If you find it challenging to make it to your morning yoga class and your day is too hectic to attend an afternoon session, there is no need to worry. A regular nighttime yoga routine can give you the yoga benefits you desire. In fact, it may also help you sleep better.
According to the Sleep Foundation, over 55% of yoga practitioners report improved sleep, and over 85% report reduced stress. And clinical research supports nighttime yoga, as well. Some research studies have found a relationship between practicing yoga and better sleep in certain populations. And researchers have also connected regular stretching to a better night's rest.
If you have certain movements that help your body relax, you can develop your own nighttime stretch routine. Or practice these poses to help your body prepare for bed.
Basic Nighttime Yoga Routine
For a better night's sleep, perform the following poses in the order suggested below and for the recommended amounts of time. Download the printable nighttime yoga routine and keep it handy to serve as a reminder for your regular practice.
Left Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)
Deep breathing techniques are an important part of any yoga routine. While any deep breathing technique is better than none, author Beth Shaw of Yoga Fit notes that left nostril breathing is an especially good choice for a yoga routine designed to promote rest and relaxation. In fact, preliminary studies have suggested that alternate nostril breathing can enhance relaxation. And studies have suggested that alternate nostril breathing can even improve cardiovascular function.
Before attempting any nighttime yoga poses, perform ten to twenty left nostril deep breaths, recommends Shaw. Depending on the yogi in question, as well as their lung capacity, these breaths may take between 10 and 20 seconds each -- for a total duration of about two to four minutes.
Child's Pose (Balasana)
Your bedtime yoga routine should continue with a basic pose -- such as child's pose -- to help loosen and relax tight muscles and prevent possible strains. Shaw suggests holding child's pose for two to three minutes to help calm your mind and relieve nervous tension.
Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Once your body is warm, begin to incorporate deeper yoga poses. The seated spinal twist (also called a winding down twist) helps the body relax and also stretches tight muscles in the shoulders and lower back. Easing tension in this part of the body is often a must when it comes to getting a good night's sleep. For optimal results, hold this pose for one minute on each side.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Standing forward bend not only helps to ease stress, but can also reduce rates of insomnia, which is a must for those who are looking for an effective bedtime yoga routine. According to the Yoga Journal, standing forward bend also calms the brain, making it the perfect pose for a nighttime yoga routine. For optimal results when it comes to winding down, hold standing forward bend for two to three minutes, recommends Shaw.
Nighttime Goddess Stretch
Nighttime goddess stretch is often performed during the cool-down portion of any yoga routine due to it's ability to ease insomnia and reduce headaches. It is a variation of the standing goddess pose (utkata konasana).
To incorporate this pose into your nighttime stretch routine, Shaw suggests holding the stretch for three to fives minutes.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Corpse pose is a great way to end any bedtime yoga routine, reports the Yoga Journal. While the journal recommends holding corpse pose for three minutes, some individuals may find themselves so relaxed that they fall to sleep before the three minutes are complete.
More Tips for Nighttime Yoga
To enhance your evening stretching routine, consider optimizing your nighttime yoga space to promote rest and sleep.
- Remove electronic distractions. Charge your phone in another room. If you have a television in your bedroom, consider moving it to another space in your home.
- Promote darkness. If you live in an urban area and light pollution keeps your bedroom lighter than you prefer, consider investing in light-blocking shades or window coverings. Pull them down during your practice and move through your poses to candlelight.
- Use calming scents. Incense or essential oils like lavender or chamomile help the body to unwind and drift into sleep.
- Ask for support if necessary. If family members are likely to interrupt your practice, ask them to respect your privacy for 15-20 minutes during your routine. you may even want to get a Do Not Disturb sign to help remind them.
For some people, 15 minutes at the end of the day is all the time they have to devote to their body. Fortunately, by incorporating some basic yoga poses into your evening routine, you can meet daily flexibility guidelines and promote a better night's sleep. You'll be counting sheep in no time.