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Can’t Sleep? Beat Insomnia With This Easy-To-Follow Evening Yoga Sequence

Laura Finch on July 22, 2020
Laura is a yoga teacher who completed 200 hours of training.

Struggling to relax before bed and/or staying asleep at night?

This easy yoga flow for better sleep will help you wind down after a long day and get some good shut-eye in as short as 15 minutes.

The sequence starts with gentle standing movements to release body tension and moves into soothing and grounding poses to invite mental relaxation and promote sleep.

This 15-minute yoga for relaxation and sleep is:

  • Beginner-friendly – all yoga poses are straightforward and illustrated with photos/videos and short instructions.
  • Prenatal-friendly – I’ve created this sequence while in my 3rd trimester, so there are no deep twists or belly-down postures that can be unsafe during pregnancy.
  • All-Sizes-friendly – I must admit that before being pregnant, I hardly realized the struggles of folding forward and even walking my feet towards the hands from Downward Dog. This yoga sequence includes yoga poses that are accessible to almost every able-body yogi disregarding the body size. Plus, it includes occasional cues to make some poses more comfortable if you have a bigger belly.

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The Effects Of Poor Sleep & Can Yoga Help You Sleep?

Sleep is awesome. It doesn’t only reduce stress and keeps your energy levels high but also improves memory, reduces the risk of heart disease, and delays aging.

The best part? It’s absolutely free.

But just as good sleep does wonder to our brain and body, the lack of it can easily have an opposite effect. And let me tell you - you’ll be surprised about how many issues are caused by poor sleep. Anxiety, bad focus, mood swings, high sugar, weakened immunity, memory issues... The list goes on and on.

Good sleep is the foundation of overall physical and mental wellness. Think about it: a tree cannot have lush green leaves and grow without healthy roots. So does a person cannot function properly without healthy sleep.

Health outcomes of poor sleep

It’s impossible to tackle any of the issues mentioned without first addressing the root of the problem.

Whenever new students tell me they struggle with staying energetic during the day, maintaining weight, or staying focused, one of the first things I ask them is, “How have you been sleeping lately?”

Often, the answer leaves much to be desired. People either don’t get enough sleep at night or don’t sleep well enough. And here’s where yoga comes in.

There’s promising evidence that a regular yoga practice can:

  • decrease physiological & psychological arousal (meaning you get less jittery and anxious in the evening and fall asleep faster)
  • strengthen upper airway muscles (which is a possible explanation of why you sleep better during the night and wake up less).

Check out this post about the benefits of yoga to learn more about how yoga can promote restful sleep.

Which Yoga Is Best For Improving Sleep?

You probably wouldn’t go for a run or lift heavy weight late in the evening. Similarly, you should avoid stimulating yoga postures that build strength before getting ready for bed. Instead, go for slow-paced yoga practice with lots of grounding yoga postures and a strong focus on breath control.

Yin Yoga, Hatha yoga, Restorative yoga, and yoga Nidra are some of the best styles for a relaxing evening practice.

Serene lady relaxing and meditating on a yoga mat in a cozy house

Evening yoga practice is the best time to bring out your yoga props collection. The more props, the better!

That said, don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you.

I always find my body tense and jittery at the end of the day, so simply lying in Corpse pose or meditating is sometimes impossible. Instead, I need a bit of body movement before settling into longer holds. And this is exactly how the yoga sequence for sleep below is built – starting from dynamic standing movements and progressing into yoga poses close to the floor.

A final word of advice before we get to the sequence:

Yoga alone, and especially its physical aspect – asana, is rarely an answer to all sleep problems.

If you’ve been having trouble to sleep lately, you should also investigate:

  • your lifestyle choices (do you maintain a sleep schedule, are you spending your evening time in front of screens, do you consume caffeine in the afternoon, etc.)
  • your sleep environment (the temperature in your bedroom, how much light and noise penetrates your bedroom, etc.)
  • your physiological well-being (are you suffering from pain or some chronic disease, are you taking new medications, etc.).

Once you tackle all the potential external causes of poor sleep and get into the habit of sealing the day with a soothing yoga practice, you’ll see your sleep and wellbeing improving in no time.

Yoga Sequence For Relaxation & Better Sleep: Step-By-Step Instructions

Please take the time to study the contradictions and precautions for every pose on your own. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

1. Mountain Pose/Tadasana

Start in a standing position with your feet hip-distance apart or wider. Try to distribute your weight evenly by pressing into all four corners of your feet into the mat.

Close your eyes and take about 5 deep breaths.

2. Torso Rotations With Swinging Arms

Open your eyes. Relax your upper body and start to gently twist your torso to the left and right. Alternate between slightly bending your knees and straightening them like a spring as you let your arms follow the movement of your torso and swing loosely.

Move freely for about 30 seconds - 1 minute.

3. Standing Side Bend/Parsva Urdhva Hastasana Variation

Come back to a neutral standing position. On the exhale, reach your right hand up to the sky, slowly arching to the left. You will feel a gentle stretch on your left side. Inhale and return to the center. Switch sides.

Alternate between bending to the right and left for about 3 times on each side.

4. Mountain With Open Arm Twist (Dynamic)

Reach your arms overhead, keeping your shoulders away from the ears. Exhale and twist to the right as you reach your right arm back and left arm forward. To make the twist dynamic, let both arms move all the way down to the floor and up overhead in a circular motion. Switch sides.

Complete about 3 circles on each side.

5. Standing Forward Bend With Clasped Hands/Uttanasana Variation

Clasp the fingers behind your back. Inhale and gaze up, puffing up through your chest. Exhale and hinge from your hips as you bend forward and lift your hands to the sky. Keep a slight bend in your knees and let your neck and head dangle.

Make space for your body in this forward fold. It means that if you need to keep your feet wider than hip-distance apart, go ahead!

Check in with your foundation. The tendency here is to lean back into the heels. If you noticed doing that, shift your weight slightly into the balls of the feet.

Hold the pose for about 5 breaths.

6. Halfway Lift/Ardha Uttanasana

Release the clasp. Inhale and come into Halfway Lift with your back straight. You can also slide your hands up your shins and thighs if this helps you keep a good form. Make sure to keep your weight evenly distributed on your feet. Often, it means leaning slightly to the front.

Hold for about 3 breaths.

7. Downward-Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana

Press your palms firmly into the ground and step your feet back into Downward Facing Dog. Lengthen through your spine and bend your knees as much as needed. The goal here is to keep your spine long and your chest open.

Hold for about 5 breaths.

8. Extended Child's Pose/Balasana

Lower down onto your shins and settle into Extended Child's Pose/Balasana. Widen your knees, extend your arms long and draw your shoulder blades down your spine. If you need more room for your belly, curl your toes under and place your forehead on a yoga block/stacked firsts.

Rest in the pose for about 5 breaths.

9. Downward-Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana

From Child’s Pose, lift to a tabletop and back to Downward Facing Dog. Hold it for a breath or two or use it as a quick transition to a Standing Forward Bend.

10. Standing Forward Bend/Uttanasana

From Downward Facing Dog, step your feet forward. If you're pregnant or have bigger frame, it might be more comfortable to walk your hands back to your feet instead. Make space for your body - if you need to keep your feet wider than hip-distance apart, go ahead! Bend your knees as much as needed to place your palms on the mat.

Hold for about 5 breaths.

11. Yogi Squat (Garland)/Malasana

Widen your feet to the sides of your mat. Point your toes to the front corners of your mat at about 45-degree angle. Bring the hands at your heart. Exhale as you squat down into Garland Pose or Deep Yogi Squat/Malasana. Gently press your elbows into the knees, inviting your hips to open. Stay active in your glutes (buttocks).

Hold for about 5 breaths.

12. Yogi Squat With Open Chest/Malasana Variation

Place your right hand on the mat inside your right knee. Inhale and raise your left arm up to the sky, opening through your chest. If comfortable for the neck, gaze up at your top arm. Exhale and return to the center. Repeat on the left side.

Alternate between sides for about 3-6 times.

13. Butterfly Pose/Baddha Konasana

Place your hands behind for support and come into Butterfly Pose/Baddha Konasana. If it's accessible, lean your torso forward, but do your best to keep the spine straight.

Hold for about 5 breaths.

14. Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose/Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana

From Butterfly Pose, straighten your right leg to the side and bring your left foot to your right inner groin. Breathe in and on an exhale, bend to the right, coming into Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose/Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana.

Hold for about 5 breaths.

15. Head-to-Knee Pose/Janu Sirsasana

Hinge from your hips and come into Head-to-Knee Pose/Janu Sirsasana. Feel free to bend your right leg as much as needed. As my belly grows, I find it easier to fold slightly to the inside of the leg rather than directly over the thigh.

Hold for about 5 breaths.

16. Seated Pigeon Pose

Cross the left ankle over your right thigh. Keep the left foot flexed and the knee rotating outside to the left. Place the hands behind the hips and lean back slightly as you start bending into your right knee and bringing your right foot closer toward the hip. Stay tall in your spine.

Hold for about 5 breaths. Straighten your legs and shake it out.

Repeat steps 14-16 on your left side.

17. Reverse Table Top/ Ardha Purvottanasana

Bend your knees so your feet are flat on the ground. Place your hands behind with fingers pointing towards your body. Inhale and lift your hips up until your torso is parallel to the floor.

Hold for about 5 breaths.

18. Windshield Wipers/Supta Sucirandhrasana Variation

Sit on your mat with your knees bent and feet about hip-distance or wider. Lean back onto your elbows. Start to slowly lower your knees from one side to another like windshield wipers, massaging your lower back and hips.

Repeat the movement for about 30 seconds - 1 minute or so.

19. Happy Baby/Ananda Balasana

Lower all the way onto the mat. Hug your knees to the chest and come into Happy Baby Pose. Hold onto your shins, calves, toes, or whatever is accessible to you. If it feels good, gently roll side to side.

Hold for about 5 full breaths.

20. Legs Up The Wall Pose/Viparita Karani

Lie on your back and scooch your buttocks towards the wall, so your legs and torso form an L-shape. Alternatively, rest your feet and lower legs on the chair at a 90-degree angle. Breathe naturally. Hold the pose for as long as needed.

If you're currently in your 2-nd/3-rd trimester of pregnancy, prop your upper body on pillows or a large yoga bolster to avoid putting too much pressure on your back and vena cava.

Note: This is when I take a break to finish my evening self-care routine - take a hot shower, brush teeth, etc. so that I could move to the next step (21) while in bed already.

But if you're ready for bed, feel free to move to the step 21 right away.

21. Alternate Nostril Breathing in bed/Chandra Bhedana Pranayama

Make yourself comfortable in bed – both sitting and lying is fine. (Note: If you’re in the late 2nd or 3rd trimester of your pregnancy, practice the pranayama seated rather than lying on your back.)

  • Take Vishnu Mudra with your right hand – curl the index finger and middle finger toward the palm; your thumb, ring, and pinkie fingers will be left extended.
  • Close your right nostril with your thumb. Slowly breathe in through your left nostril to the count of three.
  • Hold the breath as you close your left nostril with the ring and pinkie fingers. Breathe out through your right nostril to the count of three.
  • Breathe in through your right nostril, close it with a thumb and breathe out through the left nostril.
  • Continue breathing for about 3 minutes. Finish while exhaling through the left nostril. Try extending your inhales and exhales, but stop immediately if you get dizzy or feel shortness of breath.

Have you tried this yoga sequence? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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