It has been one of those days. Stress levels felt like they reached a new record high every hour, and the tension didn’t disappear with the setting sun. Frazzled barely begins to describe your mindset.
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Somehow, you need to find a way to unwind before your head hits the pillow. A potential solution to bring on a good night’s sleep? A restorative session of bedtime yoga.
A few meditative minutes can relax your muscles, quiet your mind and put some restful ZZZs within reach, says yoga therapist Judi Bar, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT. Here’s a routine to bring a calming end to your day.
Getting ready for bedtime yoga
Set aside time for bedtime yoga just a bit before you plan to close your eyes and drift off to dream. “If you do it too early, there’s a chance something happens to get you hyped back up,” says Bar.
Dim the lights in your room to start signaling your mind and body that the time for rest is approaching. Then, find a spot with enough space for you to lay down.
The bedtime yoga session put together by Bar involves 10 poses. The routine will take you from a standing position to lying stretched out on the floor. Do it at your pace, spending as much time in each pose as feels right.
Ready? Let’s get started.
Pose #1: Mountain (tadasana)
Stand tall with your feet a few inches apart and parallel to each other as they point forward, your weight distributed evenly. Your arms should be relaxed at your side. Keep your spine straight and keep your shoulders square. (No slouching!)
Hold the pose for at least three to five deep breaths.
Tadasana serves as a foundational pose in yoga and is designed to improve posture and raise your sense of body awareness. “This brings us into the moment,” says Bar. “We’re feeling our feet on the floor and the strength in our body. We’re beginning to separate from our day.”
Pose #2: Ruler (symmetrical) stretch
Starting from mountain pose, take a deep breath and slowly bring your arms over your head in an arcing path until your palms touch. Reach your hands toward the ceiling, creating space in your spine as you stretch upward.
Hold the pose for at least three deep breaths.
“This stretch gives you a little more length so your lungs can move a bit better,” says Bar. “It enhances your breathing and opens everything up.”
Pose #3: Side bend
Beginning from ruler stretch position, lean to the right with your arms still extended. Hold for three deep breaths. On the fourth breath, put your right hand on your right hip to support the stretch as you lengthen your lean. Hold for another two deep breaths.
Return to your starting position of ruler stretch and then repeat the bend to the left.
The goal of the stretch is to release tension in the torso. “Focus on when you breathe, seeing if you can feel your lungs move on one side,” says Bar. “We’re not only stretching here. We’re expanding the capability on the breath on the side we’re leaning away from.”
Pose #4: Jackknife to tabletop
Again starting from ruler stretch position, take a deep breath and slowly lean forward, bending at your waist. Place your hands on either your thighs or a piece of sturdy furniture (a bed or chair, for instance) to support your weight.
Keep your back and legs straight while in this tabletop position. Hold for two deep breaths.
Consider this more of a transitional pose. “This borders on being more of a strengthening stretch, so we don’t want to stay here too long,” notes Bar.
Pose #5: Cat curl
While in the tabletop position, take a deep breath. On the exhale, arch your back into a cat curl to undulate your spine and loosen your lower back. Return to tabletop as you inhale. Repeat two to three times.
“We’re getting circulation going in the back, mainly to relax the tension that has built throughout the day,” says Bar.
Pose #6: Ragdoll
Start from tabletop position after completing your final cat curl. Release your arms from your thighs or furniture (whichever option you chose) and allow them to dangle toward the floor while you bend a little deeper from the waist. Bend your knees slightly, too.
Hold for two or three deep breaths. (Note: Be careful, as hanging your head as you bend forward in this pose could cause dizziness.)
“We’re letting gravity pull our shoulders to relax tension,” says Bar. “This is not a forward fold, and we’re not trying to touch our toes. We’re just letting our arms hang to loosen up our shoulders.”
Pose #7: Staff pose
We’re now moving to a seated position on the floor. For staff pose, sit with your legs extended and your back straight, so you’re forming what looks like the capital letter L. Keep your arms at your side.
If you have difficulty getting into that position, try sitting on a pillow or folded blanket to raise the angle and put less stress on your spine.
Hold for two or three deep breaths.
“We’re almost done now,” says Bar. “We’re winding it down.”
Pose #8: Lay flat, arms up
Shift so that you’re now lying with your back on the floor. Stretch your arms out straight, as if you’re in a flying Superman position. Point your toes forward.
Hold for two or three deep breaths.
“Try to be as long as possible,” says Bar. “Focus on stretching your whole body.”
Pose #9: Knees to chest
While lying flat, slowly bend your legs and bring your knees toward your chest. Hold your shins or thighs and gently rock side to side while maintaining deep, relaxing breaths.
Continue the gentle rocking for at least three deep breaths.
“There’s comfort in this movement,” says Bar.
Pose #10: Belly breathing
Release your legs and return to a lying position. Put your hands on your belly and feel it move up and down with each deep breath. Close your eyes as you focus on each breath.
Hold for at least three deep breaths.
“Just relax as much as you can,” says Bar. “We’re slowing everything down and getting ready to call it a night.”
The next step? ZZZs
Now you’re ready for bed. “We’ve hopefully let go of the tension that built up over the course of the day,” says Bar. “Your muscles should feel relaxed. Your mind should be quieted.”
And a good night’s sleep should await.