Sometimes it can be a real struggle to fall asleep even when you’ve taken measures to ease into a good night’s sleep. That’s where yoga can be a super tool in your bag of sleep hygiene tricks.
So you’ve taken a step back from your screen, made sure you haven’t eaten a heavy meal before bedtime, or done anything to rev up your energy levels, but you still can’t fall asleep quickly. Here’s where it’s useful to turn to yoga, as it helps you to unwind and stimulate your rest-and-digest mode. Fall asleep faster with this simple bedtime yoga routine!
1. Spine reset
Start by lying on your back, arms and legs stretched out. Bend your knees and bring them into your chest, hugging them close. You can choose to stay here or gently rock side to side, massaging your spine and muscles surrounding it along the way. Practice deep breathing and allow your body to relax with each exhale.
2. Spine extension
Separate your knees and grab your feet from the inside, coming into ‘happy baby’ pose where you’ll work on extending your spine and relaxing the sacrum. Pull your feet down towards the floor and push into your hands at the same time, creating a dual force that opens up the hips and allows the sacrum to reach towards the floor.
You can stay here and go deeper with each breath, or you can once again massage your spine by gently rocking from side to side, just like a ‘happy baby.’ Pay attention to your neck and shoulders and intentionally relax them, sending your shoulder blades down your spine.
3. Gentle Inversion
Inverting the body activates the rest-and-digest mode (also known as our parasympathetic nervous system) and flushes out toxins in a very effective way. It’s also a pose that places your heart above your head and allows it to take over your actions, making you listen to it more closely.
Start by placing your hands under your lower back and lifting your legs vertically into the air. If your flexibility allows it, try to go for the full 90-degree angle and walk your hands up towards your shoulder blades to create an even bigger lift. If that’s not an option, leave your hands where they are to support your whole pelvic girdle and keep your legs at a diagonal angle but still fully extended.
Relax your shoulders away from the ears and extend your neck. Stay in this position for at least 5-7 breath cycles before slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, placing your spine back on the ground. Bring your knees in for a hug and rock once again side to side to massage your lower back.
4. Open Your Heart
Once you’re done massaging your spine, extend the legs straight in front of you and place your palms on the floor, right under your sitting bones. Relax your glutes on your hands and create a chest lift by pressing your elbows, palms, and whole lower part of your body into the floor. Allow your heart to open and relax your head towards the floor.
If your flexibility level makes it easy for you to reach the floor with the crown of your head, press into it gently and create an even bigger chest lift. Additionally, you can open your mouth to relax your face. Stay for 3-5 breath cycles and slowly come out of the pose by pulling your chin to your chest and taking out the hands from underneath your body.
Bring your knees back into your chest and extend one leg while keeping the other close to your body. Breathe in and first gently open it to the side to relax your hip, making sure your other hip doesn’t roll over. Use your next breath to bring your knee back to center, grab it with your opposite hand and exhale by gently pulling it to the other side, getting into a twist. You can gaze upwards or get deeper into the twist by turning the head in the opposite direction.
Every inhale elongates the spine, and every exhale gets you deeper in the twist. Twists are amazing as they stimulate the lymph system and make it easier for the body to cleanse and flush out all the toxins while at the same time bringing in fresh oxygen. Stay in the twist for 3-5 breaths and slowly return to center, bring both knees in to reset, and repeat everything on the other side.
6. Relax Your Hips
With your knees still bent, place your feet together on the floor close to your sitting bones and spread open your knees. Allow your upper body to relax completely and let your hands fall to your sides. Take a few gentle breaths here before placing one palm on your belly and the other on your chest. Start breathing deeper and notice which hand moves more with your inhales and exhales.
Focus on creating a bigger elevation and drop in both hands by deepening your breath and really turning your attention to fill your belly with oxygen during inhales, and deplete it during exhales. The goal is to feel your body sink into the floor and completely relax.
7. Savasana, Final pose
Extend your legs and separate them a bit wider than hip-width distance. Let your arms fall heavy by your sides and separate them from your trunk, making space in between your extremities. Take a few deep inhales and exhales and allow yourself to slowly drift off, preparing your body for sleep. Stay here for 3-5 min or use the time to do your daily meditation.
This simple yoga routine works wonders for slowing down the mind and letting it know it’s time to rest, recover, and get into sleep mode. Try it a couple of days in a row and notice the difference it’ll create in your bedtime habits.