OMZzz these are relaxing! Before hitting the hay, try these yoga stretches for better—and more—sleep.
Stretching Before Bed—Your New Favorite Healthy Habit
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Whether you spend each day at a desk or on your feet, your commute is a quick walk or a long drive, you did a 20-minute HIIT workout or an hour of Pilates, your body gets put through its paces on a daily basis. So it's important to give it a little TLC at the end of the day by stretching before bed. (BTW, here's how to get the most out of savasana in class, or, you know, bed...)
"Stretching before bed not only relaxes you, it also keeps your muscles flexible so you're less likely to experience discomfort during everyday activities," says Sarah Levey, yoga instructor at Y7 Studio in New York City. And doing it before you tuck in can greatly impact and benefit the sleep your body gets throughout the night, which is arguably the best perk of starting a night yoga routine. "It allows you to release some of the tension you've built up during the day so you can prepare both your body and mind for a good night's sleep," says Levey.
For the best shuteye, try this night yoga routine created by Levey and Kay Kay Clivio of Pure Yoga in New York City.
Photo: dusanpetkovic/Getty Images
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To make the most of stretching before bed, while in each yoga pose, breathe in and out through your nose. It has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Targets: neck, shoulders, back, hips, and legs
- Sit on floor with pillow in front of you. Bend left knee, bringing sole of left foot to right inner thigh.
- Lift butt and extend right leg behind you. Staying centered, gently hinge forward from hips, placing head on pillow.
- Extend arms forward, elbows slightly bent. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths.
- Roll back up. Switch legs; repeat.
Photo: Jay Sullivan
Standing Forward Fold
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Targets: back and neck
- Stand with feet about six inches apart and from the hips, fold torso over, reaching towards the ground or bending arms and grabbing opposite elbows above head.
- Exhale and lengthen down through the crown of your head.
- Hang and hold for 15 seconds, gently swaying from side to side if desired. (This before-bed stretch is stellar for loosening up the hamstrings you work so hard during these six exercises.)
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Targets: hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads
- Starting in downward facing dog, step right foot outside of right hand and bend the knee, coming to a lunge position, right thigh parallel to the floor, toes turned slightly out.
- Come down to rest elbows on the ground. Keep neck and spine in line, and press left heel away, keeping hips square.
- Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
Up The Wall
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Targets: glutes and hamstrings
- Sit facing wall and lie onto your back.
- Moving buttocks as close to wall as possible, lift legs and rest the back of legs against the wall, legs perpendicular to the ground.
- Rest with your arms out to sides, palms up. Hold for 15 seconds. (BTW this yoga pose is great for stretching before bed, but also for glowing skin and reducing PMS symptoms like cramps.)
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Targets: hips and legs
- Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on floor, arms extended by sides, palms up.
- Keeping shoulders down, engage abs and press into heels to lift hips and back to form a diagonal line from shoulders to knees.
- Hold for 8 to 10 breaths; lower.
Photo: Jay Sullivan
Seated Forward Fold
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Targets: hamstrings and calves
- Sit on the ground, back straight, legs together and stretched out in front of you.
- Flex feet (keeping them active) and bend forward from hips, reaching for toes (or as far as feels comfortable) with hands.
- Hold for 15 seconds.
Seated Side Bend
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Targets: neck, shoulders, back, and obliques
- Sit on pillow in a cross-legged position. Place left hand on floor to side of hip, left elbow slightly bent. Extend right arm by ear.
- Lean to left, keeping butt on floor, shoulders down.
- Hold for 8 to 10 breaths. Switch sides; repeat.
Photo: Jay Sullivan
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Targets: spine, groin, and hips
- Lie on your back, lift legs and bend knees, feet flexed towards the ceiling.
- Grab big toe of each foot with respective hand and further bend knees towards armpits. If able, rock left to right, gently massaging the spine.
- Hold for 15 seconds. (Related: The Mind-Body Benefits of Getting a Massage)
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Targets: hips, glutes, lower back
- Lie on your back with legs extended in fright of you.
- Lift right leg, bend knee, and hug leg with arms into chest for five seconds.
- Raise left leg straight up towards ceiling (or as high as you can), bend right knee outward, and place right ankle against left quad. Move hand behind left leg and pull left leg towards body.
- Hold for 15 seconds. (And when you're not stretching before bed, here's how to crank up the burn of your yoga flow.)
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- Climb into bed and lie down, legs slightly apart and stretched out in front of you, arms long by your sides with palms up. Close your eyes and bring focus to breath.
- Hold for 15 seconds or until you fall asleep.