Yoga for Sleep

image of person doing variety of poses. Central image is text "yoga for sleep"

I don’t know about you but I have noticed a significant shift in my ability to fall asleep with everything going on right now. I seem to get into bed and my mind begins to race with trying to find solutions to the uncertainty I am feeling and worrying about anything I can. My new goal: to be gentle with myself in this time of change, honour the feelings that come up, and add in little bits of self-care and routine where I can and where it feels manageable. One thing that I have found to be really helpful in calming my mind before bed is adding a Yin Yoga practise into my bedtime routine. I wanted to share this practise with you. 

 

Yin Yoga allows us to focus inward, and creates space to let go and be mindful. So gather blankets, pillows, towels, a yoga mat, or whatever you might need to be cosy and comfortable and set up your space. I like to light a candle and play soothing music to help my body and mind relax. If you don’t have a yoga mat, a towel works great. Get creative and use what you have on hand. 

 

This practice is flexible and you are welcome to modify and change it to meet your needs. My biggest suggestion is to listen to your body, what it needs in this moment and do that. This might change day to day and even hour to hour. Feel welcome to do all the poses suggested or just pick one or two of your favourites to add into your evening routine (I typically do my yoga practice after brushing my teeth, with my pyjamas on, before crawling into bed-but anytime is great). I  would suggest holding the poses for 3-8 minutes… but there are no rules about this. 

 

Once in a pose use as many props (blankets, pillows, towels, etc.) as you need to allow you to settle in and be comfortable to hold the pose for several minutes. 

 

Slowly let your body and muscles start to relax into the shape and bring your focus to your breath. Notice how your breath inhales and exhales. 

 

It can be helpful when in poses where you feel more stretching, tension or sensation to imagine inhaling into the spaces of sensation, and on your exhales, imagining your are releasing that tension. 

 

It is completely normal for your mind to wander during this practice, it can take time to get used to. My favourite way to settle back in if I get distracted, begin to worry or think about other things is to bring my attention back to my breath, listen to the music playing, or shift out of the pose I am in and into another one. Have fun with it!

 

Caution: It is normal to feel a stretch in these poses but be mindful of pain or pitching. Again, listen to your body, if something is pitching, painful or uncomfortable ease out of that pose. Maybe modify it by adding extra props or just leave that pose out of your yoga practice. Our goal is to reset and relax. 

 

Yin Yoga For Sleep:

image of person doing variety of poses. Central image is text "yoga for sleep"

 

Child’s Pose: 

image of woman in child's pose with text "child's pose"

Bend into your knees and allow your hips to sink back towards your heels. 

Let your chest fall forward over a pillow (or two) or a bolster. 

Rest your cheek down onto your pillow

 

Additional support

You are welcome to add a towel or pillow between your sitz bones and heels for added comfort.

 

Mermaid:

image of woman in mermaid pose

Bend your knees and bring the short edge of your pillow(s) to your right hip.

Find a gentle twist through your spine to bring your chest down onto the pillow.

Allow your left cheek to rest onto the pillow

Remember to do both sides. 

 

Additional supports: 

If there is tension in your neck feel free to rest your head to face the same direction as your knees. 

 

Pigeon/Sleeping Swan:

woman in pigeon pose

From your hands and knees, bring your right knee towards your right wrist. 

Allow your right foot to settle towards your pelvis. 

Your left leg lengthens out behind you.

Lengthen your chest forward and come to rest onto your pillow(s) allowing your chest to settle.

Don’t forget the other side!

 

Additional supports: 

If your right hip (the one with the bent knee) tends to fall toward the mat you can add a rolled towel under that hip for added comfort.

A folded blanket can be added under the left knee (the straight leg) for extra support.

 

Caution: Come out of this pose if there is any pain pitching or discomfort, particularly in the bent knee.

 

Wide-legged Forward Fold:

woman demonstrating wide-legged forward fold

Bring your legs wide into a straddle

Allow your chest and head to drape forward onto a stack of pillows

 

Additional support:

Roll up a blanket or towel and place them under your knees for added comfort in this pose

 

Spinal Twist:

woman demonstrating spinal twist

Lying flat on your back, bring your right knee in towards your chest.

Draw your right knee towards the floor on your left side

Open your arms into a “T”, allowing your shoulder to fall heavily towards the mat. 

Your gaze can come to either side. For an added twist, face the opposite side from your bent knee.

Make sure you do the other side too!

 

Additional support: feel free to add a pillow under your bent knee allowing it to find a point of contact to rest on.

 

Reclined Butterfly:

woman demonstrating reclined butterfly yoga pose

From a seated position place a rolled up towel, a bolster or two pillow behind your hips.

Bring the soles of your feet together allowing your legs to fall into a butterfly shape.

Drape your back, neck and head back over your pillows. 

Allow your arms to fall towards the floor for a chest opener.

 

Additional support: 

This pose could be done in a seated position without the chest opener.

Rolled up towels can be placed under each knee for added support, allowing you to release your muscles.

 

Savasana:

woman demonstrating savasana

Lie back onto your mat and allow your arms and legs to come wide and fall heavily at your side. 

Allow your breath to return to its natural rhythm.

 

Additional supports: Use as many props as you need

You are welcome to cover yourself with a blanket and roll up a blanket under your knees for extra support. 

This is the last pose of your practice- you are welcome to take savasana in your bed and allow yourself to fall asleep.

 

Author: Gaby Emmett

Bio: My name is Gaby Emmett. I am a youth worker, yoga teacher and counsellor in training working in Canada. I love supporting others and helping people find their purpose and build tools to support their mental wellbeing.

 

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