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By: Cara Hutto

Good sleep is foundational for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ensuring optimal functioning of the body and mind. Not only is it essential for cognitive processes like attention, learning, memory, and problem-solving, but good sleep quality is also associated with a longer lifespan. Rest helps manage stress and bolster the immune system, making the body more effective at fighting off infections and illnesses.

To achieve your best sleep, it’s imperative to build a restorative, nurturing nighttime routine. That means skipping the doom scrolling before bed and engaging in more mindful activities like reading, journaling, meditating, or yoga. According to research, practicing yoga before bed can actually reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Plus, gentle yoga stretching releases muscle tension, encourages relaxation, and calms the nervous system, making it easier to stay asleep throughout the night.

Incorporating these ten yoga poses into your nightly routine can help signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and rest. Throughout each of these poses, focus on your breath and move slowly and mindfully.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Begin in a kneeling position, with your knees hip-width apart. From there, spread your knees apart wider than your hips, allowing your big toes to touch behind you. Slowly lower your torso down toward the mat, extending your arms out in front of you and resting your palms and forehead on the mat. You can place blocks under your hands, a folded blanket underneath your knees, or between your calves and hamstrings for support. A bolster can also be placed under your belly and chest to bring the floor up for additional support. Try to relax your entire body into the pose, allowing your chest to sink toward the floor and your hips to soften.

Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop, or quadruped, position with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, arch your back and lift your chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to soften down toward the floor for cow pose. Shift your gaze toward the ceiling, drawing your shoulder blades down your back. For cat pose, exhale as you tuck your tailbone, rounding your spine upward, tucking your chin toward your chest and drawing your belly button toward your spine. Flow smoothly between cat and cow, coordinating each movement with your breath. This sequence gently stretches the spine, relieves stress, and improves circulation.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), inhale and raise your arms overhead, then exhale and hinge at your hips to fold forward, bringing your torso towards your thighs. Let your hands rest on the floor, shins, or on a block. Keep your spine long and your neck relaxed, with a slight bend in the knees. Hold the pose for several breaths, deepening the stretch with each exhale, then slowly return to standing by engaging your core and lifting your torso on an inhale. This pose enhances flexibility, calms the mind, improves digestion, and increases blood circulation.

Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

Sit with one side of your body against a wall, then lie back and swing your legs up onto the wall while your torso rests on the floor. Adjust your position so that your pelvis is close to the wall and your legs are comfortably extended upward. Rest your arms by your sides, palms facing up, and close your eyes. Focus on your breath, allowing your body to relax. Hold the pose for 5-15 minutes, then slowly bend your knees and roll to one side before sitting up. This pose relieves tired legs, reduces stress, enhances circulation, and helps alleviate lower back pain.

Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Lie on your back, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to drop out to the sides. Keep your feet close to your pelvis and breathe deeply as you allow the hips to open gradually. Focus on your breath, allowing your body to relax deeply. You can use props such as blocks, blankets, or pillows underneath your knees for support. Hold the pose for 5-15 minutes to release tension in the hips and groin and promote circulation and relaxation.

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you and your feet flexed. Inhale to lengthen your spine, then exhale and hinge at your hips to fold forward, (feel free to bend your knees to prevent overstretching the hamstrings), reaching for your feet, ankles, or shins. Keep your spine long and avoid rounding your back. Allow your head and neck to relax, and hold the pose for several breaths, deepening the stretch for your spine and hamstrings with each exhale.

Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Draw your knees toward your chest, bringing your knees wider than your torso. Grasp the outer edges of your feet with your hands and flex your feet so the soles of your feet face upward. Gently pull down on your feet with your hands, using the strength of your arms to guide your knees toward your armpits and thighs towards your ribcage. Broaden your collarbones and lengthen your tailbone on the mat as you press and massage your sacrum down to release tension in the lower back.

Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Lie on your back with your legs extended. Draw your right knee toward your chest, then guide it across your body to the left, allowing your torso to twist and your knee to touch the floor or a block for support. Extend your right arm out to the side, palm facing up, and turn your head to the right, if comfortable. Keep your left hand resting gently on your right knee, and keep the spine long and extended. Hold the pose for several breaths, feeling the gentle twist in your spine. To release, bring your right knee back to the center and extend your leg, then repeat on the other side to relieve tension in your back and hips and improve spinal flexibility.

Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place a yoga block underneath your sacrum (the triangular fused bony area between your lumbar spine and tailbone). The block should be positioned in a setting that feels good in your body. Make any necessary adjustments so your sacrum and lower back feels gently lifted, and extend your arms alongside your body. Allow your hips to soften and release any tension in your pelvis and lower back.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Corpse pose promotes deep relaxation and restores balance to the body and mind. Lie down on your back on a comfortable, flat surface. Extend your legs straight out in front of you, allowing your feet to fall open naturally, with your toes pointing slightly outward. Place your arms alongside your body with your palms facing upward. Consciously relax each part of your body, letting your breath become calm and even. With each exhale, imagine releasing any remaining tension or stress. Feel your body becoming heavier and more relaxed with each breath.


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