If you’re someone who struggles to wind down before bed, releasing the day’s tension with a tried and tested stretching routine is a way to put your mind to rest, before your body follows.
We’ve picked five pre-slumber stretches designed to spread calm through your body and brain before bed. Try one (or all) of them for between five and fifteen minutes before sleep, and notice if you sense a difference.
The Forward Fold
There’s nothing like letting it all hang out at the end of a long day, and a forward fold (known as Uttanasana by yogis) will allow your body to do just that.
Standing with your feet hip width apart, slowly reaching down to touch the earth. Don’t worry if this isn’t possible; comfort is key to relaxation. Touch your thighs or calves if it’s better.
Grab your elbows whilst you hang, swinging gently from left to right. Hold for up to 15 seconds. Feel the release of tension in the spine and the stretch in your hamstrings- important if your work is both sedentary or mobile.
Up The Wall Pose
Unbeknownst to us, we’ve been yogis since childhood once doing acrobatics like the legs-up-the-wall pose or 'Viparita Karani', as it is more officially known, without even thinking. Elevating the legs is a great move for those who work on their feet and is a stretch done as easily on a bed as it is on the floor.
“Elevating the legs allows blood flow to travel back towards the heart, reducing inflammation”, says yoga instructor Sarah Levey.
Lie on your back and get comfortable, ensuring your neck is supported. When you're ready, prop your legs up against the wall. If you want to really feel the stretch, scoot your bottom all the way up against the wall so that your body is at an almost perfect right angle. Stretch your arms out on either side of you, reach with your fingers as though you could touch the other walls and breathe.
Up The Cobra
A far less dangerous pose than it sounds, cobra is a move to complete on your front. Lie face down- on bed or floor- and raise your torso up by pushing yourself away from the ground with your hands.
Open your chest whilst taking long, considered breaths. Cobra will strengthen your core and re-align the spine whilst decreasing stiffness in the lower back. Release yourself by lowering your chest and forehead to the ground. If you’re on bed already, simply roll over and welcome sleep.
Perhaps the most humorously titled of the yoga positions, happy baby pose is joyful, satisfying and can best of all can be done from the comfort of your bed.
Aptly named for the total embodiment of a baby with no cares, lie on your back and grab your feet above your torso. Rock from side to side, enjoying the massaging of your spine.
If holding your feet is something that’s not coming easily, try looping a dressing gown tie over your feet and holding it in your hands, ready to rock the cares away.
One for the morning as well as before bed, child’s pose is a rest pose during a yoga sequence. To enjoy a very gentle stretch, fall into place by kneeling hip width apart, following by bringing the hands down in front of you. Lay your torso out in a bow so your forehead touches the floor.
Focus on breathing in all of these stretches, allowing concentration to ready you for rest. The results should be a sense of calm and relaxation before sleeping, or a feeling of rested readiness on waking up.