soothe your senses before bed by engaging in the following yoga for sleep sequence. These gentle postures, combined with a focus on the breath, will help calm body, mind and soul and will soon have you sleeping easy.
Yoga for Sleep: Get the Rest You Need With This Simple Bedtime Yoga Sequence
1. Perfect Pose (Siddhasana)
Begin this simple yoga for sleep sequence in perfect pose, or Siddhasana, one of the most ancient yoga postures. 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 ancient 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 or down, sitting up straight and tall.
Close your eyes, relax your shoulders and begin to focus on your breath. Inhale slowly and gently, exhale slowly and gently. Continue to sit and focus on the 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 the body for sleep.
Start to release any tension from the day by beginning to roll the 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 hands and continue to slowly breathe and release 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 the left heel pressed firmly into the groin. Place your hands on the floor next to the buttocks, sitting up tall and inhaling 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 the right thigh and begin to focus on the breath.
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 where 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. On an exhale, slowly bend forward and grab the big toe of each foot with your hands. If you can’t touch your toes, grab onto your ankles or shins. Allow gravity to pull your knees towards the floor, close your eyes, begin to focus on your breath and find your center. Hold this pose for 10-15 slow, deep breaths, release and repeat.
Bound angle isn’t just used in yoga for sleep sequences, it’s also perfect 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 or supported by a blanket or bolster for reclined bound angle pose or Supta Baddha Konasana. Place your hands on your belly or at your sides and melt into this super relaxing pose. Bring your awareness to your breath, slowly inhaling and slowly exhaling. Hold this pose as long as you like, but a few minutes is best when engaging in a yoga routine for sleep sequence.
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 relief from stress.
5. Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
From reclined bound angle, slowly make your way into shoulder stand, or Sarvangasana. If you’re unsure of how to practice shoulder stand correctly, watching a YouTube tutorial or asking your yoga teacher to show you how it’s done is suggested. Once you have gotten yourself into proper positioning in shoulder stand, hold for a count of 10-15 slow, deep breaths.
Shoulder stand is sometimes referred to as the Queen of Asana and is excellent for getting a good night’s sleep. This is because of the way it calms the nervous system and cools down the body. Shoulder stand turns your world upside down, and, in a yoga for sleep sequence, it’s awesome for moving into a more relaxed mindset and slowing down from your day.
Note: Shoulder stand should be avoided during pregnancy and by menstruating women. It should also be avoided 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 (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 comfortably in this position, focus on your breath and hold for 10-15 slow, deep breaths.
The benefits of plow pose in a yoga routine for sleep are unprecedented. It’s widely used to assist sleep and many calming routines will incorporate plow pose. This pose helps melt away any stress or fatigue you’re still holding onto from the day, while gently calming 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, are pregnant or menstruating heavily.
7. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
From plow pose, invite yourself to move close to the wall for legs up the wall pose, or Viparita Karani. Begin 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 arms loosely at your sides, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. Stay in this relaxing, rejuvenating pose for a minimum of 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, is it can be done by anyone, regardless if you’re a beginner or have been practicing yoga for years. It’s also one of the best yoga for sleep poses there is. Can’t sleep? Bring your legs up against the wall. 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 drop open. Arms should be resting gently on your mat just away from the stomach, with palms facing upward. 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.
Invite yourself to 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 the 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, is known to offer relief from fatigue, helps improve focus and concentration, increases self-confidence, 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!
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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.