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3 yoga poses to try for better sleep tonight

Curb tension and stress that keep you up at night with these relaxing yoga poses.

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- 04:23
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Yoga can help you relax and get better sleep.

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When you can't sleep, you'd do almost anything to fall asleep fast. Exercise can help you sleep better at night, but the trick is to do it early enough in the day so that it revs you up -- but doesn't backfire and keep you awake even longer. 

If you've been lying in bed and can't sleep or have a hard time winding down at night, you could get to sleep faster by incorporating some calming yoga poses into your evening routine. 

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How yoga can help you sleep better 

According to Chloe Kernaghan, co-founder of Sky Ting yoga, yoga helps you sleep better in two ways: It helps still a racing mind and it helps calm the nervous system. "Yoga as a practice is centered around finding stillness in the mind, which more often than not is the opposite state the mind is in when we're having sleep issues (i.e. your mind is racing!)," Kernaghan says. 

Yoga includes elements of mindfulness, but it's also a physical practice that's known for helping calm the body's physical stress response, or the nervous system, through breath work and doing poses. "The physical practice can help calm the nervous system and switch you from sympathetic mode to a parasympathetic mode, ideal for resting and deep sleep," she says.

Which types of yoga classes are best for sleep?

Not all yoga classes are equally mellow. Some classes are more fast-paced, like power yoga for example, and can increase your heart rate. That's a good thing, but you want to focus on movement that does the opposite if you're feeling stressed and want to unwind before bed.

"I recommend doing calming, slow practices like yin yoga and restorative yoga. In these classes you'll generally stay in poses longer, use more props for support and have less intense instruction from the teacher, so there's more quiet space," Kernaghan explains.

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"Restorative" or "yin" yoga classes are better for sleep, because they focus on slower movements and holding poses for a long time.

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If the thought of doing anything that resembles a workout or requires a yoga mat makes you cringe, you can also try Yoga Nidra, which Kernaghan recommends doing before bed. "[Yoga Nidra] is closer to meditation but is generally done lying down. Little to no physical effort is needed, instead a Nidra practice helps drop you from a beta state to a theta state," she says. 

3 yoga poses for sleep 

Next time you're struggling to fall asleep or catch quality z's, try these poses in the evening to help you unwind. You can do them all in a sequence if you'd like, or pick and choose a few that feel good for you. 

"You can definitely do poses on your own; sequences are nice because you have someone to guide you through, but if you're familiar with the postures, doing a few right before bed could be your perfect recipe," Kernaghan says. 

Supported Child's Pose  

"Forward folds are calming for the body and with the fold at the knees and hips, this can also be a nice stretch for the hips and low back. definitely make sure your head is supported, so if you need to add another pillow to make it comfortable," says Kernaghan.

How to do it, according to Kernaghan:

  • Start with your hands and knees touching the floor or bed. 
  • Bring your knees about as wide as a yoga mat, big toes touch behind you and sit your hips back to your heels. 
  • Use a thick pillow or couch cushion lengthwise, placed between the legs for the torso to stretch forward on-- should act like a gentle support from the low belly to the head. 
  • Feel free to turn your neck to one side and breathe. Stay for 3 to 5 minutes, turning your head halfway through if your neck is turned.

Supported Goddess Pose

"This gentle hip opener is a perfect way to unwind and relax. Having a deep fold in the legs can help with digestion and letting the body settle heavy to the floor is a great way to release any lingering holds from your day," says Kernaghan. (The above video shows a related exercise, not the one described here.)

How to do it, according to Kernaghan:

  • Come to a seated position with your legs out in front of you. 
  • Bring the soles of your feet together, knees butterflied open and use two pillows (one under each thigh/knee) as support. 
  • Recline the torso back onto the floor; feel free to use a folded blanket underneath the back of the head. 
  • Place hands on the belly or open the arms out the side. Cover the eyes if you'd like, and stay for 3 to 5 minutes.

Legs up the wall

"This pose is amazing for so much, but in relation to sleep it's great because it's a gentle inversion. The legs drain for a few minutes, which helps with circulation so the body is less agitated as you fall asleep. I love doing this pose in my bed sometimes -- just swinging my legs up my headboard," Kernaghan says.

How to do it, according to Kernaghan:

  • This pose is just as it sounds -- you sit close to a wall, bring your torso to the floor and swing your legs up the wall! 
  • I recommend bringing your seat close to the wall, but if the legs or lower back are tight, keep some bend in the knees. 
  • I like adding a pillow under my hips so my pelvis is slightly higher than my heart. 
  • Stay for 3 to 5 minutes. If your legs feel tingly you can always bend and butterfly knees open with feet together instead. 
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.