Before hitting the hay, hit the mat for a soothing stretch sequence that eases muscle tension and improves circulation so you'll sleep better tonight
Stretches to Help You Snooze
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Whether you spend each day at a desk or on your feet, your commute is a quick walk or a long drive, you did a 20-minute HIIT workout or an hour of Pilates, your body gets put through its paces on a daily basis. So it's important to give it a little TLC at the end of the day with a good stretch.
"Stretching not only relaxes you, it also keeps your muscles flexible so you're less likely to experience discomfort during everyday activities," says Sarah Levey, instructor at Y7 Studio in New York City. And doing it before bed can greatly impact and benefit the sleep your body gets throughout the night. "It allows you to release some of the tension you've built up during the day so you can prepare both your body and mind for a good night's sleep," says Levey. For the best shuteye, try this stretching routine created by Levey.
Photo: Corbis Images
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
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Targets: back, neck
Stand with feet about six inches apart and from the hips, fold torso over, reaching towards the ground or bending arms and grabbing opposite elbows above head. Exhale and lengthen down through the crown of your head. Hang and hold for 15 seconds.
'This stretch increases blood flow back to the head," says Levey. "And by swaying back and forth gently, you can also release tension in the hips and legs."
Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
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Targets: hip flexors, hamstrings, quads
Starting in downward facing dog, step right foot outside of right hand and bend the knee, coming to a lunge position, right thigh parallel to the floor, toes turned slightly out. Come down to rest elbows on the ground. Keep neck and spine in line, and press left heel away, keeping hips square. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
"Lizard Pose is a great stretch for the hip flexors, the hamstrings, and the quadriceps," says Levey. For all you desk workers, this one's for you.
Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
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Targets: glutes, hamstrings
Sit facing wall and lie onto your back. Moving buttocks as close to wall as possible, lift legs and rest the back of legs against the wall, legs perpendicular to the ground. Rest with your arms out to sides, palms up. Hold for 15 seconds.
Anyone who spends the day on their feet can benefit from this stretch. "Elevating the legs allows blood flow to travel back towards the heart, reducing inflammation," explains Levey.
Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
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Targets: hamstrings, calves
Sit on the ground, back straight, legs together and stretched out in front of you. Flex feet (keeping them active) and bend forward from hips, reaching for toes (or as far as feels comfortable) with hands. Hold for 15 seconds.
Leg day? Your hamstrings and calves are probably sore if you were doing exercises like good mornings and box jumps. "The farther you stretch here, the more you'll feel it in the back of your legs," explains Levey.
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
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Targets: spine, groin, hips
Lie on your back, lift legs and bend knees, feet flexed towards the ceiling. Grab big toe of each foot with respective hand and further bend knees towards armpits. If able, rock left to right, gently massaging the spine. Hold for 15 seconds.
"Happy baby lengthens and realigns the spine, stretches the inner groin, and can help release your hips," says Levey. After a long day in the office, this stretch can be a lifesaver, helping to rid you of stress.
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Targets: hips, glutes, lower back
Lie on your back with legs extended in fright of you. Lift right leg, bend knee, and hug leg with arms into chest for five seconds. Raise left leg straight up towards ceiling (or as high as you can), bend right knee outward, and place right ankle against left quad. Move hand behind left leg and pull left leg towards body. Hold for 15 seconds.
"Your glutes are the biggest muscles in your body—you use them with every step you take— so they deserve a little love," says Levey. This figure four stretch lengthens them, which releases tightness.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
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Climb into bed and lie down, legs slightly apart and stretched out in front of you, arms long by your sides with palms up. Close your eyes and bring focus to breath. Hold for 15 seconds or until you fall asleep.
The best way to end the day is to let go of everything you're holding onto, especially stress. "By focusing the mind on stillness and bringing awareness to the breath, the body begins to naturally relax, preparing you for a great night's rest," says Levey.