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8 evening poses to help you sleep

Stop tossing and turning. Put your pyjamas on, turn on some soothing music, find your lavender essence, roll out your mat beside your bed, and practise these eight yoga poses before turning off the lights.

Did you read last week's blog about my top eight morning yoga poses to kick start your day? If you haven't, stop. Head over and read it first, then continue on here.

As soon as we get out of bed, we're running. From appointment, to meeting, to interview, to typing manically on a keyboard to meet a deadline. Then wonder why, when we get home, we collapse in a heap, feel lethargic, and only have enough energy left to find the remote and turn the television on.

A wind down ritual supports a deep and restful sleep and gives us a chance to check in with ourselves. Breathing and stretching is a great way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and decrease general anxiety — something all human beings struggle with in some way. If you begin to work stretching into your nighttime routine, you make a habit of helping your body recover every night. Try this relaxing practice to decompress before bed for a better night’s sleep.

  1. Bridge Pose: Try the yummy restorative version of this pose and place a yoga block (standing sideways or on its shorter side) underneath your tailbone so that the prop is supporting the lower body. My favourite part is rolling the spine, vertebrae by vertebrae, back to earth and releasing any lingering tension in the lower back.

  2. Figure 4 Pose: Lay flat on your back and then bring your right ankle to to your left knee, imitating the number “4” with the shape of your legs. Then, grab your left shin (or thigh if it’s easier) and bring it toward your chest, holding it for 1-3 minutes before switching. This is a great hip opener that also releases the low back after a long day in repetitive positions.

  3. Supine Twist: I can't think of a better pose at this point them a deep spinal twist to release any tightness holding on for dear life in my back. A sensational opening for the chest and shoulders, remember to breathe deeply into the diaphragm to enhance this asana. This reclining posture promotes sleep by relaxing the baroreflex, a reflex known to maintain nearly constant blood pressure.

  4. Happy Baby Pose: What would a night time yoga routine be without Happy Baby. This is a great pose for relieving abdominal discomfort and is a perfect final spinal relaxation pose. Bringing both knees into your chest, reach your arms in between your legs to grip onto the outsides of your feet. Flex you ankles like you are walking on the ceiling. Breathe here, focusing on keeping your ankles directly above your knees while pushing against your hands with your feet. Optional: rock gently from side to side to massage your lower back into the mat.

  5. Supported Fish Pose: A gentle restorative backbend, you can use either a yoga block or a bolster for this one. The goal is to relax and renew. From a lying down position, bend your knees, soles of the feet flat on the floor. Bring your yoga block into one hand, tuck the chin in and lift up onto your elbows. Place the block on its lowest level, vertically, underneath your upper back so that it runs along the spine (or bolster) and when you rest own over the block and squeeze your shoulder blades, you should be able to feel it. Make sure the block isn’t touching your ribs below your shoulder blades. In this position, you can straighten the legs if the lower back feels supported, and let your feet fall open, as if you were taking Savasana (Corpse Pose). For even more relaxation and comfort, you may want to slip a bolster (or rolled blanket) under your knees. From here, externally rotate your arms so your palms face up. Let your shoulders drape off the block. Place a cushion or second block underneath your head if it doesn’t quite rest on the ground. Relax your face, throat, and jaw. Optional: reach your arms overhead and hold onto opposite elbows. Take 10 big deep breaths. To come out of the pose, tuck the chin in, lift up onto your elbows, take the block out and roll straight back down onto the mat.

  6. Legs in the Air (or up the wall): This is an easy pose you can do in your bed (if it’s up against the wall) before you sleep. If you don't have a wall, grab your yoga block or bolster and slide it underneath your tailbone on its lowest level. Perch your sitting bones right on the edge of the block to encourage your hips to hinge, bringing the toes over your face to find delicious length in the hamstrings and calf muscles. I like to place one hand on my heart and one on my belly and practice deep breathing here. A super pose for circulation and relieving lower back pain.

  7. Block Under Bottom: The ideal entry into Savasana, lift your hips and move the block lower, underneath your bottom. Slowly straighten your legs and reach your arms overhead. Feel the opening along the entire front of the body. Stay here for 10 breaths. To exit the pose, bring your arms back down alongside, bend your knees, lift up your hips, take the block out from underneath you and roll the spine back down to the floor.

  8. Corpse Pose (Savasana): Open the arms with your palms facing up toward the sky and your legs extended straight out. Roll your shoulder blades back and rock your head side to side to release tension in the neck. Relax into a still position, releasing any stiffness or tension in the body. You can even do this pose in your bed; just add a blanket for extra coziness. To help relax the eyes and mind, you can gently place a cloth or eye bag over your eyes to block out the light and relax the pupils. To relax the abdomen, place a few blankets horizontally across your lower abdomen. To support your neck, place a folded blanket or cushion under your neck and head until your forehead is slightly higher than your chin. To relax the lower back, lace a rolled-up blanket or cushion beneath your knees.

Practicing these yoga poses can help relax your body and prep it for sleep. Good night, sweet dreams. L x

Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Why do you practise yoga?

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