Sometimes we all need a little help catching our zzz’s. Having a cooling and restorative yoga practice can help support a good night’s rest. These five shapes will not only facilitate a deeper sleep, but will also open up your hips and spine to create more spaciousness in the body.
Start in your down dog and step your right foot outside of your right hand so that it’s wider. Toes should point forward, but can be slightly externally rotated if you need a little more space. Root your palms firmly into the ground, spreading through the wedges of your fingers. Find your opposition here pressing your inner thigh to your outer arm and outer arm to your inner thigh. Make sure your back leg is firm and solid with the knee activated. If you want to make this shape softer, lower your back leg to the ground to focus more on opening through the front of the hips.
In the esoteric practice of yoga, it says that our hips hold our emotions, so a great way to work through any stuck feelings, is to practice opening up the hip before beds. Not only is pigeon a hip opener, but also a forward fold which is great for slowing down the parasympathetic nervous system.
Have wrist and knee in the same plane. To make the pose less intense, angle your foot in closer to your hip. If your sitting bone doesn’t connect with the ground, place a blanket or pillow underneath. Make sure your back foot is relaxed and straight. Shoulders roll down away from your ears. You can also support your heart and forehead by placing a block underneath the sternum and brow bone. If this is too intense, you can do a “figure-4” stretch on your back.
This seated-hip opener is a really soft and gentle forward fold that is great to do before bed as it helps to release tension in the head, neck, shoulders and spine. Bring your feet together so you press the right sole into the left sole. Bring your bum back in space so that the knees are wide, creating a diamond or star shape. Take an inhale lifting the crown of your head up towards the sky and as you exhale dive your head towards your feet creating a round, cocoon shape in the back. If your head doesn’t reach your feet, you can place a block under your brow bone. Try to release any tension in the jaw or shoulders.
Twisting is a great way to release any tension or stress that has built up in your gut, hips, neck and shoulders. Doing this pose on the floor provides great support for the whole body to release. In yoga, supine twists often come at the end, after you’ve put in all of that hard work and are beginning to cool down. For me, supine twists are always a time of reflection and gratitude, as I can look back on my day feeling accomplished or simply grateful for a healthy mind and body.
Open your arms in a “T” or cactus shape to open up the back. As the legs go to the right, head/neck looks to the left and vice versa. Try to close your eyes or soften your gaze.
This shape is great to decompress the spine. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and in line with your shoulders. Allow your hands to wrap around the edges of your feet. Think about imprinting each and every part of your spine down onto the ground. You can massage the low back by swaying from side to side. If your head and shoulders are lifting from the ground, you can bring your hands to your ankles or shins.
Photos by Romy London.