Moving through a gentle evening yoga flow can help reduce stress and anxiety and provide a better night’s sleep.

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It’s not uncommon to find yourself tense, achy and weary after a long, hard day. Practicing yoga before bed can be a great way to relax and unwind, release stress and get a good night’s sleep.

The purpose of yoga is to calm your mind so you can be at ease with yourself and in your body. Mindful movement and deep breathing help activate your parasympathetic nervous system — or your rest and relax response — which reduces stress and anxiety. This is why moving through a gentle evening yoga flow can be so beneficial at the end of the day.

Bedtime yoga can increase blood flow, calm the nervous system and lower blood pressure, according to a February 2012 study in ‌Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine‌ — making it easier for you to fall and stay asleep, Yoga can also alleviate the symptoms of insomnia, restless leg syndrome and other sleep disorders.

If you’re looking for a way to release the tension and decompress after a long day, try this 20-minute evening yoga flow. With a consistent bedtime yoga routine, you might find yourself sleeping better, waking up rested, refreshed and centered on a regular basis.

Read the entire flow before moving starting to move through it; this will prepare you for where you are going and help you move more fluidly.

This practice is intended to be slow and mindful, almost like Yin yoga. While there are dynamic movements, the invitation is to go slowly and find ways to be soft and easy in your body.

If you notice your mind wandering or find yourself distracted, bring your focus back to your breath and be present with the sensations in your body. Find a steady rhythm with your breath and move as mindfully out of the poses as you move into them.

  • A small blanket (recommended but not necessary)

  • Pillow or cushion (recommended but not necessary)

  • Yoga block (recommended but not necessary)

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  1. Start in a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed.
  2. Relax your hands on your legs, palms down for a grounding energy.
  3. Take a moment to notice your physical, mental and emotional state.
  4. Settle into stillness and close your eyes if that feels safe; option to find an unfocused gaze past your nose.
  5. Breathe here for about 1 minute.

Tip

Sit on the edge of a cushion on a folded blanket to support a tall spine and relaxed hips. If your knees still don’t relax below your hips, try sitting on your knees with a yoga block or two under your butt.

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Time

30 Sec


Activity

Yoga

  1. Start in a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed.
  2. Relax your hands on your legs, palms down for a grounding energy.
  3. Exhale and bring your chin to your chest.
  4. Inhale and roll your right ear toward your right shoulder.
  5. Exhale and bring your chin to your chest.
  6. Inhale and roll your right ear toward your left shoulder.
  7. Flow back and forth with your breath for about 30 seconds.

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  1. Start in a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed.
  2. Place your hands on your knees and start to move your whole torso in a circle to the right (or clockwise).
  3. Let the movement be big, soft and dramatic. Feel free to include your head and/or hands in the movement.
  4. Circle to the right 10 times (or 1 minute), then circle to the left 10 times (or 1 minute), breathing in a way that feels natural and fluid.

Tip

Gentle fluid movements help soften your body and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (aka your rest and relax response).

4. Easy Seat (Sukhasana) With Opposite Leg in Front

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  1. Start in a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed.
  2. Relax your hands on your legs, palms down for a grounding energy.
  3. Notice which leg is in front and cross your legs the other way. This will likely feel awkward; observe and breathe as you settle back into your seat.
  4. Take a moment to notice your physical, mental and emotional state.
  5. Settle into stillness and close your eyes if that feels safe; option to find an unfocused gaze past your nose.
  6. Breathe here for about 1 minute.

5. Seated Side Stretch (Parsva Sukhasana)

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  1. Start in a comfortable seated position with your legs crossed.
  2. Place your right hand on the floor next to your right hip
  3. Inhale and reach your left arm up and over your left ear toward the right side of your space; option to bend your elbow and place your hand on the back of your head
  4. Exhale as you bend into your right side and keep your left hip connected to your foundation; option to bend into your right elbow.
  5. Keep your gaze neutral or turn your chin toward your left armpit and gaze past your elbow.
  6. Take 5 breaths, using your inhale to find more length and an exhale to settle a little more into the side bend.
  7. Repeat exercise on the second side.

Tip

To reduce the intensity of the side stretch, place a block under your grounded hand to bring the floor closer to you.

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  1. Start seated on your butt with your hands on the floor behind you, bend your knees and place your feet wide on the floor in front of you.
  2. Lean your torso back, and with an exhale, move both knees to the right.
  3. On an inhale, move your knees back to the center.
  4. On an exhale, move both knees to the left.
  5. If it feels good to do so, turn your head the opposite direction of your knees as you move your knees back and forth.

Tip

If you have trouble sitting upright with wide legs, try sitting on the edge of a blanket or cushion.

7. Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Upavistha Konasana)

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  1. Start seated on your butt with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Create as wide of a “V” with your legs as is accessible for your body.
  3. Place your hands on the floor in front of you or at your sides and inhale as you reach through the crown of your head and root into your seat simultaneously.
  4. Use your exhale to crawl your arms forward, maintaining the length in your spine until you find the soft edge of a stretch.
  5. Once you find the edge of a stretch, allow your body to be soft and round in the fold.
  6. Breathe here for 2 minutes.

Tip

If you have trouble sitting upright with wide legs, try sitting on the edge of a blanket or cushion. You can also use blocks under your elbows or forehead for additional support in the forward fold.

8. Seated Forehead-to-Knee Pose (Janushirasana)

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  1. Start sitting on your butt with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Bend your left knee, letting it relax to the side, and place the sole of your left foot to your inner right thigh.
  3. Sit up tall as you turn toward your extended (right) leg.
  4. Place your fingertips to the floor on either side of your extended (right) leg.
  5. Inhale as you root into your seat and lengthen the crown of your head upward.
  6. Exhale as you fold over your extended (right) leg; when you find the soft edge of a stretch, allow your body relaxed in the fold.
  7. There is no need to reach for your feet or ankles if your hands don’t get there naturally; use your your hands to support the fold instead.
  8. Slowly reverse your steps, then repeat the pose on the opposite side.

Tip

If it’s painful to extend your knee toward the floor, place a rolled up blanket or block underneath. You can also use a block between your forehead and knee for additional support in the fold.

9. Cat-Cow Pose (Bitilasana Marjaryasana)

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  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
  2. Inhale as you release one segment of your spine at a time, starting at your tailbone, relaxing through the lumbar spine, thoracic spine (mid-back) and finally, your cervical spine as you lift your chin upward into full flexion. Let your belly go soft toward the floor, draw your shoulders back and your chest forward.
  3. Lift your gaze upward as is comfortable and natural for your neck.
  4. Exhale as you round your back, pull your belly button toward your spine and tuck your chin toward your chest.
  5. Flow back and forth between cat and cow for about 10 breaths or about 2 minutes.

Tip

Place a small folded blanket under your knees for added cushion and support.

10. Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)

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  1. Start on your hands and knees, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders.
  2. Bend your elbows to lower your belly and chest to the floor; extend your legs behind you.
  3. Slide your hands forward so that your elbows are directly under your shoulders.
  4. Press into your arms to lift your chest; engage your elbows gently toward your body and relax your shoulders away from your ears.
  5. Be here for 5 breaths or about 1 minute.

Tip

If your back is sensitive, spread your legs a little wider behind you. If it’s difficult to pull your chest forward, walk your arms a little more forward to create more space.

11. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

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  1. On your mat, come down onto your hands and knees.
  2. Center your breath and turn your awareness inward.
  3. Spread your knees wide while bringing your big toes together behind you.
  4. Sink your sit bones down toward your heels.
  5. Extend your arms in front of you while allowing your forehead to rest on your mat.

Tip

Rest your head on a yoga block to bring the floor closer to you if you find it difficult to rest your forehead on the ground and be relaxed in this shape.

12. Knees-to-Chest Pose (Apanasana)

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Time

30 Sec


Activity

Yoga

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you and arms relaxed by your sides.
  2. Bend both knees and bring them into your chest, then hold your shins or behind your knees or thighs.
  3. Rock a little side-to-side if that feels good and soothing for your low back.
  4. Let your head turn side to side as part of the movement to help release tension in your neck.
  5. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds.

13. Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

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  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you and arms relaxed by your sides.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring it into your chest.
  3. Take your right knee across the left side of your body, twisting your spine to the left.
  4. Keep your shoulders connected to the floor.
  5. Rest your left hand on your right knee (without trying to push your knee to the floor) or keep your arms by your sides — whatever feels comfortable.
  6. Turn your gaze away from your bent knee and up toward the ceiling.
  7. Breathe here for 1 minute.
  8. Mindfully reverse your steps and repeat the twist on the opposite side for 1 minute.

Tip

If your knee doesn’t touch the floor, use a pillow, a rolled or folded blanket or a yoga block to bring the floor up to your knee. You can also use a pillow under your head for extra support for your neck.

14. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

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  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees up toward your armpits.
  2. Grab your feet or ankles with your hands and pull your knees closer to your armpits, keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Hold, rocking your body from side to side if you want, for 1 minute.

Tip

Avoid grabbing your feet if your low back curls away from the floor and you can’t relax your head back. Find a hand placement that allows you to be stable and relaxed.

15. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

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  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you and arms relaxed by your sides (with the option to place your hands on your belly).
  2. Take your time getting comfortable and notice any discomfort.
  3. Settle into stillness and close your eyes.
  4. Take 10 deep, long breaths here. Hold this pose for as long as you’d like or as long as your time allows.

Tip

If your back is sensitive during corpse pose, bend your knees so the soles of your feet are on your mat and relax your knees toward each other. You can also place a yoga block under each knee.

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