4 Gentle Yoga Poses for Better Sleep

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Ease stress on your mind and tension in your body with this relaxing routine.

yoga for better sleep

If you’re lucky, you drift off to dreamland as soon as your head hits the pillow.

Not that lucky? You’re not alone.

“Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults ages 60 and older,” says Damon Raskin, M.D., a sleep expert in Pacific Palisades, California.

There could be many reasons you can’t fall asleep, from nagging stress that’s keeping you up to pain somewhere in your body to something more serious that might require a doctor’s attention.

Whatever the cause, keeping a regular sleep schedule and following a relaxing bedtime routine can help you get the sleep you need, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Need ideas? Try one or more of these gentle yoga poses for better sleep.

How to Use These Yoga Poses

Think of these poses as a way to help you prepare for bed or relax anytime you want. It’s not a workout—you don’t want to push yourself physically or mentally. Instead, you want to ease stress on your mind and tension in your body.

You can perform these poses wherever you’re most comfortable: on a mat or supportive bed. Most of them can also be done in a chair. If you’re using a mat, take your time getting down and back up from the floor, using as many contact points—a wall, a couch, the floor—to guide yourself.

Pick one or two poses to try at a time, or do them together as a yoga sequence.

As always, safety is key. The yoga poses here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis or heart disease), an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

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Yoga Pose #1: Seated Easy Pose

This pose relaxes the body and helps you tune in to your breathing.

Relax for 1 to 2 minutes

Sit on a mat or supportive bed with your legs crossed. To make it easier, you can use a folded blanket or towel to cushion your butt and hips. If sitting with your legs crossed is uncomfortable, sit tall at the edge of a bed or in a sturdy chair.

Rest your palms on your thighs, and close your eyes. Notice the quality of your breathing. Is it shallow? Is it quick? Slow down your breathing, allowing each inhale and exhale to become longer and deeper. Relax here for one to two minutes.

Yoga Pose #2: Seated Twist

This pose gently stretches your back, chest, and shoulders.

Relax for 3 to 5 breaths per side

Sit on a mat or supportive bed with your legs crossed. To make it easier, you can use a folded blanket or towel to cushion your butt and hips. If sitting with your legs crossed is uncomfortable, sit tall at the edge of a bed or in a sturdy chair.

Inhale. Exhale, and gently twist your torso to the left, using your left hand to support you and reaching your right hand to your left knee. If you can, gaze over your left shoulder. Relax here for three to five breaths. Return to center, and repeat on the opposite side.

Another option: If it’s not safe for you to rotate your torso, keep it forward, and stretch your arms instead. Inhale, and lift your arms up as high as comfortable. Exhale, and lower them back down. Repeat for three to five breaths.

Yoga Pose #3: Supine Knee to Chest

This pose gently stretches your back, hips, glutes, and hamstrings, which are right below the glutes. It can counteract stiffness caused by long periods of sitting—and may help relieve sciatica.

Relax for 10 breaths per side

Lie on a mat or supportive bed with your legs straight. If that’s uncomfortable, bend both knees, and rest your feet on the mat or bed.

Keeping your upper body down, lift your right knee toward your chest as far as comfortable. You can gently grasp the back of your thigh to bring your leg closer to your chest, but don’t force the movement. Relax here for 10 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.

To come out of the pose, sit up slowly, gently rolling to your side first if needed. Check that you feel steady before standing up.

Another option: If lying down is uncomfortable, sit in a chair for seated knee to chest. See how in our guide to yoga moves to ease back pain.

Yoga Pose #4: Resting Pose

If you’ve taken a yoga class before, you may recognize this as savasana or corpse pose. Whatever you call it, it’s the ultimate resting pose that relieves stress and fatigue.

Relax for 3 to 5 minutes

Lie on a mat or supportive bed with your legs straight. Rest your arms at your sides a few inches away from your body, palms facing up.

Close your eyes, and breathe naturally. Allow your body to feel heavy. Relax here for three to five minutes.

To come out of the pose, sit up slowly, gently rolling to your side first if needed. Check that you feel steady before standing up.

Another option: To get even more benefit out of this pose, relax your muscles progressively, or in stages.

With your eyes closed, begin a mental scan of your body. Start at your toes, and work up to your face. As you work your way up your body, notice how each area feels. Then, mentally tell yourself to relax that body part, and feel those muscles relax in response before moving on to the next body part.

Relax your toes. Feel your toes relax. Now, relax your calves. Feel your calves relax. Continue with your thighs, glutes, belly, shoulders, arms, fingers, neck, and face.

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