Me Time: Yoga Before Bed

After all, if we are aren't happy and healthy, we can't perform our best. 

This time I am adding a "Me Time" series, where I will share tips and hacks to make that #MeTime so much better

My own yoga experience has still growing and although I love it, I wish I did more. My current goals are different so I can't spend much time (or have the energy) to add yoga sessions a week, but I do find 10-15 mins a day to stretch or foam roll. 

One of the best things you could do, is stretch before going to bed. It will relax your muscles and your mind. I asked my friend Rachel Gorman, a Licensed Acupuncturist & Herbalist (L.Ac.), MAOM and Yogi, to share with me her favorite stretches to do before going to bed.

Me Time: Yoga Before Bed 

by Rachel Gorman

After a long day at work, my hips are tight, my back is achey, and my neck and shoulders are tight.  These are my favorite poses to undo all that and get me mentally, emotionally and physically de-stressed and ready for bed. This sequence can be done in as few as 5 minutes or as long as 30 (or more!) depending on what you want out of it.  Personally I like to hold most of these poses for anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. I also love to practice with my eyes closed, especially in some of these longer holds, so play around with that. Wear some comfy clothes, take your time, move however feels good to your body, and get ready to unwind before bed.

-Down Dog w/ Spinal Roll

            Start in down dog. Don’t worry if your heels touch the floor or not. Bend one knee at a time, wiggle around, lift one leg and then the other. Experiment with pressing more through the hands or feet, feeling the stretch more in your back and then more in your hamstrings. When you’re ready, add the spinal roll: come forward onto your tip toes, and beginning at the base of your lumbar spine begin rolling upward (almost like Cat Pose) until you’re in an arching high plank. Return to start and repeat a few times as your back begins to loosen.

-Pigeon Pose

            From Down Dog, lift one leg and bring it forward through your hands, folding it in front of you as you settle down into this hip opening pose. Let your upper body drape over your thigh, resting your face on your hands or a pillow. This is a pose I like to lounge in, at least 30 seconds and up to 5 minutes. Repeat on other side.

-Wide Legged Forward Fold, Skandasana/Side Lunge & Malasana/Yoga Squat

            Begin standing, legs together. Step one leg out to the side, at least 3 feet. Find a distance that is comfortable to you, but the feet should be fairly wide apart. Fold forward, bending at the hips. Depending on your comfort/flexibility level, you can dangle forward, or place your hands on the floor, or place your head on the floor, or begin to pull your upper body through your legs in the fold. Move around, give it a little wiggle, try some different hand positions.

            From Wide Legged Forward Fold, rise back up to standing, keeping your feet apart. Shift your weight to one side, bend that knee as you crouch down in a lunge while the other leg straightens into Skandasana/Side Lunge. Repeat on the other side.

            Return to standing, legs wide. Step the feet slightly closer together but still hip width or wider apart. Squat down into Malasana/Yoga Squat. This is a wonderful way to decompress the lower back. You can play around in this pose with the position of the upper body (sitting up, draping forward) and arms (prayer hands, or take a bind around one of your knees for both a yummy twist and shoulder-opener).  Remain in Malasana for at least 30 seconds and up to 5 minutes.

-Shoulderstand, Plow Pose, Karnapidasana/Ear Pressure Pose.

            I love Shoulderstand! It is a comfortable, relaxing inversion for me. The important thing here is for the weight to be in your shoulders, not in your neck. Start lying flat on your back, then raise both legs and roll them up into the air until you are on the balls of your shoulders, pressing your arms into the ground at first to help the legs up, and finally ending with your hands against your lower back, palms pressing into the lumbar area supportively, pinkies touching.

            From Shoulderstand, drop the legs down slowly until your toes touch the ground behind your head.  This is Plow Pose.  Your hands can stay pressing into your lower back, or let them fall to the floor, clasping them together. Spend some time in both foot variations: (1) on your toes, pressing the balls of your feet into the ground to stretch the backs of your calves, and (2) pressing the tops of your feet into the ground to stretch the front side of your shins.

            From Plow Pose, bend one knee down toward the floor near your ear. Then straighten it and bend the other knee down. If this is comfortable, bend both knees down until they rest on the floor on either side of your ears in Karnapidasana/Ear Pressure Pose. Press your knees to your ears, allowing the lower and mid-back to release.

            Stay in each of these poses as long as comfortable. If any of these put uncomfortable pressure on your neck, feel free to skip this part of the sequence.

-Reclining Bound Angle Pose/Supta Baddha Konasana, with Prop.

            Our final pose in this bedtime sequence is Reclining Bound Angle. Start sitting, knees bent and falling open to the side, and soles of your feet touching. Gently lay backward until you rest on the ground. I highly recommend using a bolster, pillow or even a yoga wheel to rest against.  The depth of the backbend (if you choose to add it) is not at all important; comfort is key here. This is such a comfy pose, you can even do it in bed as you fall asleep. This is a great pose to really spend some time in, and I find it really calming to my system.  Sometimes I’ll put on a guided meditation and relax like this. 

After this, you’re ready for bed! Sweet dreams!