Sleep is essential for life, however, most people don’t get enough of it or good quality sleep. We are all moving too quickly to stop and really give our bodies and minds the time they need after a long day to prepare for a good night of sleep. Providing yourself time before bed after a busy day is essential to reducing stress, relieving physical tension, and prepping the body for sleep. Each of the poses below can be done on their own, held for a few breaths or longer, or you can create a short flow doing each pose as many times as you like. The beautiful thing about Yoga is it teaches you about yourself and helps you develop a sense of awareness about your body. As you are developing your nightly routine, try adding in 10-20 minutes of movement to unwind your body and mind.
CAT & COW FLOW
This is a short sequence where you flow your body between 2 poses, Cat Pose and Cow Pose. These poses combined offer relief for the spine and all the muscles in the back. It also helps to steady your breathing as you move which calms the mind. From tabletop, knees under hips, and wrists under shoulders you want to start by engaging your deep abdominal muscles first. Then on an inhale start to sweep your chest forward opening up your throat and upper chest to space in front of you while flaring your hips back behind and keeping that belly engaged. This is Cow Pose. For Cat Pose, on an exhale round the spine toward the ceiling creating space between each spinal vertebrae. Lift the upper, middle, and lower spine and starting to draw the crown of your head down toward the floor. Keep the belly engaged as you continue to flow through Cat and Cow, breathing as you move. Move through this flow as long as it feels good.
PASCHIMOTTANASANA - FORWARD FOLD
Sit down on the floor with your legs extended and a slight bend in your knees. Slowly as you continue to breathe deeply and with awareness start to walk your hands out in front of you, don’t worry about getting to your feet. But as you lower your chest toward your thighs relax your head and neck. You will start to drop your head below your heart which will help your heart rate to slow and your mind to calm. You can add a bolster behind your knees for extra relaxation. Take 10 deep breaths and silently repeat to yourself “Today I choose to let go of…” - Utthan Pristhasana
Come to the tabletop and step your right to the outside of your right hand (pinky side), slide your foot to the outer right edge of the mat. Untuck the toes of your back left foot and lift your heart upward, like a cow pose on an inhale. On the exhale round your spine like a cat and repeat a few times. Then placing a bolster, block, or blanket under your forearms or forehead lower your chest down until you get the stretch you need. Keep your right leg aligned with the right hip or allow it to fall out to the side deepening the stretch. Add any other variations you like, for example, a twist or quad stretch. Stay for 10 breaths or up to 3 minutes on each side. If staying longer add a blanket under your back knee. Repeat on the left side.
This pose is wonderful for stretching the low back and helping relieve tension through the hips. Modify it for your body by adding any props you wish. Starting from a tabletop position bring your big toes toward one another, they might even touch behind you and widen your knees out to the sides. Start to slowly push your hips back toward your heels and walk your hands out in front of you as you lower your chest and forehead to the floor. Relax your whole body down and if you need some extra relief in your shoulders and upper back, bend your elbows. You can always add a bolster or pillow under your belly or blocks under your forehead if you need some extra support as you relax and breathe. Start to follow your breath in and out and let any stress or tension so you can wind down for sleep. Stay here for 10 deep breaths or add props to stay longer.
SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA - RECLINED COBBLER'S POSE
Grab a bolster, pillow, or roll up a blanket to place under your spine for this pose. You may even want blocks or pillows under your knees. Put on some good music, align your spine with the prop and relax over the top of it. Place props under your knees, soles of the feet together, and maybe start with the arms to the sides or overhead to open up the heart, lungs, and chest, take a few deep cleansing breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Relax and let go of your day. Stay here as long as you like, you can move your hands to your heart or your belly after several deep breaths and silently repeat to yourself “Today I am grateful for…”
VIPARITA KARANI - LEGS UP THE WALL
This is the perfect way to relax after a long day, allowing your hips and low back to take a break is something your body needs. This is a great way to unwind before you go to bed and gives you a chance to let any racing in your mind dissipate. Find a space on a wall and lay down with your head facing away from the wall. Then swing your legs up the wall and if you need support under your hips add a blanket or pillow. Make yourself as comfortable as possible, close your eyes, and maybe even play some relaxing music. Allow your whole body and mind to let go of any stressful thoughts or worries. Be fully present at the moment as you relax and find calm. Stay here as long as you like.
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If you liked this blog, check out our other blogs like: "Sitting too Much? 5 Ways to Get Moving," "8 Different Types of Yoga: Explained to Help you Choose," "3 Poses for a Quick Reset," "How to Master the Handstand,” and "Four Poses to Improve Your Handstand.”