5 relaxing yoga poses for a good night sleep

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Yoga & meditation for sleep

"Sleep is the best meditation – Dalai Lama"

Do you often lie awake in bed at night, unable to calm down your mind, troubled by insomnia? Yoga is a great practice for deep relaxation and to help you unwind from the day.

"The sleeping tortoise takes all its limbs into its carapace. So does the yogi: going back into himself he does not see anything worldly any longer, he makes peace in himself." - BKS Iyengar

A gentle, restorative yoga practice can help to calm down the mind and to release physical tension. Restorative yoga postures can be very effective in preparing the body for deep, restful sleep. Very potent in this practice is the breath - adding breathing exercises to each pose gives us a direct gateway into the regulation of the nervous system and the relaxation response that gets us ready for sleep.

Here are my 5 favourite Yoga poses for a good night’s sleep. It's a sequence I often use for students who are struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality. It is best practiced in the sequence below for optimum benefits, holding each pose for 3-5 minutes.

1. Adho mukha virasana (Child's pose)

This starting pose helps to draw the senses inwards, and is very beneficial for a good night’s sleep.

  • Sit on your heels with your knees apart and feet together, big toes touching.

  • Keep your hips on your heels and bend forward until your forehead touches the floor or a bolster.

  • Extend the arms forward, palms facing down.

When you are in this pose the hips should be resting on your heels and the head should be resting on a height, this can be the floor, a bolster or a stack of blankets/towels. If required for your knees you can place a cushion on top of your heels to sit on. If there is pain in the front of the ankles use a rolled blanket underneath them to soften the stretch. Make sure you feel comfortable. Feel the body relax with each exhalation.

2. Supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angle pose)

Supta Baddha konasana is a very good yoga pose to increase hip flexibility. It is said that emotions such as tension, stress, anger, etc. are stored in the pelvis. By working on hip flexibility, the tensions in the hip joint release and, as a consequence, emotional tensions are relieved.

  • Place the souls of your feet together and let your knees drop out.

  • Gently lean back and lie down on your back, keeping the souls of your feet together.

  • Arms are relaxed by your side, palms facing up.

To get the full restorative benefit of this pose you can use a bolster to lie back on. Place the bolster vertically on your mat with a blanket for your head & neck. Make sure your head and back are properly supported. Place your toes against a wall or use a belt around the hips and feet so that the legs stay contained. If you feel tension in your knees you can place a cushion under your thighs to reduce the tension in the knees. Once you are comfortably in the pose, bring your focus to your pelvis. Use your breath & each exhale to release the tension in your hip joints, and try to relax completely.

3. Restorative Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose)

This pose is a backbend. As a backbend, it opens the front body and supports the back body. The head position—neck flexed and head below the heart—activates the baroreflex, a reaction that suppresses the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and moves us into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. In the parasympathetic state, we relax the body and mind, preparing for deep relaxation.