Yoga has a way of calming the nervous system. Through deep breathing, long stretches and relaxing postures, yoga can help induce a good night’s sleep so you feel rested and ready for the day that lies ahead.
This simple yoga sequence is easy to do right before bed. Gather a pillow or two and find a wall with a little space around it. You may want to put on some soothing music, dim the lights and put on your cozy pajamas before you practice, as you will want to head straight to bed following the sequence.
Begin by sitting comfortably on the floor or on your bed.
Alternate-nostril Breathing (nadi shodhan pranayama)
Bring your dominant hand up and fold your index and middle fingers into your palm. Place your thumb on the nearest nostril and close off the air. Take a breath in through the other nostril. Using the remaining two fingers, close off the open nostril and lift the thumb from the first nostril and exhale. Inhale through that same open nostril, then close it off with the thumb and exhale on the other side. Repeat this technique, switching sides on the exhales for at least 10 rounds, breathing deeply with each inhale and exhale.
The benefits of alternate-nostril breathing include bringing balance to your prana, or life force, bringing a sense of calm and balance to the body. You become aware of your breathing in a new way, bringing your mind to focus on the present moment and away from distractions that might be causing restlessness or anxiety.
Child’s Pose (balasana)
From your seated position, fold your legs so you are sitting on your knees with the tops of your feet underneath you. Bow forward until your forehead touches the ground. It’s a good idea to spread your knees to allow your upper body to deepen. If this is not a comfortable position, tuck a pillow between your hips and your calves, and also put a pillow under your forehead. Try to find a position that is comfortable. Your arms can stretch out in front with palms facing down or rest alongside the body with the palms facing up.
Stay here, breathing deeply for several minutes. Focus on your breath, paying attention to each inhale and each exhale. Noticing the length and the quality of each breath, try to keep your mind from wandering. Direct your breath to your middle and upper back as you inhale, and to your lower back and hips as you exhale.
Supine Twist (supta matsyendrasana)
Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Gently begin to lower both knees to the left side, aiming to keep your shoulders glued to the ground. Turn your gaze toward the right side. To increase comfort, place one pillow between the knees and one pillow under the left knee. Pause here and breathe, bringing your focus into your hips and lower back. Stay here for 10 to 15 breaths and then switch sides.
Reclined Bound Angle (supta baddha konasana)
Still lying on your back, bring your feet to the ground with knees bent. Part your knees and bring the soles of your feet to touch. For extra support, place one pillow under each knee. Let your shoulders and jaw relax and close your eyes. Bring one hand to your heart and one hand to your belly and think about breathing from the belly up on your inhale and from the chest down to the belly on your exhale. Keep your breaths long and smooth like gentle waves rolling in and out on the shore. Stay here fore 10 to 15 breaths.
Legs Up the Wall (viparita karani)
A supported inversion, this pose helps get blood flowing back to the heart and sometimes causes so much relaxation you fall asleep right there. Bring a pillow under your hips for slight elevation. Scoot your hips as close to the wall as you can, then lie down and stretch your legs up the wall.
Before you settle into the pose, you might have to play with the distance between your hips and the wall. Find a comfortable distance you can hold for several minutes.
Bring your arms alongside your body and let your shoulders move away from your ears and down into the floor or bed. Drop your gaze toward your thighs and begin to focus on breathing deeply. Stay here for at least five minutes. To exit, remove the pillow from under your hips and roll to one side.
These yoga poses, combined with deep, mindful breathing will help bring your body and mind into a deeply relaxed state. Calming the mind and releasing tension will prepare the body for a good night’s rest.