In today’s fast-paced world, sleep and effective stress management have become vital elements of a balanced life. However, amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, many of us face sleepless nights and increasing stress. Fortunately, there is a time-tested natural remedy: turning to relaxing yoga poses.

Yoga lovingly cares for your body while calming your mind, offering a natural solution instead of prescription pills or store-bought sleep aids. It provides numerous advantages, such as better sleep and stress relief, all while fostering a feeling of calm and balance in your busy life.

Let’s explore five of our favourite yoga poses that are key to a restful night and improving your overall relaxation. But first, discover the benefits of yoga and how it can improve the quality of your sleep and your personal wellbeing.

THE BENEFITS OF YOGA FOR SLEEP AND REDUCING STRESS

Yoga blends physical poses, mindful breathing and meditation. This ancient practice offers many benefits, such as:

  • Deep Relaxation: Yoga helps to release muscle tightness – a significant factor in our day-to-day stress – which is beneficial for a good night’s sleep.
  • Mindfulness and Presence: Practising yoga promotes living in the present moment, paving the way for peaceful sleep without past regrets or future worries.
  • Hormonal Balance: Yoga helps regulate cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, setting the stage for better sleep.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Yoga can enhance cardiovascular health by stabilising the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
  • Digestive Boost: Certain yoga postures help to improve digestion, ensuring efficient nutrient absorption and better gut health.
  • Pain Management: Yoga relieves chronic pain by improving flexibility, mobility and muscle strength.
  • Enhanced Sleep Quality: Beyond helping you fall asleep, yoga also promotes a deeper and more restful sleep.
  • Boosted Wellbeing: Maintaining a regular yoga practice uplifts you emotionally and physically, and therefore fosters a sense of positivity in your life.

By practising yoga daily, you gain more than just brief tranquillity. You adopt a lifestyle offering lasting benefits, from improved sleep to resilience against everyday challenges.

The more you practise yoga, the more you will notice the calming effects it has on both your body and your mind.

HOW DOING YOGA CAN HELP YOU RELAX AND MANAGE STRESS BETTER

You’ve had one of those days – the kind where everything seems to go wrong. You’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, and your patience is wearing thin. Consequently, in search of solace, you roll out your yoga mat and stretch, breathe, and centre yourself. Then, as you move through poses, a transformation starts to unfold. Each inhalation and exhalation seems to wash away layers of stress, and you start to notice the subtle changes in your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.

Furthermore, through deliberate breathing and mindful movements, yoga taps into the body’s innate ability to find balance and calmness, as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. In essence, breathing deeply is the body’s natural relaxation mode, acting like a gentle reassurance that it’s OK to slow down and take a break. 

Find balance through mindful movement

By the time you conclude your session, you’re not only physically refreshed; your mind is also clearer, lighter, and more at peace.

WHAT EQUIPMENT YOU NEED FOR RELAXING YOGA POSES

For a calming yoga session aimed at better sleep and reduced stress, all you need is a yoga mat. If you want to enhance some poses, a yoga bolster is ideal, but a simple cushion can work just as well. Especially for a slower practice, make sure you are warm enough and grab a comfortable blanket to cover yourself.

All set? Let’s get started with the best relaxing yoga poses.

TOP 5 YOGA POSES FOR RELAXATION AND REDUCED STRESS

Embracing these five calming yoga poses will help you to turn your awareness inwards, enhance your sleep quality and reduce daily stress.

1. LEGS UP THE WALL (VIPARITA KARANI)

The Legs up the Wall pose is a rejuvenating posture that offers relaxation with minimal effort. By inverting the legs, it eases tension, especially after long periods of standing or sitting. The Viparita Karani pose boosts circulation while reducing swelling in the legs and feet. It also alleviates stress in the lower back. Additionally, the pose promotes a calmer mind, therefore reducing anxiety, and it helps relieve headaches. Finally, Viparita Karani can even aid digestion, mitigating mild stomach cramps.

Improve sleep with legs up the wall pose
Viparita Karani – evening practice at one of our yoga retreats

How to practice Viparita Karani:

  • Position your yoga mat perpendicular to the wall.
  • Sit sideways next to the wall, as close as possible, with your legs extended.
  • Pivot your body to extend your legs up the wall while your upper body rests on the mat. Try to have your sit bones as close to the wall as possible. For even more relaxation and support to the lower back, consider placing a cushion or yoga bolster under the sit bones.
  • Rest your hands by your sides, palms facing up. Or – if you want to connect more with your breath, place your hands on your belly. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply.
  • Hold this position for several minutes, relishing the relief and relaxation it offers.

2. EXTENDED CHILD’S POSE (BALASANA – KNEES WIDE)

The Extended Child’s Pose, with knees spread wide, offers a deep stretch to the hips and spine. Each moment in this pose melts away muscular stress and tension as it stretches the back and hip muscles, relieving both physical and mental strain. The alignment facilitates breath awareness for many people, as the belly might not be able to expand that much. Try to breathe deeply into the back of the ribcage and take slow and steady inhales. If you feel cramped or uncomfortable, place a yoga bolster or cushion underneath your torso. The gentle compression in the abdomen can soothe cramps and boost digestion, prepping your body for restorative rest.

relaxing yoga poses: childs pose
Balasana – Extended Child’s Pose

How to practice Balasana:

  • Begin kneeling on your mat with your big toes touching.
  • Spread your knees wide apart.
  • Extend your arms forward, palms facing down.
  • Lower your torso between your knees, allowing your forehead to touch the mat. For an even better relaxation experience, consider placing a yoga bolster or cushions under the torso. It offers a comforting embrace, further enhancing the relaxation benefits of the pose.
  • Breathe deeply, settling into the pose and holding it for several breaths.

3. RECLINED TWIST (SUPTA MATSYENDRASANA)

The Reclined Twist Pose is a more dynamic posture tailored for tension release in the lower back and spinal realignment. As you engage in the twist, allow your breath to gently massage the internal organs. This mild stomach stimulation can improve digestion and potentially alleviating bloating. The pose not only enhances spinal flexibility and health but also acts as a therapeutic release, clearing the mind of stress and rejuvenating the body. As much as this pose can be done dynamically, you can also allow your body to fully relax with the support of cushions or yoga blocks.

How to practice Supta Matsyendrasana:

  • Lie flat on your back on the yoga mat.
  • Bend your knees and bring them towards your chest.
  • Keeping the knees together, gently lower them to the left side, and bring them as close to the floor as is comfortable for you. For added back support or comfort, place a cushion or yoga bolster between the knees, or as support underneath the bottom knee.
  • Spread your arms out to the sides in a T-shape.
  • Option to turn your head to the opposite side of your legs, ensuring both shoulders remain grounded.
  • Breathe deeply and settle into the twist, holding for several breaths.
  • Slowly let go of any ‘gripping’ or ‘holding’ in the body.
  • Gradually bring the knees to the centre and switch to the other side.

Depending on your body, you might prefer to practice a single leg twist instead.

reclined twist relaxing yoga pose
Supta Matsyendrasana – Single Leg Reclined Twist

4. RECLINED BUTTERFLY POSE (SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA)

The Reclined Butterfly Pose, or Reclined Bound Angle, is a rejuvenating posture designed to open the chest, hips, and inner thighs. Particularly ideal for those who often sit, this pose combats the forward hunch and hip tightness. It promotes deeper, relaxed breathing by opening the heart centre – especially when lying back over a bolster – and alleviates tension by stretching the inner thighs and hip flexors. It also calms the mind, reduces anxiety, and aids digestion through gentle abdominal stimulation.

reclined butterfly - top 5 relaxing yoga poses
Reclined Butterfly – morning practice at one of our retreats

How to practice Reclined Butterfly Pose:

  • Lay down on your back on the yoga mat.
  • Place the bottoms of your feet against each other, allowing your knees to spread outwards, creating a diamond-like formation with your legs.
  • If comfortable, let your arms rest by your sides or place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly. To enhance the heart-opening aspect of this pose and achieve more profound relaxation, consider using a yoga bolster or cushion underneath your mid/upper back and head.
  • Close your eyes, relax your facial muscles, and breathe deeply, letting each breath soothe you further into the pose.
  • Stay in this pose for several minutes, embracing its calming and restorative properties.

Extra Tip: Place yoga blocks underneath your knees for added support and relaxation.

5. CORPSE POSE (SAVASANA)

The Corpse Pose, or Savasana, typically concludes a yoga session, embodying a moment of profound relaxation and reflection. While seemingly simple, it demands total surrender, letting go of all physical and mental strains. Immersing oneself in this stillness not only offers relaxation, clarity, and grounding but also fortifies body awareness and can counteract headaches, fatigue, and insomnia.

savasana corpse pose
Savasana – Corpse Pose

How to practice Savasana:

  • Lay flat on your back on the yoga mat, allowing your legs to spread apart naturally and your arms to rest by your sides, palms facing up.
  • Close your eyes and permit every muscle in your body to relax, progressing from the toes to the crown of your head.
  • Breathe naturally, noticing every inhalation and exhalation as the breath flows through your body.
  • Try letting any thoughts or distractions drift away, continually redirecting your attention to your breathing.
  • Remain in this pose for several minutes, allowing the restorative essence of Savasana to envelop you. For added relaxation and to alleviate lower back discomfort, consider placing a yoga bolster or cushions under the knees to foster a neutral spine.

Extra Tip: Place an eye pillow over your eyes and a cushion under your head for added comfort and total relaxation.

HOW TO INCORPORATE THESE RELAXING YOGA POSES INTO YOUR ROUTINE

Firstly, incorporating yoga into your evening or morning routine might seem daunting amidst today’s fast-paced life. However, these simple, quick poses can easily fit into tight schedules. Taking time for yourself is vital for a healthy body and happy mind. So don’t feel guilty for pressing pause on a daily basis. Here’s your guide to weaving our top 5 favourite relaxing yoga poses into your daily routine for improved sleep and reduced stress.

CREATE A PRE-SLEEP YOGA ROUTINE

Setting up your pre-sleep yoga routine can be super helpful for a peaceful transition to nighttime and unwinding the mind. Follow these key steps to make your practice a consistent and restful nightly ritual.

  • Create a Calm Space: Dim the lights, play gentle music, and consider a calming scent, like lavender, from a candle or diffuser.
  • Sequence for Success: Follow the order of the poses above, starting with Legs up the Wall and finishing with Corpse Pose for optimal relaxation.
  • Mindful Breathing: Emphasise deep, rhythmic breathing throughout to amplify relaxation and ready yourself for sleep.

Extra Tip: A warm shower before bed can help your muscles to relax even more.

Create an evening routine to aid with relaxation

MORNING MAGIC: START YOUR DAY RIGHT WITH YOGA

While evening yoga aids restful sleep, a morning routine is equally transformative. Moreover, it grounds you, sets you up for your daily tasks ahead, and prepares you better for any challenges or stressful situations you may encounter:

Benefits of practicing yoga in the morning:

  • Revitalises the Body: Morning yoga gently awakens the body, enhances circulation and eases nighttime stiffness.
  • Sharpens The Mind: Prioritising breath and movement boosts focus and mental clarity for the tasks ahead.
  • Promotes Positivity: Starting with tranquillity can foster a calm, positive outlook all day.

If you can’t make it to your local yoga studio, incorporate poses like the Extended Child’s Pose or Reclined Butterfly Pose to seamlessly transition into your morning ritual, thus balancing body and mind.

Extra Tip: To ‘wake up’ and mobilise your spine, add some cat-cow stretches to your routine.

Roll out your mat at home if you can’t make it the studio

HOW OFTEN & HOW LONG SHOULD I PRACTICE THESE RELAXING YOGA POSES

Finding the right balance for these poses can significantly influence their effectiveness. Let’s explore some guidelines to help you make the most of your yoga routine:

Consistency Matters: Practise your yoga routine 3-4 times a week. It doesn’t have to be the same sequence of postures every time. Maybe start with Viparita Karani (Leg Up The Wall) one day, and finish with this posture the next time you practice. You will soon notice that your body will link these poses to relaxation and better sleep.

Timing: Start with at least 1 minute per pose, gradually working up to 5 minutes or more. If a pose is particularly relaxing, feel free to extend it. Trust and listen to your body’s signals.

DIVE DEEPER WITH YOGA RETREATS

Are you intrigued by the transformative power of these yoga poses? Take your journey a step further by immersing yourself in the bliss of a yoga retreat. Dedicate days to your wellbeing, surrounded by the tranquillity of nature, away from daily distractions. Not only will you refine your poses, or rekindle with your practice, but you’ll also disconnect from the digital world, and find time to truly relax.

For Melbourne residents, this opportunity awaits close to home. Discover serene yoga retreats nestled among the lush rainforests of the Otway Ranges and the picturesque vineyards of the Yarra Valley. Our yoga retreats in Victoria include daily yoga & Pilates, complemented by meditation, nourishing meals, and bonding with a like-minded community. Want to practice yoga and travel the world? We also host women-only retreats in Bali and Europe.

RELAXING YOGA POSES: TIME TO REFLECT

Incorporating a yoga routine in your daily life is more than just a pathway to better sleep and reduced stress; it’s a commitment to holistic wellbeing. At its core, yoga’s essence is unity, harmonising mind, body, and spirit. As you embrace mindful movement and nurturing yoga postures, allow each breath to bring you closer to a calmer state of mind. Relish the journey, and restful sleep combined with stress-free awakenings will naturally follow.



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