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8 Yoga Poses to Help You Unwind Before Bedtime

Ease more peacefully into restorative sleep with this calming yoga practice.

A woman sitting in a yoga pose

Finding deep, restorative sleep can be challenging after a long day, whether you are active or sedentary. Monotonous movement — or lack thereof — at work or home can create tension and pressure on the joints and spine.

A gentle yoga routine performed before bedtime can help quiet the mind, lower stress and blood pressure, release muscle tension, and loosen stiff joints.

“You want to release any tightness from the day to relax and unwind,” says Jan Johnson, Life Time yoga coordinator and LifePower Master Yoga teacher and trainer, who designed this routine.

Here are eight poses to help release tension and target specific overworked areas of the body, which can aid in recovery as you wind down your day and prepare to sleep. Take five deep breaths in each pose as you move through this gentle flow sequence:

  1. Modified Sun

Sun Salutation is usually very invigorating, but this series — which keeps the focus on linking your breath with movement and utilizes your own natural belly breathing — resembles a moving meditation. 

  • Stand with feet comfortably together and grounded.
  • As you breathe in, lift your arms from your sides up over your head. As you stretch your fingers to the sky, press down into the ground through your feet.
  • Breathe out slowly as you float your arms back down to your sides.
  • Repeat the movement for five or more deep breaths.
  1. Standing Side Bends

Creating space in our side bodies, Standing Side Bends release tension in the muscles of the transverse plane, making day-to-day twisting and rotating-movement easier.

  • Stand tall with feet hip width apart. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position and release your tailbone.
  • While breathing in, reach your arms overhead with palms facing each other.
  • As you exhale, place your right hand on your right side as your left arm reaches up and over your body, bending to your right side.
  • Inhale and return to center with both arms reaching overhead.
  • On your next exhale, bring your left hand to your left hip as you reach your right arm up and over your body, bending to your left side.
  • Inhale and return to center with both arms reaching overhead.
  1. Forward Fold

This pose helps release the most common problem areas — think hamstrings, back, shoulders, neck — and more.

  • Stand up straight with your shoulders over your hips, palms facing forward.
  • With a soft bend in your knees, hinge from your hips and pelvis to fold forward, bringing your torso toward your legs.
  • Hang your arms toward the floor and cross your forearms to hold the opposite elbows (or interlace your fingers behind your back if you have the shoulder mobility).
  • Allow your head to hang heavy and upper body to give in to gravity.
  • With each exhalation of your breath, relax deeper.
  • Hold for five or more deep breaths.
  1. Forward Fold to Half Lift 

Lifting the torso from Forward Fold extends the front body and allows for a deep stretch.

  • From Forward Fold, take a deep breath and lift your torso so that your back is parallel to the floor.
  • Gently rest your arms on your thighs right above your knee and keep your neck in a neutral position aligned with your spine. Exhale.
  • Take a deep breath and return to Forward Fold, moving slowly and deliberately as you focus on your breathing.
  1. Cat­–Cow

“Back pain affects almost everyone at some point, and lack of activity can worsen the condition,” says Johnson. This pose will stretch and strengthen core and back muscles, and the steady breath will quiet your nervous system and promote relaxation.

  • Lower onto all fours into table pose: hands on the ground, shoulders over wrists, and hips over knees. Inhale, and on your exhale, round your back upward, tucking your chin to your chest and reaching your midback toward the ceiling; this is cat pose.
  • On your next inhale, slowly arch your spine, lowering your belly and lifting your tailbone, shoulders, and head. Look up slightly, creating a gentle stretch in your neck; this is cow pose.
  • Repeat five times, synchronizing breath with movement.
  1. Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose opens up the shoulders and back while the reaching portion opens up the side body.

  • From all fours, with toes together and knees slightly apart, lower your hips toward your heels and drop your forehead toward the floor.
  • Reach your arms forward in line with your shoulders. If you experience pain, back off your reach until you are comfortable.
  • Walk both hands 8 to 12 inches to the right while keeping your hips back toward the heels and your head centered.
  • Move the hands back to the center and hold for five or more deep breaths, then repeat on the other side.
  1. Fetal Pose on Each Side 

A relaxing and resting pose, Fetal Pose creates a sense of security. Take care in rolling to opposite sides if you have any shoulder or hip issues. Pregnant women are generally advised to lie only on their left side.

  • From Child’s Pose, slowly roll to one side of your body and with legs stackedand hips aligned.
  • Rest your head on your hand and allow your top arm to find a comfortable position in front of your body or along your side.
  • Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly for five or more breaths before switching sides.
  1. Savasana

One of the most important aspects of a restorative practice, Savasana promotes mindfulness, body awareness, and recovery. Ease into sleep or further meditation by closing your practice with this pose while lying in bed.

  • Lie face-up with your legs extended, arms slightly out at your sides with palms up.
  • With your weight distributed evenly, tune in to the subtle sensations of your breathing as you give in to gravity, relaxing your body toward the floor or bed.
  • Try a body scan: Starting at your feet, focus on relaxing and releasing tension in your toes before moving up your legs, hips, torso, arms, etc., to the top of your head.
  • Rest in this pose for five minutes or more. If you have trouble releasing the chatter in your mind, focus on counting 20 long, slow, deep breaths in reverse order, from 20 to one.

is Experience Life’s managing editor.

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