Finding ways to relax these days can be challenging. But to truly quiet your mind, look no further than a gentle yoga routine: Such a practice can also help lower stress and blood pressure, release muscle tension, and loosen stiff joints.
“You want to release any tightness from the day to relax and unwind,” says Life Time yoga coordinator and LifePower Master Yoga teacher and trainer Jan Johnson, who designed this routine. She recommends it as an ideal preparation for bedtime.
These eight poses help release tension by targeting specific overworked areas of the body, which can aid in recovery as you wind down your day and prepare to sleep. Perform them individually or as a sequence before bedtime.
1. Modified Sun
Focus on linking your breath with the movement and using natural belly breathing.
- Stand tall with feet comfortably together and arms at your sides.
- Inhale while lifting your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Stretch your fingers to the sky and press down into the ground through your feet.
- Exhale as you float your arms down to your sides.
- Repeat the movement for five or more deep breaths.
2. Standing Side Bend
Side bends create space and release tension in the muscles of the side body.
- Stand tall with feet hip width apart and pelvis in a neutral position.
- Inhale as you reach your arms overhead with palms facing each other.
- Exhale as you bring your right hand to your hip while your left arm reaches up and over.
- Inhale and return to center with both arms reaching overhead.
- On your next exhale, repeat on the opposite side.
- Inhale and return to center.
- Repeat five times per side, synchronizing breath with movement.
3. Forward Fold
This pose helps release tension in the hamstrings, back, shoulders, neck — and more.
- Stand tall with your shoulders over your hips.
- With a soft bend in your knees, hinge at your hips to fold forward, bringing your torso toward your legs.
- Let your arms hang by your legs, or try crossing your forearms to hold the opposite elbows.
- Allow your head to hang heavy and let your upper body give in to gravity.
- With each exhalation, relax more deeply into the pose.
- Hold for five deep breaths.
4. Forward Fold to Half Lift
Lifting your torso and extending your front body away from your legs creates a deep stretch.
- From forward fold, take a deep breath and lift your torso until your back is parallel to the floor; draw your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Gently rest your arms on your legs and keep your neck in a neutral position aligned with your spine. Exhale.
- Inhale, then lower to forward fold on the exhale, moving slowly and deliberately as you focus on your breathing. Repeat for five rounds.
Flow between cat and cow to stretch and relax your core and back muscles.
- Lower onto all fours, shoulders over wrists, and hips over knees. Inhale.
- Exhale to round your back upward, tucking your chin to your chest and reaching your midback toward the ceiling; this is cat pose.
- Inhale to arch your spine, lowering your belly toward the floor and lifting your tailbone, shoulders, and head. Look up slightly; this is cow pose.
- Repeat five times, synchronizing breath with movement.
6. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose opens up your shoulders and back; adding a reach to the right and left opens up the sides of your body.
- With toes together and knees slightly apart, lower your hips and drop your forehead toward the floor.
- Reach your arms forward and hold for five breaths.
- Walk both hands a few inches to the right while keeping your hips back. Hold for five breaths.
- Move your hands back to the center and hold for five breaths. Then move your hands to the left and hold for five breaths.
7. Fetal Pose on Each Side
A relaxing and resting asana, fetal pose creates a sense of security. Take care in rolling to opposite sides if you have any shoulder or hip issues. Those who are pregnant are generally advised to lie only on their left side.
- From child’s pose, slowly roll to one side of your body, keeping your legs stacked and hips aligned.
- Rest your head on your hand and allow your top arm to find a comfortable position in front of your body or along your side.
- Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly for five or more breaths before switching sides.
This restorative closing pose promotes mindfulness, body awareness, and recovery.
- Lie with legs extended and arms slightly away from your sides with palms up.
- Tune in to your breathing as you give in to gravity, relaxing your body toward the floor or bed.
- Starting at your feet, focus on relaxing and releasing tension in your toes; move up your body until you reach the top of your head.
- Rest here for five minutes or more. If you have trouble relaxing your mind, focus on counting long, slow, deep breaths, from 20 to one.
This article has been updated. It was originally published on March 18, 2020.