Slow, gentle, and rhythmic yoga and breathing can be the perfect way to unwind (your muscles and your mind) at the end of a long day. This routine can allow you to release the stress of the day, relax, and prepare your body and mind for a good night’s sleep.
Bharadvaja's Twist (Winding Down Twist)
Sit cross-legged and exhale as you put your right hand on to your left knee and your left hand on to the floor behind you. Rotate and twist your torso very gently to the left, allowing your eyes and head to follow. Stay here for a few deep breaths, then relax back to center and prepare to repeat it again on the opposite side. You can do each side as many times as you need to feel a full release in your back.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Lay down like a frog on its back, with your knees bent. Bring the soles of your feet together and concentrate on letting your knees fall open, don't force them down. Let your arms rest beside you on the bed. If you feel any pain or discomfort in your hips, you can support your legs with pillows under each knee.
Balasana (Child's Pose)
Start by kneeling comfortably on your heels. Drape your torso forward, allowing your forehead to rest gently on the floor in front of you. Allow your chest to relax down, as close to your knees as you can without forcing it. Extend your arms in front of you and gently relax into the pose and breathe.
Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
Lay down on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Cross your legs at the ankles and then wrap both of your arms around your shins. Inhale slowly and deeply and allow your body to rock up into a sitting position then exhale and roll back down. You can also rock side to side or whichever way your breath and your body takes you.
Vipareet Karani (Legs up the Wall)
Legs up the wall pose is a wonderful way to finish the movement part of this sequence because it is the ultimate restorative pose (a great pose to use after any hard training session). It really is as easy as it sounds too. Lay down near a wall, put your legs up the wall so your body forms an L shape. Breathe deeply and let the stress of the day drain out of your legs.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
To anyone who is new to yoga, this one may seem too simple to be effective but it is the icing on the pre-bed yoga cupcake. For this one, you can actually get into bed and lay down on your back with your arms at your sides and a little away from your body. The palms of your hands should be facing up toward the ceiling, over or under the blanket. All you need to do is let your legs relax and allow your feet to fall to the sides. Then close your eyes, let the rest of your body fully relax and, of course, breathe.
While you are in the Savasana pose, try breathing in this relaxing 4-7-8 pattern. Start by exhaling completely through your mouth so you are beginning the pattern with empty lungs. Then close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a count of four (I like to use my heart beat as my metronome). Then hold your breath for seven beats and exhale slowly through your mouth, for eight beats. Start from the beginning and repeat the cycle at least three more times or until you fall asleep.
After you complete these poses and stretches, you will feel relaxed enough to sleep as deeply as you have ever slept (or your money back). Like most things in life, this will get better and more effective the more you practice it. If you do this sequence (or one similar to it) most nights for a week or two, then your sleep will get more and more restful and deep.
Wake up every morning feeling like a million bucks instead of smashing your alarm clock into a million bits.
If getting a good night's sleep is a larger issue for you, you will likely want to (or need to) make other lifestyle changes as well. Changes like reducing or eliminating alcohol before bed, not drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and avoiding eating anything within two or three hours of bedtime. Making sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark is also a great idea. If you do all of these things, you will be well on your way to waking up every morning feeling like a million bucks instead of smashing your alarm clock into a million bits.