Ease your way into a more restful night sleep with restorative yoga poses and deep, mindful breathing. Where Zen meets REM, here are six easy yoga poses to activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which helps to counteract stress and promote relaxation.
These postures can work for anyone, including yogis and non-yogis alike. The best part: all you need is a pillow and you can do this sequence right in comfort and ease of your own bed!
Before you begin, take 10 rounds of deep inhalations and exhalations.
1. Seated Wide Angle Pose (Upavistha Konasana)
Sitting with your legs spread wide apart, place a pillow horizontally in front of your torso. Inhale, sit up as tall as possible. Exhale, begin to fold forward from the hips, walking your hands out in front of you until your upper body comes to rest on the pillow. If sitting up tall or folding forward causes you to round the spine at all, take a soft bend to both knees. Rest, breathing deeply on the pillow for 10 rounds of breath. Inhale to rise back up to seated.
2. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Come to your stomach with a pillow supporting your hips and belly. Gazing down and keeping the back of the neck long, interlace your fingers behind the small of your back. Inhale, extend the arms behind you, lifting the hands towards the ceiling and pressing the tops of your toes into the mattress. Exhale, try to hold that height. Inhale again, lifting the chest and head, with gaze forward and back of neck neutral. Exhale, hold this position. Continue to lengthen the body and open the heart for 10 rounds of breath. On an exhale, lower back down to the bed, releasing your hands by your side.
3. Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
Set your pillow up against the wall or headboard at the top of your bed and lay on top of the pillow with your sit bones at the headboard or wall. Extend your legs up towards the ceiling, keeping the heels stacked over the hips, and rest your head and shoulders against the mattress. The arms can extend by your side, palms facing up to receive the restorative energy that flows into your body with the breath.
This restorative inversion is great if you spend a lot of time on your feet. Your circulation will improve, creating a soothing, healing effect on almost every system in your body. Stay here breathing deeply for 2-3 minutes. To come out, bend your knees and roll onto one side.
4. Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
With your seat on the bed and your back lying on the pillow lengthwise, bring the soles of your feet together as the knees naturally drop out towards the side. Restfully, recline with each exhale in towards the pillow and the earth. Stay here for at least two minutes, sinking deeply into this very supported inner hip opener.
5. Supine Spinal Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)
From Reclined Bound Angle Pose, stay on your back supported by the pillow and gently guide your knees together using your hands. Bring your knees over to the left with arms out by your side, palms facing up. Imagine your breath like a wave rippling through your spine, releasing tension with each exhale. Stay here for a minute and then switch to the other side.
6. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Before you check out into dreamland, take advantage of this peaceful moment for a brief meditation and breath exercise.
You're welcome to keep the pillow under your spine, extending your legs out in front of you. Take your left hand to your heart, the right hand to your belly. Take three rounds of regular, deep breathing. To begin the breathwork, inhale to the count of four, hold the breath for the count of seven, then exhale to the count of eight. Repeat four times.
To complete the sequence, remove the pillow from underneath your spine.
Sweet, blissful dreams!
Photo courtesy of the author