Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February of 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy.
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night and not able to fall asleep even though you're exhausted, you're just a few stretches away from a better night's sleep. Even performing relaxing stretches in the morning can help promote more restful sleep at night, so no matter when you can squeeze these exercises in, you'll be sleeping like a baby in no time.
Yoga for relaxation
Yoga postures, and stretches, are a great way to open your body up. They allow the body to be completely relaxed before you get into bed, and they will actually allow you to wake up feeling less tight the next morning and better rested.
Stretches to give you a better night's sleep
- Extended Cone Stretch
This is sometimes simply called an 'overhead stretch' in yoga. To begin simply stand with your feet hips' width apart, all your weight equally distributed. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, extend your arms out to the sides and then overhead. Link your fingers together and stretch up as far as you can, and then over to one side. Hold for a few breaths, and then come back to center. Take one breath in center and then stretch to the other side.This stretch, along with the deep breaths, will help you clear your mind and help you focus on sleep.
- Happy Baby
This is a great hip opener. When the hips are tight, your entire body feels it, so stretching the hips before bed can really relax you. To perform 'Happy Baby', lie on your back and then bend your knees into your chest, grabbing onto the inside edges of your feet with your hands, palms facing out. Lower your knees towards your armpits, keeping your feet flexed. Now, gently rock from side to side, like a happy baby! Hold for a few breaths.
- Bridge Pose
Bridge helps release the core. Lie on your back, knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Your arms can be extended out, or down by your sides. Shoulders will stay down as you engage your abs, press firmly into your heels, and then lift your back up to form a line between your shoulders and hips. Stay here, breathe, and lower down. Repeat.
- Spinal Twist
Twists are great for digestion, for relaxing your back, and for putting your shoulders back into proper alignment. For a spinal twist on the floor, lie on your back, with knees bent at a ninety degree angle in the air. Drop your knees to one side, slowly. Breathe. Stay here for a few breaths. Then, bring your knees back to center, and drop them, slowly, to the other side. You may hear some cracks, but this is a good thing, it is your back realigning.
- The "Cat/Cow"
Start on all fours, round your back, tucking in your belly, as you exhale all of the air out. Then, as you inhale, arch your back and look up. Repeat. This is excellent for getting the tension and tightness out of your back/core muscles.
Performing these stretches for sleep right before bed or even during your day, will help you have more restful sleep (and better mornings!) You may even be able to cut back on the amount of caffeine that you crave during the day to keep you going. Find out more about Cal Fit’s yoga & pilates classes for all fitness levels and enjoy a more restful night's sleep tonight.