One Perfect Move: The 2-Minute Yoga Flow for Better Sleep
Master yoga instructor Bethany Lyons shares a before-sleep flow you can do without leaving your bed.
This before-bed yoga flow will take you from ah to z’s in just two minutes.
As a master yoga instructor who has programmed fitness classes, Bethany Lyons (trainer, yoga instructor, and founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga studios in New York City) is a true muscle whisperer who knows how to firm them up and bliss them out.
“This chilled-out flow will ease fatigue and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s mechanism to help you feel relaxed,” she says. It starts in child’s pose with a twist, then systematically targets those typically tight spots along your kinetic chain, from shoulders to hips, glutes, and hamstrings. “That tension does not bode well for a restful slumber,” Lyons says. (Psst: Here's more about how sleep and exercise are connected.)
But this is not about getting competitive with how far you can go with each stretch: “Hold each pose at the hurts-so-good point—no sharp pain!—for five, 10, or even 15 breaths,” she says. “To feel release requires time and steady breathing.” The best part? You can do the entire flow from your bed or on your bedroom floor. (Use these tips to maximize your at-home yoga practice, including how to make it a super zen atmosphere.)
Before you start, keep these before-bed yoga tips in mind: “To help calm the mind, maintain a drishti point [a fixed gaze on one spot] for each pose,” says Lyons. "And focus on your breath. With any unwanted thoughts, simply picture breathing them in and out one at a time.” (Want more strategies to get zen before bed? Also try these other yoga poses for better sleep and meditating to fall asleep.)
Before-Bed Yoga Flow for Better Sleep
How it works: Settle in to a comfy spot on your bed or floor, and cue up the video or follow along below.
You'll need: Enough space for you to lie down with legs extended. Yoga block/blanket are optional.
Start on hands and knees. Shift hips back onto heels, keeping arms stretched out on the mat. Open knees wide to open up the hips, or keep them together for more lower back support. Place a block, pillow, towel, or blanket under the forehead to relax even further. Hold for five breaths.
Thread the Needle
From child's pose, thread the right arm under the left arm, resting on the right shoulder. Feel the stretch in the left side body and in the right shoulder. Hold for five breaths. Switch sides; repeat.
Seated Single-Leg Extension with Side-Body Stretch
From child's pose, shift to sit on the floor or bed with the right leg extended forward, left foot pressed into the right inner thigh with the knee resting to the side. Flex the right foot, and fold forward over the right leg. To make it even more restorative, place a rolled towel or small pillow under the extended knee. Hold for five to 10 breaths. Sit up, open chest to the left, then reach the left arm overhead past the right foot. Look up toward the ceiling and feel the stretch along the left side body. Hold for five breaths. Switch sides; repeat.
Sitting on the floor or bed, bend both legs in as if sitting cross-legged, but stack one leg on top of the other, so the top knee is over the ankle, and the top ankle is over the bottom knee. Sit tall or fold forward over legs, with the option to place a block or pillow beneath the forehead. Hold for 10 breaths. Switch sides so the opposite leg is on top; repeat.
Seated Forward Fold
From double pigeon, extend both legs forward. Fold forward over legs with feet flexed, grabbing onto shins or feet if possible. Hold for 10 breaths.
From seated forward fold, sit up tall, then slowly roll back to lie face-up on the floor. Hold for as many breaths as necessary to relax.
Shape Magazine, October 2019 issue