Bedtime Yoga

The team at Casper, a new sleep startup specializing in memory foam mattresses, asked me to share my favorite nighttime yoga poses with you! Because nothing kills your mood and energy level more than a bad night’s sleep. We all know a good night's sleep can make a world of difference on our moods, stress levels, memory, and our physical health. Unfortunately, a whopping 48% of Americans report insomnia occasionally while 22% experience insomnia every or almost every night.

Our hectic lifestyles leave us exhausted and yet wired. And although we no longer need to run for our lives from the saber-tooth tiger, we are running from a new modern enemy--time. This leaves our body in a constant fight-or-flight state (sympathetic nervous system), and by the end of the day our body is so tired that it does not have any more energy reserve to put you back into the rest-and-digest (parasympathetic nervous system) state.

The following simple yoga poses can also help you unwind after a long day to put you into a good night’s sleep. These poses gently stretch our upper back, lower back, and hips to release tension in these common problem areas. 

For the following exercises, you will need a yoga mat, two yoga blocks (or a couple of thick books), a thick blanket or a couple of towels, a bolster, and a quiet, dimly-lit room. You can pick and choose one or two from the list to perform each night, or if you have more time, do them all!


1. Child's Pose

Child's pose option 1.

Child's pose option 2.

How to perform:

Place the block horizontally on the floor or mat in front of you. Place the bolster so that one end is resting against the block and the other is on the floor/mat.

Start by sitting in virasana (hero’s pose), or with the calves folded underneath your thighs. Lie on top of the bolster so that the belly and the chest can rest comfortably. Allow the knees to open just a little wider than the hips to straddle the bolster. Relax the arms by either side and rest one cheek on the bolster. Hold between 5-10 minutes with easy, gentle breaths. Make sure to switch the side of your cheek resting on the bolster in between.

Benefits:

  • Gently lengthens and stretches the spine
  • Releases tension in the neck, shoulders, and the back
  • Stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
  • Calms the nervous system and relieves stress and anxiety

2. Reclined Butterfly

Reclined butterfly with props.

How to perform:

Place the bolster on the floor or on your mat lengthwise so that it can align with your spine. Place your two blocks by your side. Sit about half a foot away from the bottom edge of the bolster, then lie down over the bolster. Make sure your hips are grounded into the floor and you have enough support for your back and head.

Once you’ve lie down, touch the soles of your feet together and bring them towards your body as you open the knees out to either side of you. Slide the two yoga blocks underneath each of your thigh for support. Adjust the height of the blocks as necessary. Hold between 5-10 minutes with easy, gentle breaths.

Benefits:

  • Improves digestion
  • Stretches inner thighs and groins
  • Increase blood circulation to the lower abdomen (great for menstrual cramps)
  • Calms the nervous system

3. Upper Back and Chest Opener

Upper back and chest opener. Feel free to bend the knees and place both feet on the floor if you have lower back tension. You can also place the arms down by your side.

How to perform:

Roll up a thick blanket or towel so that it is approximately four fingers tall. Place the rolled blanket width-wise about one-third from the top edge of your mat. Lie down on your back so that the blanket is propped up underneath your chest (about where the back of your bra strap is). Adjust as necessary until you feel comfortable, but still keeping the blanket under your upper back.

You can rest with your legs straight on the floor with the feet slightly wider than your hips, or if you feel tension in the lower back, you can bend your knees and place your feet on the mat. The arms can be extended over your head for the ultimate chest-opening effect. If this position starts to feel uncomfortable, you can simply place your arms down by your side.

Benefits:

  • Opens and stretches the chest
  • Reverses the effects of our shoulder hunching all day
  • Releases tension in our shoulders and upper back for easier breathing

4. Lower Back Opener

Lower back opener. Feel free to bend the knees and place both feet on the floor if you have lower back tension. You can also place the arms down by your side.

How to perform:

Roll up a thick blanket or towel so that it is approximately four fingers tall. Place the rolled blanket width-wise in the center of your mat. Lie down and position the rolled blanket underneath your sacrum (*Note: Your sacrum is the flat bone just above the fleshy part of your buttocks. If you feel your spinal column, then you have gone too far up.)

You can rest with your legs straight on the floor with the feet slightly wider than your hips, or if you feel tension in the lower back, you can bend your knees and place your feet on the mat. The arms can be extended over your head for the ultimate chest-opening effect. If this position starts to feel uncomfortable, you can simply place your arms down by your side. Rest for 5-10 minutes.

Benefits:

  • Opens and stretches our back muscles, especially the lower back
  • Reverses the effects of poor sitting postures
  • Releases tension in your abdominal muscles and chest for easier breathing

5. Supine Twist

Supine twist.

How to perform:

Lie down comfortably over your mat. Spread your arms by either side of you so that they form a T-shape. Bend your knees, and on the inhale, lift the feet off the floor so that your knees are hovering over your hips.  Exhale to drop both knees to your left all the way down to the floor and turn your head to your right. If the knees and/or feet don't come all the way down to the floor, prop a bolster of a blanket underneath your knees/feet so your hips and legs can completely relax. Stay for 10 deep breaths or up to 3 minutes, then repeat on the right side.

Benefits:

  • Releases tension in the lower and mid back
  • Subtly stretches the hips and outer thighs
  • Stimulates digestion
  • Calms the nervous system

6. Leg's Up The Wall Pose

Legs up the wall pose.

How to perform:

Fold or roll the blanket so that it is about 2-3 inches thick. Place the long-edge of the blanket against the wall. Sit on top of the blanket with your right hip against the wall. Gradually lie down as you sweep both legs up to the wall, adjusting your hips as necessary so they come as close to the wall as possible. You may, however, choose to leave an inch or two of space between your hips and the wall if you have less range of motion in your hamstrings and hips. Place your hands either on top of your stomach to observe your breathing, or open them to your side with the palms facing up.

Make yourself warm and comfortable. You may cover yourself with another blanket, or place an eye pillow over your eyes. Breathe deeply, and feel the weight of your body sinking into the floor with each exhale. Stay for 10-15 minutes.

Benefits:

  • Relieves tightness and/or swelling in your legs and feet
  • Rejuvenates lymphatic circulation in the legs
  • Releases tension in the lower back
  • Induces a sense of grounding, warmth, and security