Yoga can be invigorating, powerful, and intense, but it can also be restorative, relaxing, and the perfect unwinding activity to help get you ready for bed.
Holding specific passive stretches for a longer period of time can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and calmness. They might be just what you need after a busy workday that keeps your mind spinning even after you’ve come home.
These simple exercises or asanas are listed in order so that when you perform them one after the other, they form a relaxing yoga routine you can do every night before you climb into bed.
Simple Standing Forward Fold
Downward Facing Dog
Seated Forward Fold
Simple Standing Forward Fold
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and relax your arms by your sides. Take a big inhale and start slowly rolling down towards your feet, one vertebra at a time. Bring your chin to your chest, then curve your upper spine, and let gravity pull your body towards the floor. Relax your arms and let them dangle. When you reach the floor (or your flexibility limit), bend your knees if you need to, but let your upper body hang.
Allow gravity to passively stretch your legs without any force. Take big inhales and exhales and stay for at least five breath cycles. You can gently sway your upper body left and right or stay still, it’s your choice.
From your forward fold, bend your knees a lot and place your palms firmly on the floor next to your feet. Step with your left leg back, keeping the front foot in between your palms. Straighten your left leg and activate your quadriceps, pushing the ground away from you through your front heel and the ball of your left foot.
Stay here for at least three long inhales and exhales and feel your right hamstring stretch and relax any tension.
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From your runner’s lunge, leave your left palm on the floor and lift your right hand up, gazing towards it and twisting your body to the right. Push the ground away from your through your left palm so you’re not collapsing into your left shoulder. Stretch through your right arm like you’re trying to touch the ceiling. Stay here for three long breaths and gently return your right hand down on your last exhale.
Back in your runner’s lunge, place your left knee on the floor and lift your torso up. You can place your palms on your front knee or lift them into the air. Inhale and stretch your spine and exhale, sinking your hips deep towards the floor, stretching your right hamstring and left hip flexor in the process. Take three long, deep breaths, and try to relax with each exhale.
After your last exhale, inhale and place your palms back on the floor. Lift your hips slightly and open your front leg, lowering your right knee to the right. The goal is to keep the front shin parallel to the mat, but if your flexibility doesn’t allow it, bring your shin diagonally towards your left hip so that your right heel supports your left hip.
Stretch your left leg behind you and position your hips over your right leg, squaring them off. Make sure you’re not falling on either side and bring your forearms to the floor. You can stay here and breathe through your stretch or you can intensify by folding your body over your right leg. Grab your elbows and place your forehead on your forearms or stretch out your arms over your head and rest your forehead on the floor. Stay for five long inhales and exhales.
After your last exhale, gently lift up, and place your palms on the floor. Lift your hips and come on the ball of your left foot. Lift your front leg and bring it back to meet your right, lifting your hips up and back, stretching your legs.
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Downward Facing Dog
Now you’ve found yourself in a downward-facing dog, feeling your spine stretch through your palms all the way to your sitting bones. Push the ground away from you and send your shoulders down your back and away from your ears. Keep reaching towards the floor with your heels and start bending your knees, alternating with each breath, like you’re walking in place.
After 10 walks, come back to stillness and inhale high on the balls of your feet, pushing your torso towards your legs without moving your palms or your feet. Stay for three long inhales and exhales and on your last exhale, bring your heels down, bend your knees and send your right leg back, preparing for pigeon pose on your left side.
After you’ve performed the pigeon pose on your left leg, take the sequence back through a low lunge, easy twist, and runner’s lunge on the left, ending in the standing forward fold. From here, gently bend your knees and squat all the way down, until you sit on the floor.
Bring your knees into your chest and hug them tightly, straightening your spine and feeling your sitting bones dig into the floor.
Seated Forward Fold
Extend your legs in front of you and place your palms under your sitting bones, pushing your muscles aside so you’re sitting right on top of your seat. Inhale your arms into the air and relax your shoulders. Stretch your spine, activate your legs and feet, and gently start moving forward in a diagonal.
Rest your palms on the floor, inhale and stretch your spine, exhale and relax your torso over your legs. Try to keep a straight spine throughout the entire exercise. It doesn’t matter how low you can fold, what’s important is keeping your spine straight. That’s how you’ll be able to achieve progress over time. With every inhale try to extend your spine more, and with every exhale get deeper into your fold, respecting your body’s limits. Stay here for five long inhale and exhales and on your last exhale, slowly come back to starting position.
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From your seat, bend your right leg and place the foot flat on the floor, close to your sitting bones. Keep the other leg extended, activate your quadriceps, and flex your foot. Grab your knee and elongate your spine, preparing it for the twist.
Lift your right leg and cross it over your left, placing your foot right on the outside of your left thigh. Place your right palm behind your seat and grab your knee firmly with your left hand, hugging it close to your chest. Use your right palm to push yourself away from the floor and further elongate your spine.
Take a big inhale and on your exhale gently start twisting toward the right, lower body first, then middle, and finally your upper body and your head. The goal is to gaze directly behind you. With every inhale grow tall from your seat, avoiding leaning on your right arm. With every exhale try to twist a little deeper. Stay for three long inhales and exhales. After your last exhale, gently bring your gaze toward the front and let your body follow. Repeat on the other side.
After your twists, lie down on your mat and bring your knees in toward your chest. Hug them in tightly, moving left to right to gently massage your spine. Grab your feet from the inside and keep your knees bent. Push into your palms while at the same time pulling your feet toward you, bringing your knees to the outside of your body, and feeling your low back expand and lie flat on the floor. Keep the tension during the entire exercise and breathe deep into your belly. Stay for five long breath cycles.
At the end of your last exhale, relax your feet and hug your knees into your chest. Leave your right knee hugged in and extend your left leg toward the floor. Relax your feet and breathe into your stretch. Take a big inhale and on your exhale, grab the knee with your left hand and gently pull it across your body, gazing toward the right. Don’t force your knee toward the floor, let it naturally open while your twist.
The twist starts from above, so make sure both of your shoulders are on the floor. Your knee will follow over time. Stay for five inhales and exhales before switching to the other leg.
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After your twists, bring your knees in and hug them tightly to reset your spine. Place your feet flat on the floor close to your sitting bones and let your knees fall open. Without forcing them, allow gravity to pull them closer to the floor. Close your eyes and breathe. Feel your body relax and melt into the floor. Stay for as long as you’d like before transitioning to shavasana.
Begin your transition by extending one leg and then the other, followed by both arms. Let them drop to the floor and scan your body from head to toe, relaxing each and every muscle. Stay for at least three minutes, eyes closed, and focused on your breathing.
Try this simple yoga routine before bed and notice how your sleep improves. And then when you wake up, jumpstart your day with these five powerful yoga poses.