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Yoga for sleep: 17 positions to help you relax

yoga lotus position

*This article has been written for the purpose of providing general information only and does not represent medical or professional advice.

There's nothing worse than not being able to relax after a long day. Staying awake at night can trigger a vicious cycle of insomnia that can impact your well-being and productivity .

Luckily, there are natural ways to help your body relax – yoga is one of them. Some people think they can't do yoga or that they're not flexible enough, but that's not always the case. There are many simple and relaxing yoga postures that can be adapted to all body types .

Certain yoga poses can help you stretch, relax, and put you in a restful state of mind for a good night's sleep . The poses we describe focus on breathing and place the body in positions that allow optimal blood flow to the brain , which promotes a state of calm .

Caution: People with injuries or chronic pain should approach these postures with caution. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.

1. Wide Leg Forward Bend: Prasarita Padottanasana

Prasarita Padottanasana

It relaxes the lower back, hips and spine.

Not only does this standing pose stretch and strengthen your hamstrings , calves , lower back, hips , and spine , but forward bends are known to be very calming . Here's how you can reap the rewards of forward bends and inversions by letting your head hang and your neck relax.

  • Stand straight and spread your feet apart, turning your toes slightly outward.
  • Bending at the hips, lean forward and bring your hands back to the mat , just under your shoulders.
  • Soften your knees while relaxing your hands and neck.
  • Stay in this position for a few breaths before slowly rising to a standing position.

2. Standing Front Half Wall Bend: Ardha Uttanasana

Ardha Uttanasana

Stimulates the organs for better digestion.

This variation of the forward bend lengthens the spine and stimulates the abdominal organs and stomach , which improves digestion. This is a great way to prepare the entire body for rest and relaxation .

  • Stand about a foot from the wall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lean forward with your hands resting on the wall, palms at hip height.
  • Step back until your back is straight and your torso and arms are parallel to the floor. Your feet should always be shoulder-width apart.
  • Press on your feet and extend all your limbs. Do not hesitate to modify the distance between you and the wall if necessary.
  • Breathe deeply for five seconds before slowly returning your feet toward the wall to stand upright.

3. Standing Forward Bend: Uttanasana


Calms the mind and relieves stress.

Another variation of the forward bend, Uttanasana is a great standing stretch that helps calm the brain and relieve stress. Easy to perform anywhere, this pose is a great addition to any calming yoga sequence .

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees.
  • Hold your elbows with your opposite hands, exhale and bend your hips until the top of your head is facing the floor.
  • Release tension in your jaw and neck, allowing your spine to lengthen toward the floor.
  • Hold this position for 10 to 15 breaths before slowly rising to a standing position.

4. Breathing in three parts: Dirga Pranayama

Dirga Pranayama

This posture helps focus attention and anchor the body.

When performing seated yoga poses, it is helpful to begin with a breathing exercise to focus your attention and ground your body. A three-part breathing sequence can help you slow your breathing and relax .

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes, relax your face and body and breathe naturally.
  • Place your left hand on your abdomen and your right hand on the outer right edge of your ribcage .
  • Feel your stomach rise and your ribs expand and contract.
  • Next, bring your left hand to your chest and focus on inhaling fully. Feel your chest rise.
  • Release your arms and focus your mind on your breathing for 5 to 10 minutes, inhaling and exhaling completely.

5. Seated spinal twist: Ardha Matsyendrasana

Ardha Matsyendrasana

Opens the rib cage and relaxes the spine.

This posture helps open the rib cage and relax the spine . It also helps stretch the shoulders, hips, back and neck. During the pose, let your spine lengthen and keep the crown of your head elevated toward the ceiling.

  • Sit on the floor with your left leg straight and your right leg bent, with your foot outside your left leg.
  • Inhale, lifting your spine, and bring your left hand to the outside of your right knee. Place your right hand on the floor behind you.
  • Perform a deeper twist, inhaling as you lengthen the spine, and hold this position for 10 to 15 breaths.
  • Return to center before repeating the sequence on the other side.

6. The reclining hero: Supta Virasana

Supta Virasana

This posture lowers blood pressure and calms the body.

Supta Virasana can be very relaxing, but keep in mind that you will likely need props for this pose. Many people like to use a bolster or a stack of pillows under their back. Remember that it is not necessary to extend yourself to benefit from the benefits of this posture.

  • Kneel on your shins, separating your ankles so you sit between them.
  • Bring your knees as far as necessary.
  • Lie down to rest on the floor or on a bolster if necessary. Support your head with a blanket or pillow .
  • Stay in this position with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing for up to three minutes.
  • To relax the posture , straighten one leg, then the other. Slowly lift your body off the pillows or bolsters .

7. Head to knees: Janu Sirsasana

Janu Sirsasana

Stretches the trunk and facilitates digestion.

This restorative posture helps stretch the trunk and facilitate digestion . When you assume this pose, be careful not to round your spine – the idea is to lengthen it.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. If you need to bend your knees slightly, that's perfect.
  • Bend your right knee outward to open your hip, bringing the bottom of your right foot toward your left thigh.
  • Bend your torso forward as you exhale, keeping your spine and neck long.
  • Extend your hands to either side of your left leg.
  • Inhale and exhale slowly for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Slowly stand up, then slowly stretch your right leg before repeating the exercise on the other side.

8. Child's position: Balasana


This posture promotes blood circulation in the head and relieves tension.

This is another posture that promotes blood circulation to the head, which can help with relaxation and relief of tension. One of the most well-known positions, Balasana helps stretch the spine, shoulders and neck.

  • Kneel on the floor, touch your big toes and sit back on your heels.
  • Spread your knees as wide as your hips.
  • Exhale and extend your torso between your thighs, moving your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis.
  • Stretch your hands forward, palms facing the floor.
  • Keep your forehead on the floor and stay in this position for a few breaths. You can roll your head from side to side to lightly massage your forehead.
  • After 5 to 10 breaths, release the pose by slowly straightening up.

9. Sphinx pose: Salamba Bhujangasana

Salamba Bhujangasana

Opens the chest and helps combat stress.

This anti-stress posture helps stretch the spine as well as the chest, lungs and abdomen . Some people like to perform this stretch with the help of a towel rolled into a U shape under their stomach to help support the stretch.

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Place your elbows under your shoulders and begin to lift your chest.
  • Bring your shoulders toward your lower back to allow your chest to open.
  • Lower your chin slightly and hold the position for as long as you feel comfortable.
  • Exhale toward the floor to release the pose.

10. Grasshopper pose: Salabhasana


This posture stretches the spine and stimulates the abdominal organs.

Salabhasana is a great starting point for beginning yogis , as it prepares the body for deeper backbends . Known as the “ baby backbend ,” this posture allows the spine to lengthen and the chest to open. It also stimulates the abdominal organs to aid digestion .

  • Lie on your stomach, arms at your sides, palms facing the floor.
  • Inhale as you lift your chest. Look forward.
  • Hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds before releasing pressure and exhaling.

11. Cat and Cow Pose: Marjaryasana and Bitilasana

Marjaryasana and Bitilasana

This posture relieves back pain by stretching the muscles of the back and sides.

These two postures, often performed together, are helpful for people who wake up with back pain . Because they stretch the muscles of the back and sides, these poses are considered relaxing and restorative .

  • Get into a tabletop position with your palms on the floor and your knees hip-width apart.
  • Exhale as you tilt the crown of your head and tailbone toward the floor, arching your spine like a cat. Focus on stretching your shoulder blades .
  • As you inhale, bring the crown of your head and tailbone toward the ceiling, lowering your stomach toward the floor.
  • Slowly move between these two positions, holding them for a few seconds.

12. Knees to chest: Apanasana


Improves circulation and comforts the body.

This simple pose is believed to relax the body and mind by improving blood circulation and stretching the spine . Hugging your legs against your body can be comforting and relaxing.

  • Lie on your back with your arms extended from side to side.
  • Exhale and bend your legs to bring your knees toward your chest. Tighten your arms around your shins.
  • Relax your shoulder blades down to your waist and focus on lengthening your spine.
  • If you feel comfortable, rock slowly back and forth or side to side.
  • Hold the position for up to one minute and be sure to breathe regularly.
  • Exhale and release your legs to the floor.

13. Supine position: Supta Baddha Konasana

Supta Baddha Konasana

Stimulates the heart and improves circulation.

The full version of this pose may require a little more flexibility , but keep in mind that you can place blocks or rolled up blankets under your knees as a modification. This posture allows you to relax, breathe, and let gravity help you stretch.

  • Lie on your back with your legs and arms straight.
  • Bend your knees and bring your heels toward your body. Press the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop to both sides.
  • Let your arms extend alongside your body, palms facing up.
  • Let your spine lengthen along the floor and stretch your tailbone toward your heels.
  • Breathe naturally for 1 to 10 minutes before bringing your knees up to come out of the pose.

14. Spinal twist on the back: Supta Matsyendrasana

Supta Matsyendrasana

Helps the kidneys and liver to digest.

If your glutes , chest , and obliques need stretching, this is the pose to do. Often performed toward the end of a yoga session , this posture is said to help counteract the hunched back associated with sitting in a chair all day. It is also, of course, very relaxing.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Extend your arms straight out to the side in a T-shape, keeping your shoulder blades on the floor.
  • Exhale and drop your knees to the left, then gently turn your head to the right. Let gravity bring your knees as close to the ground as possible.
  • Hold the pose for a few breaths, then bring your head and legs back to center.
  • Exhale and drop your knees to the right while slowly turning your head to the left. After a few breaths, come back to center.
  • Hug your knees to your chest for a few breaths, then bring your legs back to an extended position to come out of the pose.

15. Legs on the wall: Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani

This posture soothes anxiety and helps relieve insomnia.

Viparita Karani is a simple posture, but is said to help relieve a variety of symptoms , including anxiety, insomnia and more. If you want to elevate the posture, you can place a cushion or towels under your lower back to increase the inversion.

  • Sit sideways against a wall. While lying on the floor, straighten your legs one after the other towards the wall.
  • With your legs now relaxed against the wall, extend your arms alongside your body, palms facing up.
  • Close your eyes and inhale and exhale as you feel your shoulders lower toward the floor.
  • Stay in this position for as long as you feel comfortable, up to five minutes.

16. Happy Baby: Ananda Balasana

Ananda Balasana

Stretches the groin and calms the mind.

This pose stretches the inner groin and spine , and yogis say it calms the mind. If you can't hold your feet with your hands, try modifying the pose with a yoga strap or belt looped around the arch of your foot .

  • Lying on your back, exhale and bring both knees toward your chest.
  • Grasp your big toes with your index and middle fingers, pulling your heels toward the ceiling.
  • Keep your tailbone on the ground and tuck your knees into the armpit area.
  • Gently rock back and forth to massage your spine while breathing slowly.
  • Hold the pose for 10 to 15 breaths before releasing the toes.

17. Corpse Pose: Savasana


This posture puts the body in a state of rest.

Probably the most relaxing pose of all , Savasana is usually the last pose in a yoga class . This is a restful posture that can be maintained for as long as you wish. If you inhale and exhale long enough, who knows, you might just fall asleep!

  • Lie on your back and place a pillow or folded blanket under your knees. Let your legs rest completely.
  • Close your eyes and let your body feel heavy.
  • Practice relaxing every part of your body, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.
  • Turn your awareness inward and breathe normally, doing your best to calm your mind.

Does doing yoga before bed help you sleep?

The short answer is yes, but you need to do poses that relax the body and mind . Studies have shown that people with insomnia who added yoga to their daily routine fell asleep faster, slept longer, and had better quality sleep .

Of course, it's important to know that not all forms of yoga are suitable for bedtime . Some postures are intended to energize the body and can have the opposite effect of helping you sleep . It's also important to listen to your body - if you feel uncomfortable or like you're trying too hard during these stretches, stop immediately.

Another easy way to ensure a good night's rest ? Sleep on a comfortable mattress and with soft, breathable silk duvet covers .

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