In this article we’ll explore the best poses for sleep, whether you’re a seasoned yogi or an eager beginner.
Guided by trusted experts and the latest research, we’ll help you bend and stretch your way to a better night’s rest.
1. Legs-Up-The-Wall (Viparita Karani)
If you need a nap throughout the day but don’t have a spare twenty minutes, then restorative yoga can provide a much-needed rest.
In fact, in acclaimed yogi Gail Boorstein Grossman’s book Restorative Yoga: A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance, she claims that twenty minutes of legs-up-the-wall can have the same restful benefits as a nap.
Viparita karani can be practiced with or without a bolster.
The version with a bolster is ideal for those looking for asanas for back pain, as it makes it less impactful on your lower back.
It also allows your body to be at its most restful, so you can enjoy complete relaxation.
Judith Hanson Lasater, in her book Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, shows how the position is ideal for sleep problems, particularly for those with chronic insomnia.
She highlights how the movement with a bolster can help to restore balance within the body following overactivity, describing how it:
Relieves the systematic effects of insomnia… reduces fatigue, quietens the mind and refreshes the heart and lungs.
It should not be performed by those in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy and should be avoided during mensuration.
Pin it for later!
Don’t forget to pin these poses for later!
2. Restorative Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Backbends are known for their restorative value so why not add the bridge to your bedtime routine to help you drift off?
The restorative version is considered the best for inducing sleepiness, so use blankets and bolsters to support your body while practicing.
She looked at restorative asanas for sleep, in relation to those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), particularly the associated feelings of fatigue.
The poses, including the restorative bridge, helped to renew energies and quieten the mind.
Users of the social networking site Quora, discussing yoga for sleep, repeatedly highlighted setu bandha sarvangasana.
They felt adopting the form at least 30 minutes before getting in bed was the key to success.
See here how to perform the exercise with a bolster:
3. Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This is another great nighttime posture.
Anything can be used as a prop, such as a blanket, towel, bolster, even a simple pile of (your favorite yoga) books can do the trick.
Cyndi Lee, author of May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga, and Changing My Mind, describes how the pose encourages the body’s “rest and digest” response.
It is thought that this response helps to reduce the heart rate and encourage a peaceful night’s rest.
In the aforementioned Relax and Renew book, Judith Hanson Lasater describes how the stance is powerful at reducing fatigue, especially if you’re struggling with insomnia.
It also has merits for women during menstruation.
That isn’t the end of the list of health advantages either!
The restful response it encourages can be a great relief for those hoping to find poses for anxiety.
4. Wide-Knee Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Practicing balasana as a part of your bedtime sequence allows you to unwind and release all your worries from the day.
If a busy mind is keeping you awake this position can calm it, relax you and help you sleep like a baby!
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at how yoga could boost the sleep quality of cancer survivors.
Participants followed the same program for four weeks – balasana was one of the postures in the sequence.
Improvements were seen in sleep quality, as well as wake after onset and efficiency.
There are a number of variations to this exercise, including the wide-knee version.
The goal is to be rested, so yogis suggest that anything that makes the movement more comfortable should be encouraged, such as placing a cushion or pad under your head so it’s not resting on the floor.
In his book A Journey into Yin Yoga, renowned practitioner Travis Eliot describes its power for sleep.
Focusing on child’s pose, he comments how it “activates the nervous system’s relaxation response”.
He does however advise caution if you’re suffering from tight hips or a knee injury.
Ebrahimi, M., Guilan-Nejad, T.N. and Pordanjani, A.F. (2017). Effect of yoga and aerobics exercise on sleep quality in women with Type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial [Online]. Sleep Science. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5612039/ [Accessed 14 July 2023]. ↩
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