Sometimes no matter what tea, herb or sleep hacks you try you can’t fall asleep. Gentle stretching in bed is an excellent way to wind-down after a long day, releasing stress and tension built up from sitting in the car, at the office, or from being on your feet.
This flow is made up of a number of seated and lying down poses as well as gentle spinal twists. A big aim of this combination of poses is to relax the nervous system and relieve pain and tension in the back, allowing you to relax and fall asleep.
According to Master Yogi B. K. S. Iyengar, classic seated asanas (poses) bring “the body, mind, and consciousness into a single, harmonious whole” (1). Forward folds, also incorporated into this flow, work to calm the frontal brain and the heart (1) which is ideal for a pre-bedtime routine.
Lateral twists of the spine, practiced correctly and gently, teach us to rotate the spinal column effectively and increase the flexibility of the back and torso relieving tension throughout the spine (1).
10 Yoga Poses To Help You Sleep
Try this relaxing yoga flow which can be done in bed and will help you fall asleep much faster. Breathe in and out of your nose for the duration of this yoga sequence.
Note: Sit in the MIDDLE of your bed, with enough space to stretch your legs out straight forward without hitting the footboard of the bed and to recline all the way down with a flat back and not hit the headboard with your head. You also want to leave enough space to your right and left to allow yourself to twist both ways comfortably without falling off the bed.
1. Seated Forward Fold – Paschimottanasana
Release low back tension, compresses belly and activates PSNS …
Begin by sitting with both legs together and straight out in front of you, in the same direction you would normally sleep.
Sit up tall on your sit bones and as you take a deep inhale lengthen the spine, reaching the crown of your head towards the ceiling.
As you slowly exhale begin to fold forward bringing your belly towards the upper thighs. Wrap your hands around the outside edges of your feet.
If your feet are inaccessible to you, place your hands on the shins of ankles.
For increased comfort, you can put a blanket or pillow on top of your legs to rest the torso and forehead on. Alternatively, you can place pillows under your knees.
By bending the knees, the degree of tension on the hamstrings decreases allowing you to bend further forward (2).
Stay here for five slow, deep breaths and on the sixth inhale slowly come back up to seated.
This pose soothes the adrenal glands, helps to activate a sluggish liver and improves digestion, as well as stimulate the reproductive system (1).
2. Bound Angle Pose – Baddha Konasana
Remaining seated where you are and inhale as you bend your knees, bringing your feet as close to you as is comfortable.
Then bring the soles of your feet together and exhale as you let your knees fall out to the sides. If you have especially tight hips, you can sit on a pillow or a folded blanket to lift your seat.
Alternatively, place pillows under both knees if the stretch is too intense at first.
Clasp your hands around your touching toes or one hand on each ankle and lower your chin slightly, taking pressure off of the back of your neck.
Stay here for five deep inhales and exhales, and on the sixth inhale lift your chin back to a neutral position.
According to Iyengar, regular practice of this pose increases the flow of blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and back. It also helps to treat arthritis of the knees, hips, and pelvic joints. Bound Angle Pose keeps the kidneys and prostate gland healthy. As well, this is a great pose to reduce sciatic pain (1).
3. Reclining Bound Angle Pose – Supta Baddha Konasana
Keep your legs exactly where they are and use your hands/elbows to lower yourself onto your back as you gently exhale. You can use a pillow under your head or entire back if that feels more comfortable.
Place your left hand on your chest over your heart and your right hand on your lower belly.
Alternately you can also reach your arms over your head to open up the chest and heart.
Stay here for five breaths, breathing into your belly, so your stomach rises and falls with each inhale and exhale.
This pose has several health benefits. It regulates blood pressure as well as working to relieve low back pain, sciatica, indigestion and flatulence (1).
4. Happy Baby Pose – Ananda Balasana
Still lying on your back, bend your hips bringing the knees close to your armpits.
Place your hands on the outside edge of your feet, with your knees outside the elbows.
Try to keep your ankles directly above the knees. The photo featured showed a different variation of hand placement, but both are acceptable.
If you’re not able to reach your feet you can also grab onto your ankles. With each inhale, lengthen your spine and with each exhale draw your knees closer to your shoulders.
Lengthen through the back of your neck with the chin slightly down.
Hold this for five breaths or longer.
5. Reclining Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose – Supta Padangusthasana
From Happy Baby Pose, let go of your left leg and place it straight down on the bed in line with your torso.
Straighten the right leg as much as your can, holding on with your right hand wherever is accessible for you – the shin, ankle, foot, or wrap your index and middle fingers around the big toe. Most people find it more comfortable to keep the left hand on top of the left thigh, keeping that leg grounded onto the bed.
Hold this hamstring stretch for five breaths before switching sides.
Lower the right leg down and lift the left leg up, holding onto that part of the leg/foot which is accessible to you. Hold for five breaths.
You can hold this stretch for longer than five breaths, but to keep both sides balanced stretch each for the same length of time.
Supta Padangusthasana removes stiffness in the lower back and relieves a backache by helping to align the pelvic area (1). In an era where more and more of us are spending large portions of the day sitting down, back pain is extremely common. This pose is of great benefit to help alleviate the pains of a sedentary lifestyle.
6. Wind-Relieving Pose – Pavanamuktasana
Lower the left leg back onto the bed and bend the right knee and hip, bringing the knee close to your right shoulder and the right ankle close to the sit bone. Use both hands to hold the right shin.
With each inhale lengthen your spine and the back of your neck, with each exhale apply gentle pressure on the shin to bring that right knee closer and closer to the shoulder.
Hold for five breaths and repeat on the other side.
This asana has many of the same benefits as Reclining Hand-To-Big-Toe Pose, as well as helping to relieve sciatic pain (1). It also compresses and alternatively releases the large intestine including the transverse colon and improves digestion – do NOT practice this pose if you’re suffering from diarrhea (1).
7. Reclining/Supine Spinal Twist – Supta Matsyendrasana
One leg at a time followed by, or do this instead, twisting with both legs together – Jathara Parivartanasana.
You can do either variation of this twist, one leg at a time or both legs together. Alternatively, you can do both poses, start with twisting the right leg over the left hip, then the left leg over the right hip.
Finish with twisting both knees first to the left of the body then the right of the body.
When twisting either one or both legs to the left, bring the right shoulder as close to the bed as your can, keeping as much of your upper back in contact with the mattress as is possible for you.
When twisting the legs to the right, bring the left should down.
Hold each variation of the pose for five full breaths, always aiming for symmetry between the two sides.
All variations of this spinal twist have similar benefits. They relieve pain in the back, help to keep the spine strong and supple, eases a stiff low back (lumbar) area and increases the flexibility of the whole back and hips (1). These twists also massage, tone, and rejuvenate the internal abdominal organs (1).
8. Child’s Pose – Balasana
From the reclining spinal twist straighten both legs and roll over from your back onto your belly. Make sure you don’t roll off the bed!
Use both hands to push your upper body towards your feet, lowering your seat onto your touching ankles and toes. There are several variations you can do here – keep the knees together with your belly on top of your thighs or move your knees away from each other allowing your belly to fall between them.
You can also vary the position of your arms – either stretch them out above your head or place your hands next to the ankles. Rest your forehead on the mattress and allow your neck to relax. All these variations are great, and you can do whichever one feels best for you on any given day.
Health benefits of Child’s Pose include stretching and strengthening the hips and thighs, releasing stress in the back and shoulders, and decreasing anxiety (3). It also provides a sense of calm and stability (4).
9. Legs Up The Wall Pose – Viparita Karani
Move yourself to the head of your bed, bringing your hips as close to the wall/headrest as you can and placing both legs straight up the wall with your knees and ankles above your hips.
You can keep your arms straight out in a letter “T” pattern, above your head, or place one hand over your heart and one hand over your lower belly. Breathe deeply, ensuring your tummy rises and falls with each breath.
Stay here for 3-5 minutes to reap the full benefits of this pose.
This pose uses gravity to recirculate blood that may have stagnated near the feet and ankles back up to the liver (4).
10. Corpse Pose – Savasana
Last pose! Dim/turn off the lights in your room if you haven’t already done so.
Lie down comfortably on your back in bed with your head on your pillow and a blanket covering you for warmth. You can also place a pillow under your knees to take tension off the lower back.
Place your arms on the mattress with your hands open towards the ceiling and your fingers pointing to the foot of the bed, a comfortable distance away from the torso.
Allow your fingers and palms to relax. Keep your feet about shoulder-distance apart and let your toes fall out to the sides.
Let go of your control of your breath, close your eyes, and allow the back of your body to relax and melt into your mattress as your mind fully relaxes also.
Hold this pose for 5-10 minutes, or until you fall asleep.
Savasana removes fatigue and soothes the mind. Each part of the body is positioned properly to achieve total relaxation (1). It helps to alleviate nervous tension, insomnia, and chronic fatigue (1).
This pose relaxes the whole body and eases breathing, soothes the nervous system and brings peace of mind (1). Savasana also helps us move towards a refreshing, dreamless sleep, especially for those of us who have sleep disorders (1). This is precisely why this pose is the last in this bedtime yoga flow.
According to Iyengar when we practice Corpse Pose our organs of perception, such as the eyes, ears, and tongue, withdraw from the outside world. It allows us to experience inner silence and is the first and easiest step towards practicing meditation.
Iyengar, B. K. S. (2001). Yoga: the path to holistic health. New York, NY: DK Publishing.
Keil, D. (2014). Functional anatomy of yoga: a guide for practitioners and teachers. Nutbourne, Chichester: Lotus Publishing.
Telles, Shirley, Abhishek Kumar Bhardwaj, Sanjay Kumar, Nilima Kumar, and Acharya Balkrishna. (2012). Performance in a Substitution Task and State Anxiety Following Yoga in Army Recruits. Psychological Reports 110, no. 3: 963-976.
Wei, M. (2016). Yoga for better sleep. Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Health Blog.