A good night’s sleep can feel elusive for many of us, courtesy of a racing mind, a mile-long to-do list and stress getting in the way. So, what’s a tired person to do?
It may seem counterintuitive, but adding in some light movement in the form of yin yoga poses before bed may help quiet your mind and prepare your body for sleep.
What is yin yoga?
As a yoga teacher, I’m familiar with a wide range of yoga styles. Though most people know vinyasa yoga, which is a style characterized by a fast-paced flow from one pose to another, yin yoga is different and involves slowing down and listening to your body in each pose.
Yin yoga is a gentle, breath-focused practice in which the yoga postures are held for a few minutes at a time. The long static holds help with grounding you in the present moment, and they’re a great introduction to meditation, another calming practice.
When in these yoga postures, you should try to concentrate on mindful breathing and letting go of tension in your body by relaxing your muscles. As intrusive thoughts arise, bring your focus back to your breath. Yin yoga is especially great for soothing the nervous system and quieting a restless mind to fall asleep.
If you’re ready for a solid night of zzz’s, swap the Netflix and social media scrolling in favor of the yin yoga sequence below for a gentle way to ease into sleep.
5 yin yoga poses for better sleep
1. Legs up the wall
Legs up the wall switches the blood flow of the body, allowing the blood to flow away from the feet and toward the upper body, which helps to revive the legs and lower back, refresh the heart and lungs, relieve water retention and reduce stress.
How to do legs up the wall:
1. Sit next to a wall with your legs extended in front of you parallel to the wall.
2. Using your hands to push into the floor behind you for stability, slowly turn toward the wall and gently climb your legs up the wall.
3. Slowly lie back on the ground with your back and head flat on the floor and your arms out at your sides in a comfortable position.
4. Hold this posture for 3 to 5 minutes.
If you’re new to inversions, hold this pose for less time until you get used to inverting.
The use of a folded blanket or pillow under your lower back can provide a deeper stretch of the lower back and more of an inversion because the hips are slightly more elevated.
2. Child's pose
Child’s pose gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.
How to do child’s pose:
1. Place a pillow vertically in the center of your mat.
2. Spread your knees out to a comfortable width.
3. Sit back on your heels and rest your chest and face on the pillow with your face to one side.
4. Extend your arms out long in front of you or behind you at your sides, whichever is most comfortable for you.
5. Hold the posture for 2 to 5 minutes, then slowly switch the side of your face you’re lying on to stretch your neck in both directions. Hold for 2 to 5 minutes.
3. Reclined butterfly
Reclined butterfly is a soothing, heart-opening pose that opens the chest and lungs, allowing more oxygen to all the organs and brain. The pump of oxygen also helps to relax your muscles.
How to do reclined butterfly:
1. Laying on your back, bend your knees out to the sides, allowing your legs to fall open with the soles of your feet touching.
2. Hold this posture for 3 to 5 minutes.
If you’re looking for a deeper chest-opening stretch, a long pillow can be placed under you from the lower back to the back of the head. Extra pillows can also be put under your knees to help alleviate any discomfort if your hips are tight.
4. Reclined twist
A reclined twist stretches your back muscles, tones vital organs and helps settle the stomach.
How to do reclined twist:
1. Laying on your back with your knees bent, cross one leg over the other. Your arms can be put straight out to the sides or in cactus form (bent at the elbows) for a deeper stretch.
2. On an exhale, allow your knees to slowly fall to one side.
3. Bring your gaze to look at the opposite direction of the knees.
4. Hold this posture for 3 to 5 minutes.
5. On an inhale, bring your knees back to center.
6. Repeat on the other side.
7. Hold this posture for 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Supported savasana
A supported savasana lowers blood pressure and heart rate, releases muscular tension, reduces fatigue, enhances immune response and helps manage chronic pain.
How to do supported savasana:
1. Lie on your back and release your legs and arms so that they extend out long and wide.
2. Savasana translates to corpse pose — the practice of deliberate stillness and letting go. Try to practice nonattachment as you focus on the wave-like movement of breathing and allow the body to shut down.
3. Hold this posture for 5 to 10 minutes, or slip into dreamland while in this pose.
A pillow can be added underneath your knees to help neutralize the spine and help with lower back discomfort.