The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Janet Kinosian Headshot

Yoga for Sleep

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not bend out of shape. - Anonymous

Soft, limber, plied limbs and bodies are in a much more relaxed state than tense, tight, and rigid muscles, would you agree?

Why then do so few people take the time to limber up and stretch their muscles and diaphragm -- if only for a few minutes - before bed? It only takes about 10 to 20 minutes to do a good stretch-and-breath routine. And many Yoga poses - along with its slow, deep and rhythmic breathing - are just the ticket in helping your body to significantly relax.

"A handful of yoga poses at the end of a long day can do wonders for your physical preparation for bed, as well as your mind's preparation for sleep as it slows and winds down from the day's activities," says Lana White a yoga teacher in Los Angeles. "Whenever people tell me they're having trouble sleeping, I suggest doing a short, slow yoga routine before bedtime and it seems to work wonders."

Certainly, yoga is an antidote to chronic stress and people who practice yoga daily generally do a full set of asanas, or poses, well before bedtime. But one of the wonderful things about yoga is that you can choose your level and interest, yet still reap benefits.

Different yoga teachers can suggest different poses for bedtime, but generally, the classic Yin Yoga poses of longer and slower duration -- anywhere from one to 10 minutes each -- are best.

To use yoga postures to help ready you for sleep, the following are some tips to keep in mind when incorporating yoga into your pre-bedtime routine:

  • Wear loose clothing, remain barefoot, and find a quiet, warm place.
  • Come into each position slowly hold it for a few minutes, and come out of it slowly.
  • Never force your body to move into or hold a position that hurts.
  • Rest in between postures registering the effects of each pose on your system.
  • Breathe slowly and evenly, and always focus on your breath. Continuous concentration on your breathing throughout each posture is one of the keys to yoga's deeply relaxing and restorative benefits.

These eight poses are particularly good to use at bedtime in any combination or pattern:

Child's Pose - Sit on your heels and lean forward so that your chest rests on your thighs and your forehead touches the floor. Relax your arms at your sides, palms facing ceiling. Take at least six full breaths, letting your back swell and contract as you inhale and exhale.

Ragdoll - Stand with your feet six inches apart, feet pointing forward and parallel. With knees relaxed, bend forward at the hips, torso toward the thighs. Bend your arms, holding the left bicep with the right hand; rest the left hand on the outside of the right elbow. Press your hips toward the ceiling to feel a stretch in the back of the legs. Hold for as long as you desire, then slowly roll up to standing, chin to chest.

Butterfly - Lie on your back with your legs lifted and your hips against a wall. Bring the soles of your feet together, and with your hands against your knees, press your legs open as far as you can comfortably. Hold as long as you desire. You can also do a modification of this pose, Inverted Waterfall, and pull your feet and legs straight upside the wall so you are in a half-inverted state. Pull toes forward, perpendicular to the wall. These feel especially nice if you stand on your feet during the day.

Seated Forward Bend - Sit with your legs stretched forward, feet touching and toes pointed toward the ceiling. Bend forward and gently touch your toes with your fingers. If you can't touch your feet, reach forward toward your toes as far as you can. You can feel a deep stretch in the back of your legs and if you continue to pull down farther you can feel a loosening in your back and hips.

Full Forward Bend - Sit upright on the floor, and begin to bend forward from the hips leaning towards your feet, allowing your spine to curve into a forward bend. Bend forward as far as you can, touching the toes and if possible, laying your hands flat on the floor. Breathe deeply and as you do, release further towards your feet. To come out, raise your spine slowly, stacking vertebrae one by one until upright.

Wide-Knee Child's Pose - From Child's Pose, spread your knees outward as wide as you can and keep your hips back in your arches. Rest forward on your forearms or chest, with your head resting either on your forearms or turned to one side. This pose gives a great stretch in the inner thighs and groin area and is releasing in the lower back as well. If you can keep this pose for up to three to five minutes, you'll feel it in your lower limbs.

Knees-into-Chest Pose - Lie on your back, bringing both of your knees into your chest, and interlace your fingers around your shins. Keep your sacrum, shoulders and chin down. This is a good pose to end with, keeping it for 3-5 minutes, breathing deeply.

Corpse Pose - Lie flat on your back, with arms extended to both sides palms facing slightly up, feet loosely falling to the sides. Relax all muscles, close your eyes, and breathe deeply for 10 to 15 minutes. Also a good pose choice to end your night time session.

For more information on sleep, sleep counseling and her book, The Well-Rested Woman: 60 Soothing Suggestions for Getting a Good Night's Sleep visit Janet's website: www.wellrestedwoman.com Sign up for The Well-Rested Woman's quarterly newsletter: janet@wellrestedwoman.com