Here are some of my favorite asanas that will help you wind down and prepare for a restful sleep.
These poses do not have to be done in any particular order, and if you find you need more pillows somewhere, feel free to add them!
Supported Seated Forward Fold | Supported Paschimottanasana
The first asana is pictured above. This is a supported, seated forward fold – Supported Paschimottanasana. As you can see I’ve put a pillow under my legs (feel free to add another if your low back or hamstrings are tight), and one folded over on top of my legs. Forward folds, in general, are very relaxing and introspective because you are folding into yourself and tuning out the outside world. The pillow(s) under the knees are key to relaxing here. Softness in the knees translates to softness in the hamstrings and, typically, the low back. Same goes for the pillow supporting the torso. Stay as long as you are comfortable, but probably not more than 2-4 minutes.
Legs Up the Wall | Viparita Karani
I’m showing 2 variations here. Again, please add an extra pillow under the hips if you need it. To come into this pose, put your desired amount of pillows flush up against the wall. Sit on top of your pillows with one hip pressed to the wall. Slowly work your way back so you are laying down and your legs are up the wall, as flush to the wall as is comfortable. Do not lock the knees, and rearrange the pillows as necessary 😉 The photo on the left is the traditional way to do this pose, and can be very therapeutic for people who stand a lot during the day, walk a lot, or experience fluid retention in the lower extremities. I recommend about 4-5 minutes to really let the fluid and blood drain out of the legs/feet, but if you are very uncomfortable, please listen to the body and slide the feet down as pictured on the right, coming out slowly by rolling to one side. Rest there briefly to let the blood flow return to normal.
Once your feet start to tingle, slide the legs gently down the wall and let the feet come together – pictured right. If you have tight hamstrings, hips, glutes, or groins, this may be slightly to very uncomfortable. Only stay as long as is comfortable for you, and if you feel pain come out slowly, but immediately and consult your physician.
As with any inversion, this pose should be avoided if you have serious eye problems or glaucoma. Please consult your doctor if you have back/neck problems before doing this pose.
As you can see I have also placed one hand on my heart and one hand on my belly. If you are using this as a meditative asana, this hand placement can be helpful in feeling the belly and chest rise and fall with each inhalation and exhalation. A towel or eye pillow is totally optional. If you are really light sensitive, this option will be a nice touch, or if you are doing this during our long summer days (or before a nap), it might be nice to really help yourself relax.
There are many variations of this asana. The one I’m doing above is one I find to be the most gentle on the back. As you can see I’ve also placed a pillow under the bottom knee. Another great option is a pillow (or two if they’re thin) in between the knees. Try both and choose your favorite. This is more easeful on the spine as the pillow brings the support up to you so the spine doesn’t twist as deep as it would without the pillow. Turn your head whichever way is comfortable on your neck. For the full spinal twist, look the opposite way your legs are facing. The hand on the outside of the knee is optional, but helps to keep the legs in place. Be sure to do both sides. Stay as long as is comfortable for you, knowing that the longer you stay the more your body should relax. Try to breathe deeply and stay an equal amount of time on both sides (approximately 1-3 minutes per side). Move with intention and control, do NOT fling your legs over to the other side. Use your hands for support to move the legs if needed.
If you have had past back injuries, herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, or problems with the sacrum, please consult your doctor before trying these postures or starting any exercise routine.
This is in no way a complete list of relaxing asanas. If you’d like more info on other poses or more info on these specific ones, feel free to comment with your questions or shoot me an email! All my contact info is listed under the ‘About Me’ tab.