Yoga can be different things to different people. Some people use it to help connect to their spirituality, while others use it as an intense workout. Other forms can help you relax, with or without the meditation aspect. Regardless of how you use it, yoga improves physical and mental health. One of the most significant factors is that it helps relieve stress, which is precisely what most people need right before bed. Here are the best poses to help you unwind at night.
Standing Forward Fold
Stand straight in mountain pose. Bend forward at the waist, letting your upper body drop down toward the floor as much as you can. If you want, come back up to a flat back, then breathe out and fall forward again. If you can, bring your hands to the ground. If you can’t, or if you prefer, grasp the opposite elbow and relax your back as thoroughly as you can.
Slowly straighten back up from forward fold. Breathe for a minute before going back down and placing your hands on the floor. Step back with one leg, then the other and, keeping your hands firmly planted, raise your hips up to the sky. Try to keep your hips high and aim to get your ears between your arms. Reach your heels toward the ground and try to relax. Stay here for only a few breaths. You’re trying to calm down, not get a workout in!
From downward dog, drop down onto all fours with a neutral spine, called table pose. Breathing out, round your back and try to connect your head to your tailbone under your body. Round your shoulders as much as you can. Breathing in, bring your chest and belly down, and try to connect your head and tailbone over your back. Move in between these poses a few times and loosen up your spine, making sure to move slowly so you don’t strain your neck. When you’re done, resume table pose.
From table pose, bend back and bring your butt as close to the floor as you can, while reaching forward with your arms. Try to keep your big toes touching, but spread your knees apart. You might not be able to rest your forehead on the ground, and that’s fine — just take your time and relax as far down as you can. If you need to, place a block or blanket under your forehead to help, or sit on one. Stay here as long as you want.
Sit on the ground with both legs outstretched. Bring them in until the soles of your feet touch, holding your ankles gently. Let gravity take your knees as far down as you can, and if you’re flexible enough, lean forward. Otherwise, just sit and breathe, letting your hips stretch and open. For comfort, some people do best with a bit of extra cushioning under their ankles, so sitting on a pillow or a folded yoga mat for this pose might help.
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you. Fold one leg in, placing the sole of your foot against the opposite inner thigh. Exhale and bend at the hips to lean over your outstretched leg. Keep your neck and back long, and try to keep your gaze on or past your toes. Place your hands wherever you feel comfortable. Stay here for a few breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Lie on your back and bring your heels close to your hips. Push your hips up toward the ceiling and try to pinch your shoulder blades in toward your spine. Clasp your hands under you if you want to, but try not to put any pressure on your neck. Keep your weight on your heels and your upper back. Bridge pose is another one that can be a workout if you hold it too long. Try and keep it relaxing and focus on your breath.
Legs up the Wall
You’ll probably have to adjust your position a bit for this pose to get comfortable, but it’s worth it. Lie on your back as close to a wall as you can, and scoot your butt up to the wall. Bring your legs up and let them rest there, scooting in closer if you need to. Extend your arms out to the sides and then just lie there. Most people will stay here for one to 10 minutes, but stay as long as you’re comfortable. A lot of people like to do this pose with a blanket folded narrowly under their backs, running up the length of their spine.
Lying Spinal Twist
Again, lie on your back — you can see how this routine gets more relaxing and horizontal as you go. Extend your arms out away from you, keeping them at shoulder level. Raise one leg to your chest, then bend at the hip, not the waist, to place that leg over the other. Turn your head in the opposite direction and breathe into the twist. Breathe in and pull your shoulders away from the twist, breathe out and let your leg fall deeper in. Repeat on the other side.
The best pose of them all, shavasana, or corpse pose, is one time you’re allowed to fall asleep doing yoga. Lie back and breathe. Let your feet drop open and relax your hands, palms toward the ceiling. Starting with your feet, go through all the muscles you can think of, and consciously relax all of them. Once you’ve gone from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head, do a few scans of your body and try to release any residual tension. Then, do your best to fall into a gentle meditation.
A good yoga routine will set the stage to take you off to dreamland. With this one, you’ll be out like a light in no time.