The Final Stretch: 5 Relaxing Yoga Poses to Help You Sleep
Can’t sleep? You’re not alone.
One of the best ways to quiet your mind and prepare for a glorious sleep after a harried day?
Shut off your smart phone and try one (or more) of these easy and relaxing yoga poses adapted from Harvard Medical School’s Health blog post, “Yoga for Better Sleep.”
Note that you need not be a super-flexible yoga master to do these yoga poses. Find one that suits you, hold the pose for three to five minutes, and feel your mind slip into a blissfully tranquil state.
1. Wide-Knee Child’s Pose (Balasana):
Surrender to gravity with this soothing and restful pose that stretches your back, shoulders, hips, thighs, and ankles.
- Begin by kneeling on the floor and then bring your big toes together, sitting back on your heels.
- Widen your knees to hip width.
- On an exhale, gently lower your upper body between your thighs until your head rests on the floor, a yoga block, or a pillow. You can either let your arms relax behind you alongside your feet or, if you want a bit more of a challenge, stretch your arms out in front of you with your palms on the ground.
Check out a how-to video of Balasana.
2. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana):
Tight hamstrings? This yoga pose gently stretches the back of your legs while also relaxing the muscles in your neck and shoulders.
- Stand with your feet about hip width apart. On an exhale, fold your upper body forward and over your legs. Don’t worry about trying to keep your legs straight: In fact, it’s recommended to bend your knees so that your chest and your thighs can touch (this will help you avoid possible injuries).
- You can either rest your hands on the floor, on some big books, or on your shins—do whatever is easiest and most comfortable for you.
- Once you’re in the pose, focus on relaxing your neck and shoulders while extending your spine toward the ground.
- To come up, keep your knees bent and slowly roll up along your spine to a standing position to avoid getting dizzy.
Check out a how-to video of Uttanasana.
3. Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana) at the wall:
As its name suggests, this yoga pose is a modification of the standing forward bend.
- Stand close to a wall, keeping your feet hip width apart, and place your hands on the wall at the height of your hips.
- On an exhale, keeping your hands pressed against the wall, step back and bend your upper body forward while keeping your back flat.
- In the final position, your torso and legs should form a 90-degree angle, and your arms should be straight. Hold this position and breathe deeply, pushing against the wall to stretch your back muscles and the back of your legs.
Check out the how-to video of Ardha Uttanasana at the wall.
4. Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana):
Stretch tight hip flexors with this relaxing pose.
- Lie down on the floor, bend your knees, and place your feet on the floor, keeping your heels fairly close to your buttocks.
- Now bring the bottoms of your feet together and let your knees fall to either side, placing pillows under your knees for support if needed. If your hips are tight, bring your feet further away from your body.
- For a fully supported, relaxing experience, try placing a pillow under your upper body.
Check out a how-to video of Supta Baddha Konasana.
5. Legs up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani):
Tap into the relaxing power of inversion (being upside down) with this soothing, simple pose that increases blood flow and reverses the effects of sitting down all day. (Office workers, this pose is meant for you!)
- Place a yoga mat with the short end directly against the wall.
- Sit down on the mat with your right hip and side as close to the wall as possible.
- In one fluid movement, swing your legs up the wall and swivel your body around so that your back is on your mat and your legs are, well, up the wall.
- Relax and let gravity work its magic!
Check out a how-to video of Viparita Karani.