Ever had one of those nights where, try as you may, you just couldn’t fall asleep? Of course you have. We all have. If you’re lucky, it’s just a night or two every now and then. But what about those crappy sleeping streaks that seem to drag on and on? It doesn’t take long before you start to feel like the walking dead.
The worst nights are the ones where I’m beat — like totally and completely exhausted — but for some reason, my brain won’t shut down long enough to let me pass out. It’s like some sort of cruel joke I play on myself. Grrrr …
I used to think this was normal and something I just had to tolerate. Now, when the noise in my headspace gets too loud to sleep, I turn to yoga. Not surprisingly, the same poses we use to quiet our minds in yoga class come in really handy when counting sheep fails.
It’s worth noting that the poses below are considered to be therapeutic for dealing with insomnia and mild depression. They help to calm your brain, relieve stress and melt away any anxiety that’s standing in the way of you and some much-needed Zzzs. Even better, most of these poses can be done in bed.
6 Bedtime Yoga Poses to Help You Shut Down
1. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana). I like to start with my knees bent so much so that I can completely rest my belly on my thighs — this helps to release the muscles that support the spine in your low back first. Then I’ll start to straighten out my legs. If you’re very flexible like me (it’s a blessing and a curse), don’t lock your knees here. Go with a slight bend in the knees and bring some of the weight into the balls of your feet instead of dumping it all into your heels. Relax the front and back of your neck and let your head hang.
2. Child’s Pose (Balasana). Big toes touching, knees nice and wide is my favorite way to settle in. Arms reaching out and relaxed with my forehead resting on the ground is the cherry on top. You could also bring your knees in closer and have your arms rest alongside your body, reaching back toward your heels.
3. Head to Knee Forward Fold (Janu Sirsasana). One leg out with the other foot against the inner thigh of your extended leg. Square your shoulders up to the foot of your extended leg first, then fold forward. I like to place a block beside my leg to rest my forehead on so I can really relax into the pose.
4. Supported Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana). Sit upright with the soles of your feet together and your knees out to the sides. Feel free to prop your knees up on a block if this stretch is too intense for your hips and inner thighs to relax. Put a bolster or stack of folded blankets behind you as close to your hips as possible. Then lower yourself down and lie back with your palms facing up.
5. Supine Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana). Hug both knees in toward your chest then open your arms up in a “T” formation. Drop your knees over to one side. Place a block or blanket under your knees if they don’t reach the floor while your shoulder blades are still on the ground. Be sure to do both sides.
6. Corpse Pose (Savasana). Extend your legs long and separate your feet. Let your toes splay open to either side. Flip your palms to face up beside you. Take up some space and close your eyes. Peel your tongue from the roof of your mouth and soften your face. Take a few deep, full breaths in through your nose and sigh them out your mouth.
What is your go-to strategy for shutting down at night? —Alison