After a long day, the body craves for nothing more than a good night’s sleep. Sleep, which should be a natural part of our lives, has become a such a difficult thing to get. This is mostly because we keep pumping stimulants like caffeine, sugar, and nicotine into our body through the day. Also, most people do not stick to the same sleep cycles. Imagine how confused your body must be feeling.
Yoga can be a great way to bring some balance and relaxation into your body so that you get that much-deserved sleep. Doing a few poses in the evening can help your body stretch, let your muscles relax, and calm your mind. Here are 7 poses you can start with.
1. Hero Pose (Virasana)
This pose helps lubricate the joints in your legs and protects them against injury. If you hear cracking sounds in your joints or feel discomfort in moving your joints, hero pose brings a gentle stretching action which can help you heal.
Begin in a kneeling position with the tops of the feet down on the mat, bringing the knees together to touch. Come up to stand on the knees, and separate your feet just wider than hip-distance apart. Point your big toes in slightly and press the toenails and the top of each foot evenly into the floor.
Use your hands to move the flesh of the calves out of the way, and slowly sit down between your feet. Note that this pose can be intense on the knees, so be sure to have a bolster, block or a thick book handy to place between your feet in case sitting down causes any pain in the knees or if the sitting bones don’t reach the floor.
Relax your shoulders away from your ears and lengthen up and out of the crown of your head. Rest your palms face up or face down on your thighs, or take your hands into the mudra of your choice.
Remain in the pose anywhere from 5 to 30 full, deep breaths, depending on your level of comfort. To come out of the pose, plant the palms on the mat in front of you, slowly make your way onto hands and knees, then swing both shins over to one side and extend both legs straight out in front of you.
2. Cat Cow Pose (Marjaryasana And Bitilasana)
This pose helps relieve stress from menstrual cramps, lower back pain, and sciatica. It also increases the flexibility of the neck, shoulders, and spine.
Begin with your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your knees are under your hips, and your wrists are under your shoulders. Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. Take a big deep inhale.
On the exhale, round your spine up towards the ceiling, and imagine you’re pulling your belly button up towards your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin towards your chest, and let your neck release. This is your cat-like shape.
On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax and go loose. Lift your head and tailbone up towards the sky — without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck. This is the Cow portion of the pose.
Continue flowing back and forth from Cat Pose to Cow Pose, and connect your breath to each movement — inhale for Cow Pose and exhale on Cat Pose. Repeat for 5-10 rounds.
3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose helps to stretch the hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue. It relaxes the muscles on the front of the body while stretching the muscles of the back torso.
Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
Exhale and slowly lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your lower back across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points towards your navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs.
Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso with your palms up, and release the front of your shoulders towards the floor.
Feel how the weight of the front of your shoulders pulls your shoulder blades wide across your back. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to a minute.
4. Eye-Of-The-Needle Pose (Sucirandhrasana)
Eye of the Needle pose is beneficial in stress, anxiety, and depression. It stretches and strengthens your hamstrings, lower back, and inner thighs. Sucirandhrasana also relaxes and calms your mind.
Begin lying comfortably on the back. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet flat down on the mat, about hip-distance apart. Walk your heels in toward your body until you can just graze the heels with the fingertips.
Cross your right ankle on the left thigh, just below your bent knee, keeping the right foot flexed and active so that the toes of the right foot are pointing back toward the right knee.
Lengthen your tailbone down toward the ground to maintain the natural curve of the low back, and find the action of pressing your right knee away from your body.
Thread your right arm through the space created between the legs, and interlace your fingers around the front of the left shin, or the back of the left thigh. Use the strength of your arms to gently pull your left leg closer to your chest while keeping your hips square.
Remain in the pose anywhere from 5-25 breaths. To come out of the pose, exhale to release the left leg and slowly lower the soles of both feet down onto the mat. You can gently rock the knees from side to side to release any tension, then come back to center and repeat on the other side.
5. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Viparita Karani is a restorative yoga posture that allows the mind and the body to relax, relieving stress and tension. It relieves swollen ankles, varicose veins, and reduces menstrual cramps.
Find an open wall space. Start seated beside the wall, with your feet on the floor in front of you and your left side body in contact with the wall.
On an exhale, gently lie down on your back and pivot yourself so that the backs of your legs are pressing against the wall and the bottom of your feet are facing up. You may need to wiggle around to find your way into this position.
By pressing the bottom of your feet into the wall, lift your hips slightly and slide your prop underneath your hips. Let the back of your head be heavy and your neck be in a neutral position. Let your hands rest either on your belly or down by your sides, palms facing upwards.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose. Stay here for anywhere from 5-15 minutes. To come out of the position, push the bottom of your feet into the wall and lift your hips slightly.
Gently roll to one side, being sure to slide your support out of the way if you have used one. Stay on your side for a few breaths before returning to your seat.
6. Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana)
This pose is great for digestion and also stimulates the kidneys, abdominal organs, bladder, and intestines. It stretches the abdomen, thighs and deep hip flexors (psoas), knees, and ankles.
To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can rest your head on a pillow or blanket for extra neck support. Let your arms rest at your sides.
On an exhalation, draw both knees to your chest and clasp your hands around them. Extend your left leg along the floor, keeping your right knee drawn to your chest. Extend your right arm out along the floor at shoulder-height with your palm facing down.
Shift your hips slightly to the right. Then, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Exhaling, drop your right knee over the left side of your body. Keep your left hand resting gently on your right knee.
Turn your head to the right. Soften your gaze toward your right fingertips. Keep your shoulder blades pressing toward the floor and away from your ears. Allow the force of gravity to drop your knee even closer to the floor. If your right toes can touch the floor, allow your foot to rest.
Hold the pose for 10-25 breaths. On an inhalation, slowly come back to center, bringing both knees to your chest.
Exhale, and extend your right leg along the floor. Repeat on the opposite side. When you’re finished with the pose, hug your knees to your chest for a few breaths. Then, slowly exhale as you extend both legs along the floor.
7. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
This pose is a deeply relaxing, restorative yoga pose, and hip opener.
Lie down comfortably on your back, with your legs extended and your arms at your sides, palms face up toward the ceiling.
Bend your knees to bring the soles (bottoms) of your feet together to touch. The outer (pinky toe) edges of your feet should be resting on the mat. Let the legs fall open and allow gravity to support the weight of the legs.
If your hips and groin are feeling tight, you can take your feet further away from your body. If you’re feeling more open, you can bring your feet closer toward your body to deepen the stretch.
Relax your shoulders away from your ears and allow your back body to sink more deeply into the mat. Stay in the pose anywhere from one to five minutes, depending on your level of comfort.
To come out of the pose, take the palms of the hands on the outer thighs to gently fold the legs together, and bring the soles of the feet flat down on the mat. Then, hug your knees into your chest and gently rock from side to side to release the low back.
Note: Though the poses have been broken down into detailed steps, if you’re new to yoga, it is always advisable to start your yoga practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher.