Typical bedtime routines involve scanning emails, watching TV, and maybe digging into a late night snack. Unless you’re making some seriously smart food choices, none of these activities are going to help you find your way to dreamland very quickly. An occasional sleepless night might be a minor annoyance, but you’ll start to feel run-down if it continues. This is why you need to end your day with yoga.
The soothing exercise has long been linked to a clearer mind and can even help you achieve better results at the gym, but its ability to promote better sleep makes it even more of an all star. One review published in 2015 reported yoga and other types of meditative movement were linked to better sleep quality.
Some yoga poses and sequences are designed to get your heart pumping and your muscles working, so you need to make sure you go for the right ones. This is not the time to practice crow pose. Instead, go for these five soothing moves.
1. Wide-knee child’s pose
Typically used as a resting pose between challenging segments of a yoga program, child’s pose is about as relaxing as it gets. This particular variation has you bring your knees wider, which is usually more comfortable for folks who aren’t total yoga pros. According to Harvard Health Publications, this move also helps build stability and a sense of calm.
To get into the pose, start in a kneeling position on a yoga mat. Bring your big toes together, then spread your knees as wide as the mat. As you exhale, sink back to bring your core toward your thighs as you extend your arms forward on the ground, fingers pointed toward the front of the mat. If your shoulders are particularly tight, you can widen the distance between your hands. If you’re able, rest your forehead on the ground as you hold the pose, focusing on breathing.
2. Bridge pose
Though most of us tend to think of the mind and the body as two separate parts, Rubin Naiman, Ph.D. and sleep specialist, strongly disagrees. He told Men’s Health the brain and muscles loop messages to one another, saying “when you stretch and release tension, the brain relaxes too.” According to the story, bridge pose is one of the best to score this state of relaxation.
To get into the pose, lie on your back with your knees bent and spaced hip-width apart. Keep your feet flat on the mat, pulling them as close toward your butt as possible. Raise your hips off the ground and toward the ceiling. You can either keep your hands flat on the ground at your sides or slide them under your body and interlace your fingers for more of a stretch. Men’s Health has a great diagram if you need a visual.
3. Legs up the wall
As silly as the name sounds, this yoga pose is one of the most beneficial for folks who spend a lot of time on their feet. According to The Huffington Post, flipping around so your legs are in the air helps the blood circulate back to your heart in a way that’s particularly soothing. This pose is also great for runners because it’s an easy way to stretch your hamstrings.
This move essentially just involves propping your feet up on a wall and scooting your rear as close to the wall as possible. Like with most moves, though, you can easily adapt the move to fit your needs. Check out Gaiaim Life to see some more variations.
4. Standing forward fold
Another pose that flips things around, standing forward fold is a great way to unwind at the end of the day. According to Life by DailyBurn, it reduces tension in you calves, hamstrings, and hips while helping to calm your mind. Don’t feel like you need to muscle your fingers to the ground, either. It’s better to bend your knees as much as you need.
Begin standing with your feet spaced hip-width apart. As you exhale, bend at the hips to bring your head toward the ground, letting your arms and shoulders dangle freely. If your fingers don’t reach the ground, you can bend your arms and clasp your elbows or rest your hands on some sort of block. You can also check out a great demonstration from Men’s Fitness.
5. Corpse pose
Most yoga instructors will have their class end in the corpse pose, also called savasana, because it’s the most relaxing position. All you have to do is lie flat on your yoga mat with your feet spaced comfortably apart and your hands resting at your sides, palms facing up. Yoga Journal said while most yoga practitioners make an effort to concentrate during this pose, it’s also fairly common to fall asleep. In this instance, you have full permission to drift off.
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