As a new mom, I know just how hard it can be to get some much-needed sleep at night. At the end of the day, my mind is full of a million things I need to do and sometimes I just can't turn it off. If you have a hard time dozing off at night—or just need a way to unwind before bed—here is a great bedtime yoga routine you can do. These poses will work out the kinks in your body and calm your mind. Put on your PJs and roll out a yoga mat or towel, then just listen to your breath in each pose and let it lull you in to a nice, deep state of rest.
I love this head to knee pose because I feel the contents of my brain dropping in the mat and my mind letting go of excess worries. Roll out your mat or towel and sit comfortably on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Fold one knee into your chest then let it open to the side, placing the sole of the foot on the inner thigh of the opposite leg. Inhale a deep breath then exhale as you fold forward over your extended leg. Stay for 5 to 8 breaths, then move to the next pose, Revolved Janu Sirasasana. You’ll feel your back releasing and the tension melting from your shoulders and neck. You’ll also get a deep stretch in the hamstring of the extended leg and the hip of the folded leg.
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Revolved Janu Sirasasana
Next, open your chest to the ceiling and extend your top arm up overhead toward the foot of the extended leg. Try to twist your torso open and keep lengthening through the sides of your waist. Stay for 5 to 8 breaths. This pose is great for bringing in air to the lungs like a big yawn before bed and stretching out the shoulders, hips, waist, back and thighs. Sometimes we can't sleep because our bodies are all bound up, this pose helps us loosen up before bed. Switch legs and repeat Janu Sirasasana and Revolved Janu Sirasasana on the other side.
Come up to sitting and extend your folded leg forward so both legs are straight out in front of you with your feet flexed. Inhale a deep breath, then exhale and extend forward over your legs into a deep forward bend. Relax your mind, let the stress of the day go, feel your body release after sitting in a desk chair or standing on your feet all day. Hold for 8 to 10 deep breaths. Forward bends help prepare the body for rest.
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Finish with your feet together and knees propped open to the sides. You can place pillows or blocks under both knees if it's too uncomfortable to lie with the knees open. Place your hands on your belly or let them extend out to the sides with your palms facing up. Watch the rise and fall of your belly as you take deep, full breaths and invite peace, calm, and relaxation in to your body. In no time at all, you will be ready to fall asleep.
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.