Yoga is known for a variety of health benefits including alleviating pain, building strength, and aiding in meditative practices. However, some might say Yoga’s central focus is on the breath—consequently what also helps us drift off to sleep. By slowing your breathing, and settling into a rhythm, you may find that sleep comes more naturally.
Yoga goes beyond just stretching your muscles, it’s a whole-body experience and it can be daunting to get started. That’s why we thought it would be helpful to share our favorite beginner yoga positions for sleep that could help you relax faster and enjoy a restful night.
Many of the positions in this article are suitable for beginners, but please consult your doctor if you have any concerns about injury, and remember that Yoga is not about forcing yourself into unnatural positions. Mastery comes with time and practice, so if a position causes pain, it’s best to move on to a less advanced pose.
Benefits of Yoga Before Bed
Loosen up Tight Muscles
One of the main physical components of yoga is stretching. If you have tight muscles from sitting at your desk or exerting yourself, practising yoga before bed could help relieve muscle tension, prevent injury, avoid waking up stiff or sore, and enable you to get a good night's sleep, so long as you don't overdo it.
Helps You Relax
It can be challenging to wind down at the end of a long, stressful day. By practicing yoga postures and working on slow and conscious breathing techniques, you may find that with time, you naturally relax throughout your yoga practice, which could help lessen bedtime anxiety.
Burns Excess Energy
If you feel fidgety or restless at the end of the day, a gentle yoga practice can help make you feel centered. The subtle movements and moderate physical activity could burn your last bit of anxious energy and prepare you for a night of sleep.
Learn More: How Exercise Affects Sleep
If you have trouble falling asleep, bedtime yoga is ideal for treating insomnia. The breathing exercises are relaxing and many of the postures are designed to improve circulation, sleep quality, and release tightness in your body.
Promotes Deep Sleep
The physical practice of doing yoga combines the disciplines of the body and mind. By letting go of the stress of the day, burning up your last bit of energy, and focusing on your breath, not only should you fall asleep faster, but you may find your sleep is more restful.
Yoga Poses to Help You Sleep Better
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
This pose stretches and strengthens your back. Lie down flat on your stomach with your arms straight down by your hips. Your forehead should be touching the floor or a yoga mat. On an exhale lift your head, chest, and legs off the ground.
If raising both legs at the same time is too challenging, lift one first. Then place it back on the ground and lift the other.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
This yoga pose is a fancy way of saying, “touch your toes.” Stand with your feet together. Bend forward at the waist, and then touch your toes. You may need to bend your knees to get your hands to the ground. If it is still impossible to touch your toes, don’t force the pose, bend as far as you can comfortably, and lean on a yoga block or a folded blanket. Not only will you feel a stretch in the back of your body, but you’ll also increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain.
Janu Sirasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose)
This yoga position is like a forward bend, but you stay seated. It’s a fantastic all-over stretch that helps the back of your legs, your arms, and your back. It also aids in digestion, which is helpful during sleep.
To get started, sit down and extend one leg out in front of you. With the other leg, bend at the knee and place the bottom of your foot against your inner thigh. Sit tall with your arms straight up above your head. Then, slowly hinge your upper body forward and reach for your toes. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
This one is a yogi favorite and is often the last position done during regular yoga practice. It’s meant to bookend the session and allow the work that the practitioner has done to set in. In our opinion, this is the ultimate sleep pose!
Corpse pose is physically the easiest, but can be the most difficult to do mentally. You like flat on your back with your legs straight out in front of you and your arms at your side. Let your feet relax and fall toward the side. The palms of your hands should be face up.
In this position, the idea is to clear your mind, though some instructors may guide you through yoga nidra meditation, where you focus on relaxing each part of your body from your toes up to your eyes.
Need more info? Check out our guide for meditation before sleep.
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
This is similar to Janu Sirasana (head-of-the-knee pose), except both legs are straight out in front of you. From your seated position, raise your arms straight up to stretch your back, then lower them toward your feet. As you hold this position, each time you exhale, try to extend your reach a bit further, being mindful not to overstretch and injure yourself.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Begin by sitting with your legs straight out in front of you. Then draw your legs in with the soles of your feet touching each other. You should strive for your heels to be as close to your groin as possible. Your knees should be flat on the ground.
Then, slowly lean back and let your elbows drop to the floor to support you. Keep lowering yourself until you are lying flat on your back. Your arms should be outstretched by your sides and lying flat also. If it is impossible to lie back completely, place a few cushions on the yoga mat or floor to support your back while you are in the pose.
Hold this position, and breathe deeply for 30 seconds or up to one minute.
Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose)
Lie flat on your back, then lift one leg straight in the air. Reach your arm (the same side as the leg that’s lifted) and grab your big toe. Make sure your back is flat on the floor without any gaps or spaces. Hold for five breaths and then switch sides.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Lie on your back with your feet hip-width distance apart. Draw your heels to your buttocks and keep your feet flat on the floor. Lift your tailbone up toward the sky. Interlace your fingers underneath you as you press your shoulders deeper into the ground.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
If you’re on your feet all day or you have varicose veins, this relaxing pose will be your new favorite! Lie on your back with your feet facing a wall. Lift your legs up the wall and start inching your buttocks toward it until they’re touching, and your legs are straight up against it. Hold for one minute.
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
The easy pose is often what people imagine when they hear “meditation”. Sukhasana is great for breathing exercises as it doesn’t require much effort or practice to maintain. To enter this pose, sit down on your mat, folding your legs in front of you by lifting one foot to rest on the opposite thigh. This should provide a gentle hip stretch. If you are unable to fold your legs or feel strain in the knees, sitting “criss-cross” style is also acceptable.
Lift up through the spine, lengthening through your neck as you inhale. Exhale to lower your shoulders and rest your hands on your knees.
Restorative Poses if You Cannot Sleep
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Start on all fours with knees wide apart. Drop your buttocks to touch your heels and stretch your arms straight down in front of you on the floor. Your forehead should move toward the ground or your mat. If your head cannot touch the ground, fold your hands one over the other and rest your head there. Another option would be to use a folded towel or firm pillow to bring the floor closer to you. Focus on your breath. As you inhale, your body will rise. On your exhale, it will fall.
The Child's pose is grounding, relaxing and an ideal pose for better sleep. If you’re having a stressful day at the office, this is also an ideal position to try. Although, maybe practice this one in private!
Pawanmuktasana (Wind-Relieving Pose)
You can probably imagine why this position is referred to as wind-relieving. If you haven’t guessed yet, try it, and you may find out!
Lie flat on your back. Lift one leg, bend it, and hug your knee toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, and then switch sides.
Supta Jathara Parivartanasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
From a wind-relieving pose, take your bent leg and ease it down to the floor on the opposite side. So, if your right knee is bent, drop it to the left side of your body. If this causes strain, you can keep your knees stacked and drop them both to the side. Turn your neck so that your eyes are also facing to the left. Then, take your right arm and stretch it straight out to the right side. Your shoulder should remain flat on the ground. Hold for a count of five breaths, and then switch sides.
Anana Balasana (Happy Baby)
This pose was named for the way babies grab their toes while lying on their backs. After you finish the supine spinal twist, raise both legs in the air and wrap your middle and index finger around your big toes. An optional activity is to rock side by side, which stimulates oxygen flow in the kidneys.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can yoga help people with sleep disorders?
Yoga is a great activity for people with most sleep disorders. While yoga may not cure each sleep disorder, it could help alleviate nighttime anxiety that comes with insomnia and worry about falling asleep. By focusing on your breath and doing purposeful movements, you’ll find that you feel much more relaxed and ready for bed when it’s time for sleep.
Can beginners do these?
Many of the poses mentioned in this article are suitable for beginners. However, if you are injured, pregnant, or recovering from an illness or surgery, please consult with your doctor before beginning any new program. Additionally, if you feel any strain or pain with these poses, we advise you to stop rather than forcing yourself into an uncomfortable position.