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Catch Some Z's: 11 Bedtime Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

In the modern world, sleep doesn't come easy. Long work hours, inescapable electronic devices, busy evenings, caffeine addiction, light and noise pollution, not to mention increasingly commonplace anxiety and stress that all play their part in wrecking your sleep quality. According to a recent study by Aviva, two-thirds of UK adults suffer from disrupted sleep and nearly a quarter manage no more than five hours a night. That's pretty shocking given sleep is one of the pillars of good health - yet it's the one we all seem to neglect. 

Prevention is your best friend (turning off devices in the evening, leaving work in the metaphorical office, winding down with your loved ones in the evening, having a regular mindfulness practice, dropping the post-lunch coffee etc.), but we understand that life happens and sometimes you end up in a situation where you need to do something proactive in order to switch off.

We're here to give you a rather effective sequence of bedtime yoga poses to achieve deep calm - physically, mentally and emotionally - to set you up for an effortless and peaceful night's slumber. That method comes in the form of wonderful Yin yoga. Most forms of yoga are dynamic, active practices designed to work our muscular tissues. Yin however gets deep into the tissues of our ligaments, joints, fascial networks and even our bones. Anyone who's tried Yin will quickly discover that it's far from passive or soft. Instead, it's quite challenging due to the long duration of the poses and the depth with which you go into them. That's why we prefer Yin yoga to Restorative yoga for sleep - because it requires introspection and focus that makes it difficult to think about anything else but the present. What that means is that stress, anxiety and excess stimulation float away with every passing minute...

How to Practice Yin Yoga Poses

We could attempt to describe the principles of a Yin yoga practice in a fresh, jazzy way - but the description from renowned yoga and teacher Sarah Powers is as coherent as it could be. If it ain't broke... The 3 simple and effective principles for Yin yoga practice are:

Come Into The Pose at an Appropriate Depth

Go only to the point where you feel significant resistance. Stop there and relax into the pose. Don't force depth - throughout the pose your body will allow you in. Trust the process.

Resolve to Remain Still

Avoid the urge to push deeper, fidget, bounce or rock in the pose. No matter what arises in the mind or sensations arise in the body, we remain still. There are two exceptions to this. Firstly if you experience pain in the pose. Secondly, if your body has opened and is inviting us to go deeper.

Hold the Pose for Time 

When we have reached our edge and become still, all that is left to do is stay. The deep tissues we are targeting aren't overly elastic. They don't respond well to constant movement and rather require long-held, gentle pressure to be stimulated properly. 

11 Bedtime Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

Now you know why Yin is the perfect choice for bedtime yoga and how to practice Yin yoga poses, here's a practice consisting of 11 bedtime yoga poses for better sleep. We've provided guidelines for a 30 minute and 1 hour practice in the table below, depending on the time you have available. Further on you will find guidelines for each of the Yin yoga poses. We suggest using a stopwatch or counting in your head rather than using a phone - after all, we want to be avoiding screens altogether, not encouraging them!

30 Minute Bedtime Yin Yoga 

With 2 minute holds

1 Hour Bedtime Yin Yoga 

With 4 minute holds

Meditation for 2 minutes

Meditation for 4 minutes

Dangling for 2 minutes

Dangling for 4 minutes

Squat for 2 minutes

Squat for 4 minutes

Butterfly for 2 minutes

Counterpose: Windshield Wipers

Butterfly for 4 minutes

Counterpose: Windshield Wipers

Anahatasana for 2 minutes

Counterpose: Child’s Pose

Anahatasana for 4 minutes

Counterpose: Child’s Pose

Caterpillar for 2 minutes

Counterpose: Tabletop

Saddle for 4 minutes

Counterpose: Child’s Pose

Sleeping Swan for 2 minutes each side

Counterpose: Child’s Pose

Caterpillar for 4 minutes

Counterpose: Tabletop

Reclining Twist for 2 minutes each side

Counterpose: Hug Knees Into Chest

Sleeping Swan for 4 minutes each side

Counterpose: Child’s Pose

Reclined Supported Butterfly for 5 minutes

Reclining Twist for 4 minutes each side

Counterpose: Hug Knees Into Chest

Shavasana for 5 minutes

Reclined Supported Butterfly for 6 minutes

-

Shavasana for 10 minutes

 

Meditation

Man meditating wearing So We Flow...

Begin each practice gently with an opening meditation. Sit, lie down or stand in Mountain Pose - whatever's comfortable for you. Begin by allowing your awareness to sink into your lower belly. From here, notice the rhythm of your breath. Feel the rising and the falling of each inhalation and exhalation. Do not try to change anything. Notice and accept the breath exactly as it is. After several breaths, allow your awareness to broaden. Notice the feelings in your body - the ground beneath you, the temperature of the air, the sounds and smells around you. After a while, check-in with your emotions. Observe closely and don't reject anything that appears. Perhaps you can't stop thinking about work or the stresses of the day. Perhaps you're feeling boredom or irritation. Even this early on in the practice, contentment can arise. The key is to notice what's arising and nothing more, without criticising yourself or dwelling on it. Simply let your thoughts float away.

Dangling 

Man doing a dangling Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and fold forward. You can clasp your elbows or rest the elbows on your knees. The emphasis should be on your spine and hamstrings.

To come out of the pose bend your knees and release your hands to the floor. Slowly roll up to standing.

Squat

Man doing a squat Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

Begin by standing with the feet hip-width apart and your feet turned slightly outward. Squat down with your arms in front of you for counterbalance. When you reach the position, your hands can be in prayer, with the elbows pulling lightly against the knees or shins. The emphasis should be on the hips, knees and ankles.

To come out of the pose, simply sit down and slowly extend the legs out in front of you.

Butterfly

Man doing butterfly Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

Sitting on a cushion, bring the soles of your feet together and then slide them away from you. Consider this to be a lengthened version of Baddha Konasana - with your legs in a diamond shape rather than right up toward your groin. Allowing your back to round, fold forward, lightly resting your hands on your feet or on the floor in front of you. Your head can hang down toward your heels. The emphasis should be on your spine and hips.

To come out of the pose, use your hands to push the floor away and slowly roll up. Before straightening your legs, lean back onto your hands and counterpose the external rotation of the hips with Windshield Wipers.

Anahatasana

Man doing Anahatasana Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

From your hands and knees, walk your hands forward, allowing your chest to drop toward the floor. Keep your hips above your knees. Find the neutral position for your arm width (which may or may not be shoulder-width apart). The emphasis should be on the middle and upper back.

To come out of the pose, sit back onto your heels and counterpose with Child's Pose.

Saddle (1 Hour Practice Only)

Man doing Saddle Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

There are several options for coming into this pose. Start with sitting on the heels and noticing how this feels. If there's pain in the knees, sit higher on a cushion or bolster, or skip this pose completely. If your ankles are complaining, try a blanket underneath them or again skip the pose. Lean back on your hands, creating a subtle arch in the lower back. Check-in with how this feels. This may be as far as you go. If you want to go further, come down onto your elbows. If that is comfortable, lie down all the way to the floor, bringing your arms overhead, clasping opposite elbows. The emphasis should in the spine, hips and knees.

To come out of the pose, come back up the way you went down - propping yourself up on the elbows and then onto the hands. Straighten your legs slowly to allow the knees to release. When you're ready, counterpose with Child's Pose.

Caterpillar

Man doing Caterpillar Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

Sit on a cushion with both legs out in front of you. Fold forward over your legs, allowing your back to round. Use a bolster to support your head if required. The emphasis should be on your spine, hips and hamstrings.

To come out of the pose, use your hands to push the floor away and slowly roll up. Counterpose in Tabletop or Cat pose.

Sleeping Swan

Man doing Sleeping Swan Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

You can come into this pose from Downward Facing Dog or hands and knees. Slide a knee between your hands, lean slightly to that side and check in with how your knee feels. If the knee is fine, flex the front foot and move it forward (- if the knee feels stressed, bring the foot closer toward the hip. You may even sit right on the foot. Centre yourself so your weight is even. This may be as far as you go. To go further, walk your hands forward, lowering down in stages. If you come down too fast, all the weight goes into the front knees - so walk your hands forward, keeping the hips back and eventually come onto the elbows or all the way down. The emphasis should be on the front leg's outer hip and the back leg's front hip.

To come out of the pose, use your hands to push the floor away and slowly come up. Tuck the back toes under, plant your hands and bring your feet to meet at the back of the mat. Bring your knees down and sit on your heels to counterpose in Child's Pose. Repeat the pose on the opposite side.

Reclining Twist

Man doing Reclining Twist Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

Lay on your back, pin your shoulders to the floor, and draw one or both knees into your chest. Open your arms to the side like wings, and then drop the knee(s) to one side. Experiment with turning your head to either side and notice how the sensations change. The emphasis should be rotation along the spine and torso, and opening across the front of the shoulder and chest.

To come out of the pose, slowly roll onto your back and counterpose by hugging the knees into the chest to release the sacrum and lumbar. Repeat the pose on the opposite side.

Reclined Supported Butterfly

Man doing Reclined Supported Butterfly Yin yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

Place a bolster lengthways on your mat, and place a block under one end to elevate it. Bring the base of your spine to the bottom of the bolster and lay back, so the entire length of your spine is supported on the bolster. Bring the soles of your feet together and slide them away from you. Let your knees fall open to the side, supporting with blocks if required. Bring your arms down by your side and relax your chest and shoulders. The emphasis should be felt along the length of the spine, inner hips, chest and shoulders. If you don't have a bolster or blocks, it's absolutely fine to do this pose without any props.

To come up, bring your knees together, place your hands on the floor beside you, push the floor away and slowly sit up. Alternatively, you can roll gently off the bolster, move your equipment out the way and move straight into Shavasana.

Shavasana 

Man doing Shavasana yoga pose wearing So We Flow...

Time to relax and rest the body before you hit the hay. Lie on your back, with your arms and legs to the side. Allow the feet to fall outward and turn the palms to face up. Lengthen the neck slightly by pointing your chin toward your feet. Scan your body slowly, noticing how you feel. Consciously relax each body part, starting at your feet and ending at the top of your head. The mind should remain alert yet relaxed. Notice your thoughts, but don't hold onto them - simply let them pass and drift away. 

When you decide to come out of the pose, allow your breath to be deeper and longer. Bring some movement to your fingers and toes, while you roll your head from side to side. Take a moment to move your wrists and ankles in circles. When you are ready, hug your knees into your chest then stretch your whole body. Sit up slowly and take a moment of calm and quiet contemplation before you complete your practice. Either head to bed, or if you are staying up, ensure you avoid work, screens and anything stimulating for the rest of the evening. 

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That's all folks! We'd love to hear how you got on with these bedtime yoga poses. Did you get a peaceful night's slumber? Tag us on Instagram @SoWeFlow

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