Having a routine to help you wind down at night can be the difference between a restful night of sleep and a poor one. Taking time to stretch your body before you hit the sack helps to relax your muscles and quiet your mind before sleep. If you only try a few or all twelve, these stretches and poses are great tools to help you wind down and catch some quality zzz’s!
1. Child’s Pose
This common yoga position offers a great stretch (as most yoga positions do!) and focuses on extending the thighs, hips, and ankles. This pose is considered a “resting” position and relaxes both the muscles and the mind at the same time.
Holding this gentle stretch for a minute or 2 is great for centering your thoughts and relaxing your breathing – perfect for winding down before bed!
2. Standing Forward Fold
Another common stretch in modern yoga classes, this position gently stretches the hamstring and calve muscles while lengthening the spine. Performing this stretch calms the nervous system, winds down the mind, and can even help relieve symptoms of insomnia!
Everyone’s flexibility is different, so if you can’t fold all the way forward, don’t worry! You don’t have to touch your toes to feel the benefits of this pose!
3. Seated Forward Fold
Very similar to the standing variation, this stretch offers many of the same relaxing benefits. While gently stretching the shoulders and spine, this pose is great for increasing flexibility and blood flow, helping you feel loosened up and relaxed before trying to fall asleep.
Holding this pose helps to relieve stress and anxiety and provides a great opportunity to tune into your breathing. Again, don’t worry about not being able to touch your toes in this position!
This simple stretch is super easy and offers a lot of health benefits such as regulating blood flow and strengthening the back muscles. Elevating the legs like this is perfect for anyone who has been on their feet all day!
In addition to providing relief to the legs and feet, this position also stretches the torso and back of the neck for even more tension reduction. Holding this stretch for even just a minute reduces feelings of stress and helps to calm an active mind, making it perfect for winding down before bed!
5. Sphinx Pose
This is another common pose in modern yoga and is great for beginners and non-yogis alike. A gentle form of backbend, sphinx pose stretches and opens the chest allowing for deeper, more purposeful breathing while relaxing the spine and shoulders. Winding down before sleep is a breeze with this position that helps alleviate tension!
6. Butterfly Stretch
This popular stretch among athletes has several benefits for anyone trying to relax for the night. Some of the physical benefits include improved balance and posture, the opening of the hips, and increased flexibility. As for winding down, the butterfly stretch reduces feelings of anxiety, promotes breathing awareness, and grounds you in the present moment.
7. Corpse Pose
It may not have the most charming name, but this position boasts lots of therapeutic advantages and is largely popular both inside and out of the yoga community. While it looks simple enough, the purpose of this pose is to achieve total relaxation (perfect for winding down!) which may take some patience and practice.
Laying in corpse pose for a few minutes calms the brain while relaxing the physical muscles of the body. It also helps lessen depression, stress, and anxiety. Sign me up for looking like a corpse if those are the benefits!
8. Runner’s Lunge
Don’t let the name fool you! Even if you’re not a runner, this stretch has several benefits that are great for anyone trying to loosen up and wind down, especially anyone who finds themself stuck sitting at a desk all day. If you’re feeling stiff and rigid before bed, holding the runner’s pose for 30 seconds provides your lower body with a soothing stretch that can help relieve the tension built up from sitting or standing too long.
This position improves stability and balance and, while it focuses less on mental clarity or calmness, the resulting muscle relaxation can do wonders for shaking off the weight of the day and preparing for sleep!
9. Knee Hug
A.K.A “Knee-To-Chest Pose” in yoga, this popular stretch has several therapeutic benefits as well as physical ones that are great for relaxing and preparing both mind and body for a restful sleep. Holding this position for a few minutes draws the mind’s thoughts inward to reflect the compact and drawn-in physical position of the stretch. The knee hug is a comforting pose that loosens the back muscles while promoting relaxation and stillness – A.K.A winding down like a pro!
10. Sleeping Swan Pose
The name alone is enough to invoke feelings of drowsiness and relaxation! This pose is particularly good for winding down before bed because it focuses on a deep stretch and a deep relief from any tension or tightness in the physical body, especially the lower body, which carries us through our day! It also provides a great opportunity to focus on and calm the breath, helping to center the mind.
11. Seated Side Stretch
Another popular stretch among athletes, especially dancers, the seated side stretch is great for improving torso and ribcage mobility. This stretch expands the lungs, allowing for easier and deeper breathing, which helps to calm and create a sense of ease within the mind and body. Tuning into and focusing on deep breathing reduces stress and fosters feelings of peace, and if that’s not the perfect way to wind down I don’t know what is!
12. Downward Dog
Wrapping up where we started with another classic yoga pose, downward dog is really great for strengthening the arms and legs and providing a gentle stretch through the arc of the body, from hands through to feet. This pose emphasizes mindful breathing and helps reduce stress, muscle tension, anxiety, and calms the mind. Relaxing and getting stronger at the same time? Yes, please!