Wind Down for Bed with This 15-Minute Yoga Flow for Better Sleep

Relax-for-bed-with-this-ultra-calming-15-minute-yoga-flow

Relax-for-bed-with-this-ultra-calming-15-minute-yoga-flow

Courtesy Phyllicia Bonanno

For many people, sleep (and the process of getting to that point) is a delicate dance: no afternoon coffee pick-me-ups after 3 p.m., air conditioning and fan on full blast, cooling eye mask, weighted blanket, and a white noise that whales calls from Corner of the room sends.

Often times, however, no matter how hard you try to time the perfect sleep routine, your falling asleep still suffers. A study from 2021 by The Lancet Neurology reported that about two in three Americans have been sleeping worse since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

And a lot of the reasons for lackluster slumber? You guessed it: boatloads of stress. Another 2021 report from Canadian psychology found that stress was a leading cause of poor, interrupted sleep. (Related: What’s Worse: Sleep Deprivation or Insomnia?)

Granted, while stress relief can be difficult fully (often the only way to get rid of it is to distance yourself from the stressor altogether, which is not always doable when it comes to a work, school, or life event) there is are some things you can do to ease the effects of stress on your body.

For example yoga for a better sleep. Science has found that the practice itself, which relies on gentle stretching, deep breathing, and mindfulness, releases a brain chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that has been shown to aid your body’s response to stress by reducing and holding inflammation You raised your mood.

And when it comes to sleeping pills, yoga is hard to beat. The American Sleep Foundation lists yoga as one of the best ways to improve slumber, especially in adult women, who often sleep harder than men.

Phyllicia Bonanno, a certified yoga teacher, agrees. “Yoga gets the body moving and the blood flows, and it also allows you to focus your breath and achieve a calmer state,” she explains. And lately it was of paramount importance for Bonanno to get into a calmer state. She recently quit her full-time teaching job to devote herself entirely to health and wellbeing – an exciting (but stressful) transition that has changed the way she sleeps. Practicing yoga, along with a series of breathing rituals and frequent journaling, has helped her maintain a regular sleep schedule with few interruptions. (Related: 5 Simple Stress Management Tips That Really Work)

Here Bonanno shares her 15-minute yoga flow for better sleep. Allow five to ten deep breaths for each pose. “Focus on every breath,” she repeats. “When thoughts come into your head, even stressful ones, let them in – this is your time to let go and let go,” she explains. “But don’t linger [on those negative thoughts]. Try to focus on a mantra as you inhale and exhale that is geared towards a peaceful night’s sleep. “Some of her favorites:

  • I am calm and safe.

  • I will let go of today’s stress.

  • I am worth the rest.

  • I welcome pleasant dreams.

  • I will wake up rested and refreshed.

“You can do this flow right before bed,” she explains, noting that you can do any of the sleeping yoga poses (including Savasana) in bed in your pajamas if you feel more comfortable that way. Otherwise, a yoga mat on the floor also works great.

15-minute yoga for better sleep

How it works: Hold each pose for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Slowly and consciously switch from pose to pose.
You need: a yoga mat, yoga blocks and a yoga blanket (all optional)

Sedentary breathing

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 1

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 1

Phyllicia Bonanno

Sit cross-legged on the floor or bed and place a blanket or block under your hips if desired. Grind through the sit bones and pull the part towards the ceiling. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your heart and inhale to fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Let your eyes close. Hold one or two counts, then release on the exhale. Take another deep breath and feel the heart open and expand. Pause for a few moments, then exhale with an audible sigh. Take another deep breath as you let go, this time imagining letting go of all the stress and chatter of the day. Hold for about five to ten more breaths.

Side stretch

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 2

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 2

Phyllicia Bonanno

In a cross-legged sitting position, breathe in to squeeze your palms together and extend both arms up toward the ceiling. Hold at the top for a moment, then exhale as your right hand is slowly brought about 6 inches to the outside of your right thigh. Extend your left arm up over your ear while you bend your upper body slightly to the right and feel a stretch in the left inclines and back. Look to your fingertips and gently close your eyes. Take a moment upstairs to breathe, feel your chest and abdomen stretch and expand as you inhale, then deflate as you exhale. Take a deep breath and inhale to return to the center and repeat on the opposite side. Hold each side for five to ten breaths.

After doing the second side, inhale to return to the center, palms pressed together above your head. Exhale and bend at the hips to slowly fold your upper body forward onto your thighs (still in the cross position). Let go and surrender. Stop for a few counts, then slowly rise to sit.

Sitting rotation

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 3

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 3

Phyllicia Bonanno

Still in a sitting cross-legged position, place both hands on the floor behind your back. Open your chest and bend back gently so that your chin is tilted up and your head is tilted slightly back. Keep a couple of counts. Inhale and bring your arms back to your center with your palms pressed together. Exhale and place your right hand behind your body and your left hand on the outside of your right knee, gently turning your upper body further to the right with your left hand. Exhale, then inhale and exhale again, trying to twist a little further with each exhale. “Wring out” all of the unnecessary energy and stress that is trapped in the body. Hold for about five to ten counts, then release and return to a neutral cross-legged position. (Related: 18 Simple Stress Relievers To Add To Your Mental Health Toolkit)

Child pose

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 4

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 4

Phyllicia Bonanno

Gently move on your hands and knees in a table position. Exhale to bring your hips back on your heels, straighten your arms on the mat with your palms or fingertips firmly pressed against the floor or bed. Open your knees wide to open your hips, or hold them together to support your lower back. Place a pad, pillow, towel, or blanket under your forehead to further relax. Hold for about five to ten breaths and continue to breathe deeply in and out.

Bridge position

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 5

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 5

Phyllicia Bonanno

Lie face up on the floor or bed, arms out to your sides and palms pressing on the floor or bed. Bend your knees and plant the soles of your feet in the floor or bed. Inhale to lift your hips in the air and squeeze your glutes at the top. Keep breathing in and out deeply. (Optional: Put your hands under your lower back for support or a soft pillow under your shoulders.) Hold for about five to ten breaths and let go. Hug your knees to your chest for a few counts, then drop your legs onto the mat.

Leaning back rotation

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 6

Nature Made Yoga Article Pose 6

Phyllicia Bonanno

Still lying face up on the floor or bed, inhale to draw your right knee toward your chest. Using both hands to guide the movement, slowly circle your right knee clockwise, then counterclockwise, for approximately two to three counts in each direction. Then exhale in a controlled manner and use your left hand to pull the outside of your right knee towards the left side of your body. Rotate your torso and head a few degrees to the right and look to your right shoulder. Hold for five to ten breaths, continuing to inhale and exhale deeply, and feel the stretch in your back, hips, and buttocks. Bring your right leg back on the floor and repeat the process with your left leg, again holding five to ten breaths.

Reclined bound angle

Nature Made Article Pose 7

Nature Made Article Pose 7

Phyllicia Bonanno

Still face up, pull both knees towards your chest and wrap your forearms around each other for support. Hold two to three counts while breathing. Lower your feet onto the mat about two to three inches from the glutes and pinch the soles of your feet together (if comfortable). Allow the knees to open (gently) as far as is comfortable. Bring your right hand to your stomach and your left hand to your heart so gravity continues to pull each knee closer to the floor. Feel the stretch in your groin and hips. Hold for about five to ten breaths. To loosen, slowly bring your knees together and let your legs go completely straight down towards the floor or bed.

Savasana

Nature Made Article Pose 8

Nature Made Article Pose 8

Phyllicia Bonanno

Continue to lie face up, hands slightly to the side in a neutral position. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, filling your chest and stomach with as much air as possible. Hold for a few seconds, then exhale to allow your chest and stomach to empty. Repeat this inhale-exhale pattern until you’re ready to climb under the sheets.

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