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An Evening Yoga Practice to Help You Calm Down and Sleep


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Sneaking into an evening yoga practice can be challenging. You may want to collapse and distract yourself from the day ahead. You may spend your time ruminating about to-do lists and what ifs related to the day behind. Or you may find yourself caught somewhere in between those two conflicting compulsions.

None of these scenarios is especially conducive toward restful sleep.

Yet when you can summon even 10 minutes of space for an evening yoga practice, you can more easily come back to yourself, back to not completely tuning out, back to not constantly contemplating should haves, back to being able to actually rest during your down time.

In this evening yoga practice, you’ll allow yourself to simply slow down and tune into your body and your breath. As you take yourself through some quiet forward bends and hip openers, you’ll notice that without even trying, you’ll ease the tension — physical as well as psychological — and set your mood for sleep.

A calming evening yoga sequence to help you unwind

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

Come onto your mat on your hands and knees. Separate your knees a little wider than your hips and draw your big toes together so that your legs look like a V. Lower your hips back towards your heels and rest your forehead on your mat, a block, or a folded blanket. Walk your hands forward and rest your forearms on the floor in line with your shoulders. Close your eyes. Allow yourself to be present in your body. Settle in and stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

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Cat and Cow (Marjaryasana and Bitilasana)

Come back to your hands and knees and bring your wrists beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. This two-part pose is meant to stretch your spine and the muscles around your spine. On an inhale, slowly release your belly toward the floor and draw your chest forward as you lift your sit bones and the crown of your head toward the celling, creating a slight backbend. On your next exhale, move your spine in the opposite direction, rounding your mid-back toward the ceiling. Sync your movement with your breath and move slowly through these shapes at least 5 more times.

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Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

From hands and knees, pause after your last inhale, walk your hands one hand print forward so your wrists are where your fingers were, and tuck your toes under as you lift your hips up and back. Press down through your index fingers. Keep your arms straight as you look back at your legs and pedal your legs, bending one knee and then the other, to stretch your hamstrings and calves. Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Tip
If you experience tightness in your shoulders, take your hands a little wider and turn them out slightly toward the long edges of your mat.

If you experience tightness in your hamstrings, keep your knees bent a little.

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Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) Holding Opposite Elbows and Twisting

From Down Dog, walk your feet to the front of the mat. Remain in a forward bend. You can rest your fingertips on the floor or a block or you can take hold of opposite elbows and gently sway from side to side. Allow your neck and shoulders to release and let your head hang heavy. Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Release your fingertips to the mat or a block, inhale, and lift halfway to lengthen through your spine. Bend your left knee and reach your right hand toward the ceiling. Lean your head slightly back, and broaden across your chest. If it’s comfortable, turn your gaze toward your right thumb. Stay here for 5 deep breaths. Switch sides.

Tip
If you experience tightness in your hamstrings,
keep your knees bent a little.
If you experience low back pain, simply bring your hand to your hip rather than toward the ceiling during the twist.

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Malasana (Squat)

From Standing Forward Bend, come to a squat with your big toes touching and your knees wide apart or, if you prefer more of a stretch, take your feet as wide as the mat and turn your toes slightly out. Bring your hands to your chest or walk your hands forward and round your spine to get a deeper stretch in your back body. Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Tip
If your heels do not come to the mat, keep your heels lifted and bring your hands to the floor for support or slide a rolled blanket or pillow underneath your heels.

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Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon)

From Squat, straighten your legs and come into a Standing Forward Bend. Walk yourself back to Down Dog. Take your left knee forward to touch your inner left wrist. You knee should be to the left of your torso. Move your left foot forward in front of your right knee and bring your left ankle toward your right wrist to any extent that is comfortable. Lower your right knee and inch it back until you can not move it any further away. Inhale and lift your chest, exhale and gently fold forward on an exhale. Place your forearms down on the mat and get comfortable. You can stack your hands and rest your forehead on them. Relax your jaw and eyes and focus on your breath here, specifically on the exhale. Stay for at least five breaths and then move to Downward-Facing Dog to switch sides. Pause in Downward-Facing Dog for just a breath, noticing the difference between your two sides. Release down onto your hands and knees and repeat the same thing on the second side.

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Star Pose (Bound Angle Pose)

Come to a seated position on your mat. Draw your feet together and move your heels out in front of you for that your legs create the shape of a diamond. Round your spine forward and aim your head towards your feet. Do not worry if your head and feet are far away from each other. You can practice this pose wherever it is comfortable for you just by closing your eyes and breathing into your back body. If you feel any discomfort in the backs of your knees try shifting your feet forward or back a bit and that should help. Take five to ten deep breaths here.

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Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)

Lifting up from star pose, draw your knees together and extend your left leg straight out in front of you. Bring your right foot up towards your upper inner left thigh (imagine a seated Tree Pose). Turn your upper body towards your straight left leg, and, on an inhale, lift your chest up. As you exhale, extend forward over your left leg. Try to walk your hands towards your front foot, but, if that’s not available, take a strap or towel around the base of your left foot and hold it with both hands. Do not overextend: if you feel any pulling in either your low back or hamstrings, back out gently. Stay for a few breaths, and then switch sides.

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Come onto your back, bend your knees, and take your feet as wide as your mat. Turn your feet out towards the edges of your mat, and, like windshield wipers, let both legs fall to the left side at the same time. Place your left hand onto your belly, and reach your right hand out on a diagonal up and away from you. You can stay here, or, to increase the stretch, place your left foot onto your right knee. Use your left foot to bring your right knee forward and down towards the floor. Take five breaths here and switch to the second side.

See also Looking for a Refresh? Try a Reclining Twist.

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Savasana with Prop Under Knees

Coming back to center, place a bolster or a pillow under your knees. Place it high enough up that your heels can rest on the floor. Lower all the way down and separate your feet wider than you hips, with your arms resting slightly away from your body. Rotate your hands, with palms facing the ceiling, and close your eyes. If you feel chilly, cover yourself with a blanket, and cover your eyes too if you desire. Allow your body to be heavy on the floor, and intentionally relax all your muscles. Give yourself permission to surrender and let go of the day. Honor yourself and your practice and appreciate that you made the time to get on your mat for an evening yoga practice. Remain here for at least 5 minutes.



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