It's Sunday night and you can't seem to stop thinking about the workweek ahead, your neverending to-do list, and that embarrassing thing you said last week (sound familiar?). According to Miami-based yoga instructor Amy Dannheim of Tropical Vinyasa, an overactive mind is often the cause of sleepless nights. A natural solution to tossing and turning, a relaxing yoga flow can unwind both the body and the mind before bed.
A more introspective and relaxing practice can quiet the body and mind down, helping you to move toward a smooth transition into sleep," Dannheim explains. She suggests trying forward folding poses, gentle twists, and belly-down positions to use yoga for sleep and signal the body that it's time for bed. By stretching out the muscles and calming the mind before bed, you'll be primed to fall asleep quickly and maintain a deep sleep throughout the night. Add Dannheim's easy yoga sequence to your nighttime routine for your best night's sleep yet.
Child's Pose (Balasana)
"Child's pose is a naturally calming position for the nervous system while stretching the back—a common place to hold tension," says Dannheim.
1. From all fours, lower the shins down and shift your hips back to rest over the heels and tops of the feet on the mat.
2. Extend your arms forward with palms facing down and allow your forehead to rest on the mat.
3. Let your chest soften over your legs and relax.
4. Stay here for up to a minute, seeing if you can count to five on each inhale and exhale.
Forward Fold (Uttanasa)
"Uttanasa is great for opening up the hamstrings and lengthening the back body," says Dannheim. "For this version, bend your knees to make it more restorative and take some of the pressure off the lower back."
1. Starting in tadasana (standing pose), extend your arms upward and hinge at the hips to fold forward.
2. Bend your knees to a level that feels good for your anatomy.
3. Bend the elbows and grab opposite elbows, hanging in space, and let the neck lengthen and relax.
4. Stay here for at least 10 breaths or up to a minute.
Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsana)
"This pose is a double-whammy, hitting both hips and hamstrings in one sitting."
1. Sit down with your legs extended in front of you.
2. Draw your right foot in toward your pubic bone and rest your foot on your left inner thigh.
3. Extend the crown of your head up toward the ceiling.
4. Angle your torso over your left leg and hinge at the hips, slowly moving your hands forward toward your left foot, descending your chest over your left thigh.
5. Using a strap or your hands, reach for the left foot, and stay for five breaths.
6. Come up, switch sides and repeat.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Raja Kapotonasana)
"Although the name might seem lowly, pigeon is the queen bee of hip openers," Dannheim explains. "I like to enter pigeon pose from Downward Facing Dog, but you can also move into from an all-fours position."
1. From Downward Facing Dog, sweep your right leg underneath you toward the front of the mat and land the leg down at the top of your mat—your right knee will take the place of your right hand.
2. Walk the hands back to either side of your hips, extend your left leg long behind you on the mat and finally, reach the crown of the head tall towards the ceiling.
3. Stay upright for five breaths or slowly walk the hands forward. Your right leg will be in external rotation—which really gets into the hip joint—so pay careful attention to your right knee as it can easily get torqued in this pose and only move forward if the knee says it is appropriate.
4. Slowly walk the hands back, transition into downward facing dog, and switch sides.
Single Leg Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
1. Lie on your back with legs extended.
2. Draw your right knee into your chest and, using your left hand, slowly drape the right knee across your body over to the left.
3. Extend your right arm out to the right and shift your gaze to the right. Work on releasing your right knee to the mat.
4. Stay here 10 breaths, slowly return to center and switch sides.
Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
"This passive pose is the ultimate stress reliever, especially if you place a small towel or eye pillow over the eyes," Dannheim says. As the name suggests, all you have to do is lay on your back with your legs up against a wall. The pose is thought to reverse aging and by switching up the gravity on your legs. You'll also give your heart a break from pumping so hard, which helps with stress relief. Simply lie in this posture for up to five minutes with your eyes closed.
With these poses, you can use yoga for sleep and relaxation. It's a natural way to calm down the body and mind and prepare for a peaceful night's sleep.