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The Most Soothing Yoga Poses to Help You Sleep Better

Boost relaxation and beat insomnia with yoga for sleep. By soothing your mind and body before bed, you will catch some well-deserved ZZZs.

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Your pre-bedtime yoga routine

Having trouble sleeping? You’re not alone—and it could be costing you more than just a restless night and sleepy day. According to recent research, people with insomnia are much more likely to experience associated health problems such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, and congestive heart failure.

But don’t despair—a good night’s sleep really is within reach. EspecialOne often-recommended treatment is to establish a relaxing bedtime routine (and no, a nightcap with Netflix doesn’t count). A good place to start? A pre-bedtime yoga for sleep practice.

“Yoga gets you in touch with the breath,” says Toronto yoga instructor Darcie Clark, who consulted on and modeled for the following pose sequence. “When you slow down and stay in a pose you can feel different areas of the body that are tense and holding on from your day and gradually let that go as you sit and breathe through the pose.” And stretching in general has a calming effect, says Nikos Apostolopoulos, director of the Microstretching Clinic in Vancouver, making bedtime the best time for it.

Ready to begin? Ideally, says Clark, do each pose in the sequence for one to five minutes, holding each position gently without strain or pain. Can’t manage the full sequence? Pick your favourites and build them into your routine as you can—even in bed, if that works for you.

And remember: Always listen to your body, don’t push yourself past your comfort zone and don’t do anything that hurts. Of course, with any move you have not done before, ease yourself into the practice and only go as deep with the stretch as you can comfortably handle. Speak to a yoga teacher for further modifications to these poses that will work with your body.

Did you know your pillow can have a huge effect on your sleep? Here's how to choose the best one for you.

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Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee pose)

• Sit on the floor without slouching, legs extended straight in front of you and knees bent if necessary to keep the spine from rounding.
• Bend the right knee and open the hip, bringing the sole of the right foot into the inner left thigh and the right knee toward the ground. If it doesn’t reach, support the right knee with a cushion.
• Inhale and lengthen the spine.
• Exhale as you bend forward from the hips over the left leg, keeping the spine and neck long, and place the hands on either side of the left leg. Gaze at the big toe of the left foot as you focus on the breath moving in and out.
• Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Those with tight hamstrings will find all forward bends easier with a folded blanket or cushion under the sitting bones.

Finding your muscles are stiff? Try this easy stretching routine for flexibility.

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Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose)

• Sit on the floor without slouching and bring the soles of the feet together in front of you, hands holding the feet or ankles.
• If you’re comfortable and able to sit without rounding the lower back, bring the feet as close as you can toward the groin.
• Inhale and lengthen the spine.
• Exhale and bend forward from the hips, keeping the spine long. Breathe in and out as you feel your muscles relaxing.

Tip: If sitting in this pose is challenge enough, skip the forward bend. Sitting on a blanket or cushion can help tight bodies open up.

Yoga is good for sleeping, obviously. But it is also good for many health reasons—including banishing belly fat.

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Upavistha Konasana (wide-angle seated forward bend)

• Sit upright on the floor, without slouching.
• Extend the legs in front of you in a vee, placing hands behind the buttocks for balance. Only go so wide as is comfortable.
• Inhale and lengthen the spine, ensuring the lower back isn’t rounding.
• Exhale and bend forward from the hips, with hands in front of you. Focus on the breath as you lengthen the spine with every inhale and relax forward with every exhale.

Tip: If sitting in this pose is challenge enough, skip the forward bend and keep the hands behind the buttocks; focus on sitting up without rounding the back. Try sitting on a cushion or folded blanket, or bending the knees and placing support under them.

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Thread-the-needle

• Lie on your back with the head flat on the floor. Bend the knees and place the soles of the feet on the floor.
• Bring the right knee toward the chest. Keeping the hips even, place the right ankle below the left knee with the right knee pointing to the right. Flex the right foot to keep the muscles engaged and protect the knee from strain.
• Lift the left foot off the floor and bring the left knee toward the chest. Bring the hands on either side of the left thigh for support. You should feel a stretch on the outside of the right hip. As you breathe in and out, try to bring both hips parallel.
• Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Only go as deep as you need to to feel a gentle stretch.

You can do all these moves at home, of course. Here are some more easy yoga poses you should be doing every day.

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Reclined twist

• Lie on your back and bring the knees into the chest.
• Extend the left arm to the side at shoulder height, palm facing up.
• Keeping the knees high, slowly bring them out to the right until they reach the floor.
• Place the right hand on top of the right knee. You may want to use the right hand to massage the outer left leg and hip.
• Gaze straight up at the ceiling or slightly to the left.
• Repeat on the other side.

Tip: Place a cushion or other support under the lowered knees to decrease the range of motion.

Sleepy in the morning? Try this energizing yoga five-minute practice.

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Viparita Karani (legs-up-the-wall pose)

• Sit sideways against a wall (if you do not have enough space in your home to do it against a wall, do it in the middle of the floor). Bring up one leg then the other as you come to your back with legs extended up the wall.
• Extend the arms along your sides, palms facing up.
• Close the eyes and breathe as you relax into the pose. If you like, place an eye pillow over the eyes to block light.

Tip: Bring the buttocks farther away from the wall to relieve tight hamstrings. Tie a belt around the lower legs to keep them together so you can relax further into the pose.

Once you start this routine, get ready to experience all of the amazing effects yoga has on your mind and body.

Originally Published on Best Health Canada