Yogic techniques for better sleep

By Ann Swanson

A yoga therapist can help you tailor an individual routine to soothe your nervous system, promoting, among other benefits, a good night’s sleep. They might even recommend particular practices throughout the day to set a calmer stage.

But a few basic poses you can do in the comfort of your own bed may be a great starting point! Try spending a few minutes in these positions to help your body gently unwind and your mind settle for a restful night.


1. Legs up the wall (or headboard)

Bring your legs/feet up the wall behind your bed, or rest them on the headboard. Your legs do not have to be straight or flat against the wall; find a distance from the wall that’s comfortable for you.

Feel free to bend your knees—a little or a lot—to relieve strong sensation in the back of your thighs. (A strong stretch isn’t the point!)

Stay here for 3–10 minutes, noticing your breath rising and falling.

This pose can help you to decompress, reduce swelling in your ankles and legs if you’ve been on your feet all day, and, according to yogic tradition, calm your nervous system.


2. Figure-four pose

Lying on your back with your head and neck comfortably supported, bend your knees and put your feet flat on the bed. Hug your right knee into your chest; turn that knee out and bring the right ankle to the front of your left thigh into a number-4 shape. Reach your right arm through the opening created, and hold onto your left shin or thigh. (If it’s not comfortable to hold on with the hands, try looping a towel behind your thighbone, holding one end in each hand.)

Hold here for about 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

This pose stretches the deep gluteals, a large muscle group that can tighten from too much sitting, and therefore may help to relieve overall tension in your body. For some people, this pose eases symptoms of sciatica (depending on what’s causing the issue).


3. Butterfly pose

Bring the soles of your feet together. You may want to rest your legs on pillows if the pose feels intense or you’re not able to consciously relax your hip and thigh muscles; add support under the outsides of the legs to avoid any knee or hip-joint pain, too.

Stay here for up to several minutes, slowly allowing your inner thighs to relax further.

When you are done, rest your legs out in front of you to go to sleep peacefully. A pillow or rolled towel behind the knees might feel especially nice to the lower back.

Have you tried any of these yoga poses as part of a wind-down routine? Let us know about your experience in the comments!


Ann Swanson, MS, C-IAYT, LMT, E-RYT 500, is the author of Science of Yoga. She helps people safely manage stress and chronic pain online, including via free video practices and information on virtual yoga therapy.


*As with any yogic practice, please do what’s best for your own system and follow recommendations from your personal healthcare providers.