This article was originally published on September 12, 2016.
A wind-down routine before bed is just as important as a wake-up routine before starting your day. The goal of a bedtime routine is to relax both the mind and body so that you can have a good night’s sleep. That means falling asleep faster and sleeping more deeply. Along with things like a warm bath, evening meditation, and drinking a cup of chamomile tea, a short stretching routine can do wonders before bed. There are several stretches you can do that will relax the muscles that have been stressed all day at work and help you sleep better. When done properly, stretching can be a form of meditation. Breathing deeply and consistently while holding gentle stretches puts the body into a state of relaxation. Your mind slows down, and your muscles start to release. Here are 5 stretches you can do for a good night’s sleep.
1. Wall Straddle– Having our legs raised up is so beneficial to our bodies. It allows for easier blood flow which slows down our heart rate and helps relax our bodies. After being vertical all day long, it’s healthy to kick up your feet for a little bit. Putting your legs up against a wall while lying on the ground is a gentle way to create an inversion effect without having to do a headstand. While in the legs up the wall position, you can get a good inner thigh hip opening stretch. The wall straddle uses gravity to stretch the adductors. Lying on the ground with your legs up the wall, slowly split your legs open until you start to feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Hold this position. If you cannot hold it for at least a minute, then you have gone too deep too quickly. Once you relax into the stretch you may find that your hips will release some and you can go deeper, letting the legs fall closer to the ground. When coming out of this stretch, make sure to take your time and let the inner thighs recover in a straight leg position before getting up.
2. Wall Glute Stretch-While still in the legs up the wall position, you can loosen up tight glutes that have been compressed from hours of sitting or driving. Bend one leg so that your foot is flat against the wall at 90 degrees. Cross the free ankle over the other thigh. This stretch can be done without a wall but having a wall to press your foot against allows you to relax your arms that would otherwise be pulling your leg in to feel the stretch. The closer your butt is to the wall, the deeper the stretch on the glute of the leg that is turned out. Repeat on the other leg and hold each side for 1 minute.
3. Spine Twist– Release tension in your lower back, cleanse the body of toxins, and de-stress with a good spinal twist. Lie on your back, and pull one knee into your chest. Take a deep breath in, and exhale as you rotate your torso to bring your bent leg across your body with your hands. Gently pull your knee towards the ground as you extend the opposite arm straight out on the floor to square off the shoulders and open up the chest. Make sure your spine is in one straight line. You may have to slightly adjust your hips to avoid arching the back too much in the spinal twist. Hold the twist as you breathe deeply into your belly. If you are not able to comfortably stay in a deep twist position, add a yoga block or pillow underneath the bent knee to keep it raised and supported for a less intense twist. Remain in a twist for 1-2 minutes on each side.
4. Chest Opener– Open up your chest or as a yogi would say, your heart. This gentle stretch will open up tight rounded shoulders while helping you to surrender physical and emotional tension. Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of you. Lean back onto your forearms with your elbows bent. Press your forearms into the ground as you squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your heart to the ceiling. If you do not have any neck issues, release the neck, and let your head hang back to stretch the front of the throat and jaw. This may be hard to hold for a longer period so doing several reps may be more comfortable. Do 5-7 slow reps.
5. Child’s Pose– Reverse the back extension from the chest opener with a comforting child’s pose. Stretch the lower back, and calm your mind and body to prepare for sleep. Sit back on your heels with your chest supported by your thighs. Let your head drop and extend the arms out on the ground in front of you. For more of a side stretch, you can walk your hands over to one side, making sure you keep your tailbone down. Repeat in the other direction. This helps release the quadratus lumborum muscle, which also relieves back tension and pain. Always finish with a centered position if you stretch to one side or the other.
Take a few minutes each night to do this bedtime stretch routine. Stay present within each pose with a steady breath. Before you know it, a good night’s sleep will follow your calm mind and relaxed body.
Also by Crystal: 5 Stretches You Should Do Every Morning
4 Shoulder Opening Pilates Exercises (Video)
Related: 5 Yoga Stretches to Relieve Tight Calves and Shins
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Photos: Crystal Chin