Wondering what to do when you can't sleep? This five-pose sequence of bedtime yoga poses—easily completed in 10 or 15 minutes before bed—is designed specifically to help you sleep better. The positions are all relatively easy to get into, and each of them has profound physical as well as mental-emotional benefits. While doing all five of them in the suggested sequence is recommended, it's also fine to choose just one or two of these five bedtime yoga poses to explore.
1. Modified Table Pose
As its name suggests, this pose involves transforming your body into the shape of a table: with your spine as the tabletop. Though there are several variations of this pose, the one we'll be doing here begins from a standing position. Here's how:
Start by standing near a cleared-off countertop or table. You can also use a flat-seated chair, but make sure to anchor it against a wall.
Place the palms of your hands flat on the table (or chair seat or countertop), about shoulder width apart.
Then step your feet back, until your head drops in line with your extended upper arms, and your entire back is more-or-less parallel to the floor. Arrange your feet so they are directly below your hips.
As a nice variation, you can step forward just a bit so that your forehead (along with your hands) is resting gently on the countertop. Make the surface comfortably soft by folding a towel or small blanket to place beneath your forehead.
With your head either extended between your arms, or resting on the countertop, reach forward through your fingers, and back through your hips, to stretch your spine evenly in both directions. Remain here for a couple of minutes, enjoying the spinal extension.
To come out of the pose, slowly walk your feet forward again, and return to standing.
2. Supine Hands Interlaced Behind Head
This second position is drawn from the Kaiut Yoga tradition, which specializes in deeply restorative and therapeutic yoga sequences. To begin, lie down in a supine position: resting on your back, with your face and torso facing upward, and your knees hinged so the soles of your feet are flat on the floor (about hip-width apart).
Then interlace your fingers behind your head, at the base of your skull. Let your elbows drop toward the floor: they may drop all the way to the floor and may float a bit above it. Relax in this position for two or three minutes, feeling how your upper back and chest are being gently opened and realigned.
To come out of the pose, release your hands, roll over onto your side, then gently press to sitting.
3. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
The Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (a.k.a. Viparita Karani) offers many of the benefits of an inversion but from a completely supported and relaxed position. The first step in getting into this pose is to sit down on the floor with one hip fairly close (say four to six inches) to a wall. Lean back into your hands and swing your legs up onto the wall. At the same time, your torso will drop onto the support of the floor.
Your pelvis doesn't have to be snug up against the wall. In fact, unless you're super-flexible in your hips and hamstrings, it's best to arrange yourself so that your pelvis is six or eight inches away from the wall, and your legs at an angle as they're supported by the wall.
Rest your arms on the floor, or fold your hands on your belly, or interlace your fingers at the base of your skull (as in the previous pose)—whichever feels best to you. Stay in this position for up to five minutes.
When you're ready to come out of the pose, hinge your knees and roll onto your side, then gently press up to sitting.
4. Senses-Drawing-Inward Pose
The variation of Shanmukhi Mudra that we'll be doing next involves giving rest to our primary sense organs (the eyes and ears) and turning attention toward the breath and other internal sensations. As we go through our day, our attention is habitually drawn outward—into the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures of the external world. As we prepare for sleep, it's helpful to give our senses a rest and turn our attention inward. Here we'll focus on our two major senses: sight and sound.
Begin by sitting down, either in a chair, or on the floor, or on your bed—in whatever position is most comfortable.
Then rub the palms of your hands together for a few seconds, to generate some warmth in them.
Cup your hands and place them gently over your closed eyes. As you hold your cupped hands over your eyes, allow your eyes to relax completely. And have a sense of turning your vision inward, whatever that means to you. After a couple of minutes, remove your cupped hands from your eyes, but keep them closed.
Once again rub the palms of your hands together for warmth, and this time place your cupped hands over your ears. Listen to the sound of your breath, which will be enhanced by the cupping. Become deeply interested and absorbed in the sound of your breathing. Continue for a couple of minutes.
5. Savasana: Corpse Pose
The final pose of this sequence is Savasana (also known as Corpse Pose), which you can do either lying on the floor or right in your bed. It's the perfect pose to prepare you for sleep, as it supports a deep relaxation of both the body and the mind.
To begin, lay down on your back, with your legs extended fully, and your arms resting near your sides. If you're comfortable lying completely flat, that's great. It's also fine to slide a pillow or folded blanket underneath your knees if this feels more comfortable.
Take a few deep, slow breaths, saying "ahh" as you exhale. Smile gently.
And now, little by little, allow your entire body to relax completely—as though your body were a stick of butter, melting on a warm skillet.
Let go of thoughts of the past. Let go of thoughts of the future. Let go of concerns about what is or is not happening right now. Let your mind, as well as your body, simply melt into the effortless flow of breathing.
After five minutes or so, move to your bed (if you're not already there) and continue relaxing and releasing. Sweet dreams!Questions or comments? Please don't hesitate to contact us. We hope these bedtime yoga poses support you as you drift off to sleep. And we’re delighted to help you find the perfect mattress, bedding, or anything else to help you get a good night's rest.