Yoga is a gentle and restorative way to wind down your day. “Stretching not only relaxes you, but it also keeps your muscles flexible, so you’re less likely to experience discomfort during everyday activities,” Sarah Levey, an instructor at Y7 Studio in New York City tells Shape.com.
Research says that over 55 percent of people who performed yoga stretches found it enhanced their sleeping practices. Over eighty-five percent people said yoga helped them to reduce stress.
If you have tight body muscles, avail the help of props like blankets, bolsters, and blocks to make the yogic poses comfortable. This process helps you to stay longer in the pose and continue to breathe.
Yogic Breath for Complete Relaxation
Your breath is the key to be able to relax into the stretches that we’ve listed below. Focus on your breath while making these stretches, it helps to control your movements. If you concentrate on breathing, your thoughts, and emotions, gets bypassed and your mind becomes calm and relaxed.
According to yogi belief, your emotions create tension in your muscles, blockages, and stiffness in the flow of Prana. Awareness of your breath flushes out these emotional disturbances and makes Prana or energy free flowing.
Integrate Ujjayi Breath also known as Victorious Breath or Ocean Breath, while you’re doing your stretches. This mode of breathing increases your psychic sensitivity and helps your mind to calm down faster.
How to do Ujjayi Breath
Inhale deeply through your nose. Keeping your mouth closed, breathe out through your nose while constricting the back of your throat as if you’re saying “ha” but keeping your mouth shut.
This exhalation sounds like the waves of the ocean. Try to use this slow and steady breath as you ease into each of these poses. Practice these yogic poses right before your bedtime.
Hold onto these poses for 3 to 5 minutes each. Use the Ocean Breath in each pose but avoid doing it when you come into the Corpse Pose because your breath returns to normal.
These six relaxing yoga poses relieve your stress and tension at the end of the day. The more you practice these restorative poses, the more likely you can get a good night’s sleep.
Janu-Sirasana (Head to Knee Pose). Sit straight on the floor without slouching. Extend your legs in front and keep your knees bent. This action prevents rounding of your spine.
Bend your right knee. Gently bring the sole of your right foot into your inner left thigh. Then bring your right knee toward the ground. Support your right knee with a cushion if you find it difficult to bend.
Lengthen your spine as you inhale.
Exhaling, bend forward from your hips over your left leg. Keep your neck and spine long and place your hands on either side of the left leg. Slowly gaze at the big toe of your left foot, and focus on your breath.
Repeat these movements on the other side.
Note: A folded blanket or a cushion under your sitting bones, will help you to bend forward easily if you have tight hamstrings.
- The head to knee forward bend pose calms your brain and helps relieve mild depression.
- It is therapeutic for insomnia, sinusitis and high blood pressure.
- Stretches your spine, hamstrings, shoulders, and groins.
- Improves digestion
- Relieves symptoms of menopause
- Reduces fatigue, anxiety, headache, and menstrual discomfort
- Strengthens your back muscles
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose). Sit on the floor without slouching. Bring the soles of your feet in front of you. Hold your feet or ankles with your hands.
Sit comfortably and bring your feet as close as you can toward your groin.
Gently inhale and lengthen your spine.
Slowly exhale, as you bend forward from your hips, keeping your spine long. Gently breathe in and out as you feel your muscles relaxing.
Note: If you find it challenging sitting in this pose, skip the forward bend. If you sit on a blanket or cushion, it will help open tight bodies.
- According to ancient yogic texts site alleviates anxiety
- Improves flexibility in your inner thighs, knees, and groins
- Helps improve digestion and soothes menstrual discomfort
- Opens lower back and relieves sciatica
- Enhances flexibility in your hips
- Stimulates your abdominal organs
- Increases the health of ovaries, bladder, prostate gland and kidneys
Balasana (Wide-knee child’s pose) . Balasana provides stability and a sense of calmness. You must be cautious if you suffer from knee or hip injuries.
Come to a kneeling position and bring your big toes together.
Separate your knees hip-width apart or as wide as the edges of the mat.
Exhaling, gently sink your body onto your thighs.
Allow your hands to relax alongside your torso. Your arms look as if pointed to the back of the room, while your palms facing up. This position releases your shoulder tension by widening your shoulder blades away from each other.
If you want to make it more challenging, reach your arms forward and keep your palms facing down on the mat.
Keep your forehead on the ground and gently roll your head to each side, this releases tension in your eyebrows.
Slowly inhale and exhale through your nose.
- Calms your mind and body
- Highly recommended if you suffer from dizziness or fatigue
- Significantly relieves stress and anxiety
- Lengthens and stretches spine
- Soothes neck and lower back pain
- Gently stretches thighs, hips, and ankles
- Normalizes blood circulation throughout the body
- Stretches your muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the knee
- Flexes your body’s internal organs and keeps them supple
- Encourages robust and steady breathing
Uttanasana (Standing forward bend) . Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale.
Exhaling extend your torso forward, and over your legs to elongate your spine.
Allow your hands to rest on your shins or floor, or just hold onto your elbows.
Avoid straining yourself to reach the floor. The purpose of this bend is not to achieve a perfect shape but to elongate your spine and relax your neck and shoulders.
Uttanasana allows you to relax your neck tension. It gently stretches your hamstrings, calves, and hips. But you must be careful if you have a hip injury.
Modification: If you find it difficult for your hands to reach the floor, or your back is uncomfortable, you can place blocks under each hand to provide more support.
Inhale and exhale slowly and smoothly.
If you have tight hamstrings, try to keep your knees soft, by bending them slightly. This action helps your chest relax on your thighs.
Gently shake head from side to side to relax and loosen your neck muscles.
Roll up slowly to come to the starting position, without getting light headed.
Standing forward bend increases your blood flow back to your head. Moving back and forth releases tension in your hips and legs.
- Calms your mind and soothes your nerves
- Reduces stress, depression, anxiety, and fatigue
- Stretches your hips, hamstrings, and calves
- Keeps your spine strong and flexible
- Strengthens your thighs and knees
- Eases symptoms of insomnia, menopause, asthma, and headaches
- Improves digestion
- Activates abdominal muscles
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Stimulates your liver, spleen, and kidneys
- Therapeutic for osteoporosis, sinusitis, and infertility
Corpse pose (Savasana). Corpse pose promotes total relaxation.
Lie flat on your back. If you feel uncomfortable, use a small pillow below your neck. Close your eyes.
Place your legs apart in a comfortable position. Allow your feet and knees to relax completely. Keep your toes facing your sides.
Place your arms sideways. Keep them at a little distance from your body. Place your palms open facing upward.
Be mindful of your different body parts one by one and slowly relax each one of them. Finally, relax your entire body.
Begin with bringing your awareness to your right foot, then move on to the right knee. Then shift your awareness to the other leg. Slowly move upwards towards your head relaxing each part of the body.
Breathe slowly and drop all your sense of urgency. After 10-15 minutes when you feel fully relaxed, slowly roll onto your right side. Be in that position for 60 seconds. Then come to a seated pose. After you’ve completed the stretch, open your eyes.
- Relaxes your entire body
- Cures insomnia
- Improves concentration
- Relaxes fatigue, stress, depression and tension
- Relaxes your muscles
- Significantly boosts your blood circulation
- Calms your mind and improves your mental health
- Excellent for those who have asthma, neurological problems, constipation, indigestion, and diabetes
Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall poses). Legs up the wall pose help recirculate your blood flow. This pose is good for those especially if your job involves standing for extended periods of time which may result in weak and swollen ankles.
Reserve space on your wall. Position your mat perpendicular to the wall.
Gently sit down on the mat. Bring your left or right side close to the wall, close as possible, so your body meets the wall.
Lie back on the mat and gently place your legs up the wall.
Relax your arms by your sides.
Tip: Keep a rolled up mat or firm cushion underneath your tailbone to give it added support.
- Relieves symptoms of mild depression and insomnia
- Calms anxiety
- Regulates blood flow
- Soothes swollen ankles and reduces varicose veins
- Significantly improves reproductive health
- Restores tired feet
- Improves digestion
- Good for those with visual and auditory problems
- Provides migraine relief
- Relieves mild back pain
- Stretches your neck, torso, and back of your legs
- Keeps you young and vital
- Alleviates menstrual cramps
Relaxation tips to get a good night’s sleep. Guided visualization
Lie in bed and tell your body to relax from head to toe. Picture a scene that’s relaxing to you. Bring all your sensory awareness to the setting. Bring alive the sights, smells and sounds in your mind’s eye. Relax completely and slowly you’ll fall asleep.
Treat your anxiety. Try to reduce the stress in your life. Learn a variety of relaxation techniques. Practice deep abdominal breathing. Replace your negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Take a long, warm bath and rest in a dark room.
Alternate nostril breathing. It helps you to enter deep relaxation by balancing the right and left sides of your brain. Alternate nostril breathing calms down your mind.
Counting backward. Lie in your bed and start counting backward from 100. If you lost count of the number you’re counting, just start over again. Be gentle with yourself. It’s not hypnosis; it’s just doing something monotonous with your mind to make it sleepy.
Guided imagery. Guided imagery helps to shift your brainwave activity. You can learn specific images that directs your brain’s movement toward restful sleep.
Stick to a sleeping schedule. Try to maintain the same sleep time and wake-up time even on your weekends. This action helps to regulate your body’s biological clock. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual such as guided imagery, alternate nostril breathing, and gentle restorative stretches.
If you have trouble falling asleep, avoid naps especially in the afternoons. Try to build exercise into your schedule. Exercise at any time of the day but not at the expense of your sleep.
Design your bedroom to be fresh and comfortable. Maintain a cold temperature between 60-70 degree Celsius. Your sleeping environment should be dark and noise free. Use blackout curtains, white noise machines, earplugs, eyeshades, humidifiers, and fans.
Make sure your mattress is comfortable and supportive. Keep your room attractive and inviting for sleep and especially allergen free. Though the surroundings are important your mind and body must be relaxed, so your consciousness gradually settles into sleep.
Your brain is filled with constant chatter that it often forgets the fleshy vessel you carry around with you. Bedtime stretches build in body awareness. These stretches help to know your body, prevents injury, lowers stress levels and improve quality of sleep.
Stretches that target key areas, where you hold tension, like your shoulders, hand, neck, and chest is a no-brainer for getting peaceful slumber. You use your legs most of the day and sit in awkward positions. So, your leg and back muscles become excessively tense or hypertonic.
Remember that just because you’re lying down, with your eyes closed does not necessarily mean that you’re getting quality sleep and rest, so do the above stretches to get a good night’s sleep.