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We all know having a screen-free, relaxing bedtime routine is the best way to get a good night’s sleep – especially when life makes it’s hard to switch off. So, just as a 10-minute morning routine can start your day off right, a short stretch before bed is a great way to let your body know that sleep is on its way.
London-based yoga teacher Annie Clarke, who runs online yoga studio The Practice, says often we finish our days without much pause or opportunity to switch off before bed. Or, she says, we use evenings to workout, which is great, but narrows the window between our “high energy activity” and trying to sleep.
“By making time for a slow yoga practice such as yin or restorative yoga, we can encourage the transition from the ‘fight or flight state’ in which many of us operate during the day to the rest and digest ‘mode’ that helps us settle into much needed restful sleep,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Even something as simple as a few minutes of breathing can help the body and mind make that transition, signalling to our nervous system that we are safe – and that it’s ok to let go.”
10 minutes of Yin-inspired poses to relax body and mind:
Yin yoga positions are typically held for around four to 10 minutes per pose, says Clarke, but this is a shorter sequence you can try to support restful sleep.
1. Calming breath – one minute
“Find a comfortable place to sit, either crossing the legs or sitting back onto your heels. Lengthen the spine and soften your gaze or close your eyes. Take a few breaths without trying to change the breath at all. Then begin to breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of four. You can continue to breathe 4:4 or lengthen the exhale to six or eight.”
2. Caterpillar pose – three mins
“Sit down with your legs extended out in front of you. You can sit on a cushion or rolled up blanket to support you. Let the upper body relax forward over the thighs. Don’t worry about how far you fold, think more about how much you can soften. If it is uncomfortable for the neck, you can place a bolster or a big cushion underneath your head, which can also further encourage activation of the parasympathetic (rest and digest)nervous system.”
3. Spinal twist – two mins each side
“Lie with your back on the floor and your knees bent. Push into the feet to move your hips an inch or two to the right and then let your knees drop to the left. You can place something under the knees if it feels too strong on the lower back. You can extend your arms out in line with your shoulders to make a T-shape and look to the opposite side or the same side as the legs, depending on what feels better in your body. Gently come back to the centre when you’re ready, pausing with the hips in the middle of the mat before swapping to the other side.”
4. Savasana – two mins
“Lie down on the back of the body. You might like to cover your body with a blanket, or place a rolled up blanket or bolster under your knees. Let the legs lengthen onto the floor with at least a hips-width gap between the heels. Let your arms rest away from the sides of your body so there is space under your armpits. Close your eyes and let go.”
If you enjoy doing a pre-bedtime routine and want to mix it up, Becca Young Riboldi, instructor at Fly LDN, has another sequence you can try.
10 minutes of flow to ready yourself for a good night’s sleep:
This is a pre-bedtime flow but don’t expect a heart racing workout, says Young. “We will get the body moving in restorative ways in order to combat WFH pains and prepare yourself for a nurturing night’s sleep.”
1. Belly breaths – 30 seconds
“Come into a comfortable seat, legs crossed, and rock yourself side to side until the sit bones sit nicely on to the ground. Rest your hands on your knees, let your shoulders relax and breathe deeply into your diaphragm through the nose. On every exhale imagine your shoulders softening down your back.”
2. Neck rolls – one minute
“Maintain your seat and let your left ear drop to your left shoulder, hold for a couple of breaths, and then turn your gaze down the floor, again holding for a breath or two. Inhale to raise your head back to centre and repeat on the right side. Finish by letting your chin fall to your chest and turning your head gently from side to side.”
3. Cactus arms – one minute
“Switch the crossing of your legs and sit up nice and tall. As you inhale stretch your arms overhead, and reach up towards the sky, palms facing forward. As you exhale ‘cactus’ or bend the elbows into your sides, squeezing your shoulders together behind you, tilting your chin up slightly. Repeat this 10 times and move with your breath.”
4. Spinal twists – 30 seconds each side
“Inhale to extend arms back overhead, keep shoulders down and away from the ears so your neck is nice and long. Bring your left hand to your right knee while your right hand falls onto the floor behind you, and take your gaze over your right shoulder. Sit up nice and tall as you inhale and twist through belly as you exhale. Hold this for about eight breaths before reaching arms back up to the sky and repeating on the other side.”
5. Cat-Cows – one minute
“Come into a tabletop position, grounding your hands underneath shoulders, knees underneath hips. Inhale as you let your belly drop, lift your gaze and squeeze your shoulders together. Exhale as you push into your hands, round your spine, engage your belly and feel a separation between your shoulder blades. Flow through these two movements, using the breath to guide you.”
6. Shoulder rotations – 30 second each side
“Maintaining your tabletop, reach your right arm up towards the sky and open your chest. Begin to rotate into your shoulder, reaching your arm towards the back of the room, down along the floor, all the way forward and then back up towards the sky. Engage your belly and repeat this five full times slowly in one direction and then go the other way. Once you are done with your right side repeat this on the left.”
7. Needle and thread – 30 second each side
“Reaching your right arm back up towards the sky, open the chest and then thread your right arm underneath your left, dropping your right shoulder and cheek to the ground. Press into your left palm to lift your chest and arm up and open again. Repeat this 3 times before settling your right shoulder down to the ground and holding, possibly walking your left fingers toward the front of the room to deepen the stretch. Rise back to tabletop and repeat on your left side.”
8. Puppy dog pose – one minute
“From your tabletop walk your hands forward one big step and begin to lower your chest and forehead down to the ground. If your head doesn’t quite reach the floor you can use a pillow to rest it on. The important thing here is to keep your hips stacked over your knees and feel the stretch into your shoulders and upper back.”
9. Shoulder stretch – one minute
“Move your hips back to your heels so that you are sitting upright on your shins. Begin to interlace your hands behind your back, bringing the palms to touch if possible and straightening out through the elbows. Relax the shoulders down and lift the chest. Begin to lower your belly towards your thighs and continue to lift your fist away from your lower back. Once your forehead reaches the floor you can stay here or – if no neck problems – roll onto the crown of the head and let your fist drop forward for a deeper stretch. Breathe deeply.”
10. Child’s pose – one minute 30 secs
“Time to digest all of that good movement. Spread your knees nice and wide – a bit wider than your hips – bring your big toes to touch and sit your hips to your heels. Reach your arms forward as you lay your belly down between your thighs. Feel the back, shoulders and hips softening, let your neck be totally loose, and breathe deeply, calming the nervous system and setting yourself up for a restorative night’s sleep!”
Move celebrates exercise in all its forms, with accessible features encouraging you to add movement into your day – because it’s not just good for the body, but the mind, too. We get it: workouts can be a bit of a slog, but there are ways you can move more without dreading it. Whether you love hikes, bike rides, YouTube workouts or hula hoop routines, exercise should be something to enjoy.