10 Yoga Poses to Get You Ready For a Relaxing Night’s Sleep
April is National Stress Awareness month, so in honor of this, we want to put the spotlight on Yoga, and it’s amazing and scientifically proven benefits for relaxation. According to the CDC, 70 million Americans suffer from some sort of sleep problem whether it be an injury, mental illness, anxiety, stress, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, or other underlying health issue. According to Harvard Health, findings from a 2015 national survey by the National Institute of Health reported that 55% of respondents who participated in Yoga reported deeper, higher quality sleep, and 85% of participants reporting reduced levels of stress.
This 10 step Yoga series is great for all levels of experience and will help you melt away the day and wind-down for a relaxing night’s rest.
1. Child’s Pose (Adho Mukha Virasana)
Kneel on the floor with your knees bent slightly wider than hip-width and bring your big toes together. Slowly start to melt forward while stretching your arms and chest out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the floor or your mat. As a variation to this pose, instead of spreading your arms forward, you can opt to splay your arms backwards alongside your knees with your hands toward your toes as you bend downward. Remain in the pose for several long, deep breaths.
Benefits of Child’s Pose include lowering of the blood pressure, calming of the nervous system and lengthening the spine as tension is released in your back and neck.
2. Cat Pose (Bitilasana) and Cow Pose (Marjaryasana)
Position your body in a tabletop position, with a flat back, your knees spread hip-with apart, and your wrists directly in line below your shoulders. Soften your gaze downward at your mat. To move into cow pose, slowly drop your belly towards the mat as you take a deep inhale and lift your head and gaze out in front of you while drawing your shoulder blades away from the ears. When you begin to exhale, slowly arch your spine the opposite way away from the mat, and round your spine like a cat stretching it’s back while dropping your gaze and your head down towards your chest while leaving some space. Repeat the back-and-forth transition between these two poses with the breath. As an added variation you can pause in between each movement and take a peek back over your left shoulder towards your left toes, and then on the right side toward your right toes while in tabletop position.
Benefits of the Cat and Cow Yoga Postures include stimulation and strengthening of the abdominal organs, opening of the chest, stimulation of the kidneys and adrenal glands, and also help with posture and alignment.
3. Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Start by lying facedown with your palms on the floor beside your chest and fingers spread apart and pointing straight. Start to press up on your hands and knees. As you exhale, press your hands firmly into the mat and extend your buttocks upward into the air while moving your thighs upward and back. Keep stretching through your legs while keeping your feet planted and at hip-width apart. Keep elbows straight and head down towards the ground while taking deep, long breaths in and out. Hold the pose for at least 30 minutes. As an added variation you can start to pedal your heels to work the back muscles of the calves.
Benefits of Downward Dog include increased blood supply to your brain, and increased circulation to the chest while calming the mind. Many of these benefits are similar to those from the Headstand and are also helpful to aid combating depression.
4. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
Start in a downward dog or plank position with your palms on the ground. Bring your right foot forward on an exhale and plant your foot on the ground to the right of your right palm, so that both arms are to the left of your right palm. Lower your left knee to the ground and sink your weight down into your hips. For a deeper stretch, lower down onto the forearms. Keep your chin lifted and your chest open. As an added challenge, you can also curl your left toes under and lift your left knee to hover above the mat. Remain in the post for several long breaths before switching to the other side.
Benefits of the lizard pose include a stretch for the inner and outer hip, hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads as well as flexibility of the ligaments.
5. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Standing upright or in mountain pose, balance the weight evenly between your feet hip-width apart. Start to slowly roll forward and bend down vertebrae by vertebrae, keeping your knees and legs firm as you stretch up through the waist and ribs. Keep your neck relaxed and your crown of the head towards the earth. Once you are bended forward as comfortably as you can, You can either fold your arms and cup your elbows with your hands like a rag doll, or for a good shoulder opener, you can start to stretch your arms behind you while interlacing the fingers behind the body with the palms together up towards the sky. Hold the pose for several long deep breaths or about a minute.
Benefits of the standing forward fold include stimulation of the liver and kidneys, stretching of the hamstrings, quads and hips, relief of upset stomach, lifting and toning of the uterus, improved circulation to the pelvic area, lowering of blood pressure and relief of phsyical and mental tension.
6. Yogi Squat/Garland Pose (Malasana)
Standing upright or with your back against a wall, spread your feet about 18 inches apart, or slightly greater than hip-width. Begin to slowly drop your weight into your heels as though you were lowering into a chair. You can lean slightly forward from your hips so your back is free but try to remain with your crown of the head tall and posture upright. Place your hands in prayer position at your breastbone and press your elbows against your knees while also pressing your inner thighs towards the elbows. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds or several minutes while taking deep breaths, with the option of closing your eyes.
Benefits of the Yogi squat include opening of the hips, hamstrings, back and ankles, and providing a lower body stretch while strengthening the calf muscles, core and glutes. This pose can especially be beneficial during pregnancy to provide mobility to the hip joints and pelvis.
7. Reclined Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Begin lying completely on your back. Slowly bend and bring your right knee up towards your nose, while keeping your head against the ground. Begin to lift the right knee and cross it over the left leg to face the knee to the left side of the room. Spread your arms out to your sides and slowly turn your head to the right side, opposite of the direction of your left knee, pressing your cheek against the ground. (Be cautious here if you have any neck or back sensitivities or injuries). For a deeper stretch, you can place your left hand on the right thigh and gently press down. Spend about 5 long breaths on each side.
Benefits of the Reclined Spinal Twist include increasing spinal mobility, aiding digestion, opening the chest, and stretching the hips, glutes and obliques. This is a perfect posture to also incorporate as you start to wind down the last few stretches of your Yoga routine.
8. Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
While on your back, slowly bend your knees up towards your chest. Grab onto the outer section of your right foot or your right outer calf with your right hand, and the outer section of your left foot or left calf with your left hand, or you can grab your big toes instead of the outer edge of the foot. Keeping the back of your head pressed against the mat, slowly rock back and forth to the left and right, massaging the base of your spine and lower back against the mat. Remember to take long, deep inhalations and exhalations as you rock back and forth for at least 30 seconds to a minute.
Benefits of the Happy Baby Pose include lowering of the heart rate, opening of the hips, groin and inner thighs, stretching the hamstring, realigning the spine, and easing stress and anxiety.
9. Reclined Cobbler’s Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Start in a seated position with your legs outward in front of you. Slowly bend and draw them inward towards your pelvis, while touching the bottoms of your feet against each other. Slowly lean back and bring your elbows to the floor to support you before reclining down further. Gently move your buttocks from side to side to allow extra lengthening of the spine and maintaining the natural curve of the lower back. Draw your shoulders inward and allow your arms to splay out with your palms facing upward. As added support, you can include a bolster, pillow or block in the upper spine and head for added support and also add a block or pillows to support your knees on both sides. Close your eyes and take several long breaths while allowing your body to feel heavy against the floor.
Benefits of the Reclined Cobbler’s Pose include opening of the hips, chest and shoulders, relief of anxiety, digestive support and comfort for menstruation and pregnancy.
10. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
The corpse pose is traditionally a common pose to conclude your Yoga session. Lie on your back with your legs stretched outward in front of you and your hands slightly away from your torso out to your sides with the palms upward the backs of your fingers fully rested against the floor. Close your eyes and allow yourself to feel the weight of your body against the mat or floor. Take several long, deep breaths and relax in this position for 5 to 10 minutes.
The restorative Savasana or corpse pose is beneficial in relaxing the sympathetic nervous system, relieving fatigue and anxiety, restoring balance and preparing your body for a restful night’s sleep.