Sleep. Isn’t it the thing we always need more of? I talked about the benefits of sleep for your mental health in this article here, but I wanted to offer some yoga poses for a night of restorative Zz’s. And bonus: All of these can be done from bed!
One of my favorite ways to crawl into bed is to gently pull the covers back and then plop down, laying for a few moments in whatever position I landed. I use this as a transition time to notice my breath, deepen my breathing, and tune in to how my body is feeling. The beauty of this is that even though it doesn’t have a fancy Sanskrit name, it is definitely yoga. Yoga happens in any intentional moment of breath.
From there, I do any number of these to relax my mind and body and to improve my quality of sleep. These are my go-to poses that I would suggest for anyone without specific physical issues, so of course use your better judgment for my friends struggling with bone or joint pain.
Supported Child’s Pose
Grab 2 or 3 pillows and stack them in front of yourself on the bed. Pull your knees wide apart and bring your toes touching. Fold forward and rest one side of your face on the pillow. Bring your arms to the sides of the pillow or tuck them underneath. Remember to release your breath deeply and relax your face muscles, especially the jaw.
Reclining Bound Angel Pose
Lying flat on your back on the bed, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. I like to place pillows underneath each thigh and my head for extra support. Most people like to place their hands on their belly to feel the rise and fall of each breath. I prefer to place my hands on my hips to allow the weight of arm to slightly push them down. Focus on breathing deeply as always.
Supported Spinal Twist
From your back, bend both knees to a 90 degree angle and let them fall to the right. Stretch your arms out from the shoulder making a T. Turn your head to the left and let your cheek rest on the bed. You can place a pillow between your knees for support and to make this a more restorative pose. Whenever you’re ready, bring your knees and head back to center, then fall to the opposite side.
Last but not least….
From any of these poses, gently bring yourself to lie flat on the bed. I like to stretch my arms up over my head while I stretch my legs and feet out as far as I can go. Then I release my limbs while releasing a large audible breath. The key here is to relax the jaw and face muscles. From there, progressively relax your muscles moving down to your feet. It’s okay if unwanted thoughts pop in your head. They’re just thoughts, and I promise they can’t hurt you. Just keep breathing through them and allow them to pass. If they’re clinging on, you can picture them passing like clouds. You’re witnessing them, but then they move on and leave space for the skies to open up. Keeping your eyes closed, you can use your imagination if you’re having trouble relaxing your mind. You can either picture yourself on vacation (really bring to mind all the sights, colors, textures, sensations, and smells), or you can tell yourself a story like you would tell a child at bedtime.
Try these next time you need a little help transitioning from your stressful day or getting your mind and body into a space ready for sleep. And remember my cardinal rule for rest: No screens as aids for sleep.
Breathe deep. YOU’VE GOT THIS.
Emily Wagner, trauma expert, yoga therapist, and mental health counselor provides education for anyone looking to improve their mental health.