Incorporating yoga into my nightly routine has dramatically improved my sleep patterns. I started small with 5 to 10-minute practice consisting of a little bit of breath-work and gentle stretching. All day we swear that we could conk right out before our head hits the pillow. Once the time has come to rest, however, all of a sudden our minds pull a big “psych!" and rev into party mode. Incorporating some light stretching into your PM routine is a great way to wind down. Consistency is key and a little goes a long way. Your brain will gradually learn to associate your practice here with rest.
1. Ragdoll Pose / Hanging Forward Fold
We hold stress in such random places so this is a great posture to do a body scan.
- Begin standing tall in mountain pose (straight up with hips tucked under a little bit, feet grounded, spine tall, shoulders relaxed back)
- Inhale, stretching your arms overhead, lengthening your body so that you become just a little bit taller
- As you exhale with slightly (or more than slightly) bent knees to protect your low back, hinge at your hips
- Allow your torso and head to hang down towards the floor
- Move around here a bit, allowing any stress you may still be holding from that day to roll right off of your back
- Release anything that you are holding on to
- Are your eyelids soft? The space between your eyebrows? Is there anywhere you can relax a little more?
- Relax your jaw by opening your mouth for a big yawn and stick out your tongue with an audible sigh
- Allow your head to hang heavy on your neck. Nod your head yes. Shake your head no.
- Keeping a generous bend in your knees hug opposite elbows and sway a little, rocking side to side
- Hang, release, relax
- Come up slowly with bent knees once again lifting your torso from your hips and stacking your spine so that your head is last to come up
2. Gentle Neck Stretch
Our poor little necks are the unsung heroes of our lives. They carry our heavy bowling-ball sized heads. Many people hold stress here and often complain of a “stiff neck". This is especially when they also have tight backs and shoulders. Once again, clenching your jaw is a very common habit, and this strains your neck as well.
- Sit comfortable with your legs crossed and spine tall (this can also be done standing)
- On an inhale, let your left ear hang towards your left shoulder
- Allow your shoulders to sink down, relaxing down your bag
- Be gentle here and just let it hang, allowing gravity to pull your head towards your shoulder
- If it feels better to do so, roll your neck around. When you find a knotty spot, hang there for a minute, sending deep inhales and exhales to the area of tension
- To increase the intensity of this stretch, walk your fingers out to the side
- Make sure to give love to both sides, as always
3. Seated Hip Stretch
- Sitting up straight, try and lengthen your spine as long as possible
- Imagine someone pulling you up from a string on the crown of your head, while your seat stays rooted to the bed
- Extend both legs out in front of you and readjust your seat, lengthening your one more time. It is sometimes helpful here to move any extra flesh from your booty or to lift yourself up quick with your hands, allowing the spine to lengthen once more
- Keep one leg extended straight in front of you as you
- Cross the second leg over the first, hugging your thigh to your chest with your knee pointed towards the ceiling
- Keep a tall spine
- Allowing your hip to stretch and release here, should feel amazing (fun fact: the jaw and hip are correlated)
- Hold for about 30 seconds, sending deep, calm inhales and exhales to any super tight sensations
- Release and slowly transition to repeat on the opposite side
4. Head To Knee Pose
- Stretch one leg out in front of you
- Bend the second leg and bring the sole of the second foot to rest on the inside of the extended leg
- Inhale and lengthen your spine as long as possible
- As you exhale, extend your body forward, releasing your torso over your extended leg
- Feel free to bend your knee to make this pose feel as yummy as possible
5. Legs Up The Wall
This is by far my favorite pose to relax. The benefits of this inversion are many, and it just feels so damn good! Scoot your bottom towards a wall and walk your feet up the wall. From here, just relax and breathe comfortably.
Why is it so amazing? Some of the benefits lets up the wall offers:
- regulates blood flow
- reduces pain from menstrual cramps
- improves digestion
- provides relief from headaches and migraines
- relieves symptoms of anxiety, mild depression, and insomnia (it is very calming)
- pain relief from mild backaches, sore legs, tired feet, swollen ankles and varicose veins
Ah, finally, savasana! Here, lay comfortably on your back. Let your feet splay out to the sides, with your legs open to about the width of a yoga mat. Allow your palms to face up, with your arms relaxed along your sides. Do a full body scan here and see if inch by inch you can relax each part of your body, just a little more. From here, you should drift off into a slumber, allowing you to wake refreshed!