7 Yoga Poses to Help You Sleep Better

woman restful sleep

Can’t fall asleep? Too much on your mind? Body won’t be still and let you rest? There are yoga poses that are known to calm the body to help you sleep better at night. Setting up the conditions for calm and making these poses part of your nightly ritual can help you get a good night’s sleep.

When you are well rested, your brain functions better, your muscles regenerate more quickly after injury, and you are better able to express your emotions. One study found that sleep deprivation results in the loss of memory and insight formation, which are the essential building blocks of learning, creativity, and scientific discovery. Getting no sleep or poor quality sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and weight gain. Approximately 30 percent of adults experience difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, problems with waking up too early, and poor quality of sleep.

Creating a before-bed routine that includes relaxing yoga poses can help you sleep better and allow you to wake feeling rejuvenated. A few minutes in Legs Up the Wall or Pigeon pose and dreamland awaits? Worth a shot! In general, relaxing or restorative yoga—rather than power yoga—has a calming effect on the body and mind. A regular yoga practice can also boost immunity, lower blood pressure, help focus attention, calm the nervous system, improve posture, release stress and tension, and encourage physical, mental, and emotional healing.

Other healing tools such as pranayama, meditation, and yoga nidra can be helpful in getting good sleep. Pranayama techniques, or breathing exercises, such as nadi shodhana, sama vritti, and focusing on long, steady exhales assist in relaxing the nervous system, which prepares the body for sleep. Meditation techniques such as watching the breath, repeating mantras, or using a mala necklace are relaxing and good for winding down from your day. Yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, is also a sweet segue into slumber.

If you’re searching for relaxing yoga poses to help you sleep better, consider the seven poses described below. Try them as a sequence or pick and choose the ones that feel the best to you. Begin your evening yoga practice by setting up the conditions for calm: make your space dark, make your space quiet or put on soothing music, keep yourself warm but not hot, and get prepared to settle in for awhile. Sweet dreams and namasté!

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1. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

Try this standing yoga pose when you want to stretch your legs, release tension in your neck, allow your spine to unwind from a long day, and to begin to energetically turn inward as you move toward slumber.

Quality: Reflective

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet as wide as your hips or wider. 
  • Bend your knees and slowly roll down and fold your upper body over your legs.
  • Keep a generous bend in your knees and allow your upper body, torso, arms, and head to hang heavy.
  • Shake out your head and hair and relax your jaw.
  • Sway gently side-to-side and forward and back to feel all parts of your feet on the ground.
  • Stay folded and experiment with different arm variations for one to five minutes. Roll up slowly or bend your knees and come down to the floor.

2. Thread the Needle

Try this yoga pose to stretch your upper back, release stress and tension in your neck and shoulders, and unwind your spine after a day of sitting or standing.

Quality: Change of perspective

How to do it

  • Come down to your hands and knees. Pad your knees with a blanket if they are sensitive.
  • Keep your left hand grounded and reach your right arm out and up.
  • Look up toward your hand and take a big breath in.
  • As you breathe out, thread your right arm all the way under your left.
  • Rest your right shoulder and the side of your head on the ground. Actively push the back of your right hand into the earth to intensify the stretch in your upper back.
  • Place your left hand on the floor for stability or reach that arm up and wrap it around your back.
  • Rock your hips side to side until you feel settled and hold for several deep breaths.
  • Unwind back to your hands and knees. Try a few cow and cat stretches to release your spine from the twist.
  • Repeat on the second side.

3. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Raja Kapotanasa)

Try this classic hip stretch to relieve tension in your low back and hips, stretch your hip flexors and the fronts of your thighs, and begin to energetically turn inward as you wind down from your day.

Quality: Reflective

How to do it:  

  • From hands and knees or Downward-Facing Dog, slide your right knee and shin forward toward your hands. Create a number “7” shape with your front knee and back leg.
  • Extend your left leg long behind you and lower your hips.
  • Adjust your right foot forward as far as is comfortable to allow for some sensation but no pain.
  • Rock from side to side as you settle in.
  • Rest your hands, elbows, or forehead down on the mat in front of you.
  • Stay for several minutes breathing deeply.
  • Repeat on the second side.

4. Supported Fish (Matseyasana)

Try this heart-opening yoga pose to release and relax tension in your chest, shoulders, upper back, and neck, and energetically open yourself up to self-love and compassion.

Quality: Open-hearted

How to do it:

  • Come to sit on your yoga mat and gather your block, bolster, or roll of blankets.
  • Roll back onto your support props until they rest just beneath your shoulder blades. It is not an exact positioning! Roll around, move the props, and adjust until you feel comfortable.
  • Tip your head back onto your mat or onto another prop for support.
  • Rest your arms open or down to your sides.
  • Extend your legs out in front of you. If you experience low back tenderness, place a pillow or blanket beneath your knees.
  • Settle into stillness and stay in the pose for three to five minutes. Relax your shoulders, neck, and forehead. Breathe deeply.
  • Roll gently to your side, slide the props out, and come to your back.
  • Bring your knees back into your chest and roll around on your back a little bit.
  • Take a few moments to rest flat on your back.

5. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Try this seated yoga pose to stretch your legs, relax your back, and energetically turn your awareness toward your breath, intuition, and inner world.

Quality: Reflective

How to do it

  • Come down to a seated position. 
  • If your low back or hamstrings feel tender or very tight, sit up on the edge of a blanket or pillow.
  • Extend your legs straight out in front of you. Flex and point your feet a few times. Then flex your feet by drawing your toes back toward your face.
  • Sit up well with your spine tall.
  • Reach your arms up to the sky and enjoy a deep breath in.
  • As you breathe out, fold forward over your legs any amount.
  • Let your hands land on your thighs, knees, shins, ankles, or feet.
  • Allow your head to tip forward and relax your neck or rest your forehead on a block, pillow, or your legs.
  • Stay for one to five minutes while breathing deeply.

6. Twist on a Bolster

Try this relaxing pose over a bolster, pillow, or blanket roll for a gentle decompression of the spine, massage for the abdominal organs, and opportunity to energetically change your point of view with a twist.

Quality: Change of perspective

How to do it

  • Bring a bolster or roll of blankets in front of you.
  • Come to your seat and curl your knees over to your left side. Bring the bolster up against your right hip.
  • Bring one hand on each side of the bolster. Inhale and elongate your spine. Turn and twist toward your right as your exhale.
  • Inhale and get long again. Drape your torso over the prop as your exhale.
  • Rest your belly, ribs, chest, and one cheek on the pillow.
  • Rest your arms on the earth out to your sides or around the pillow.
  • Adjust the depth of your twist by turning your head away from your knees or sitting up halfway and resetting your twist.
  • Stay and breathe deeply for one to five minutes. Then, unwind from the twist, try a few cow and cat stretches to release your spine from the twist.
  • Repeat on the second side.

7. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

Try this reclining pose against a wall or on your bed to release tension and inflammation in your legs and feet, soothe your nervous system, and lower your blood pressure.

Quality: Calming.

How to do it:

  • Sit next to the wall and roll down to your side.
  • Swing your legs up the wall and move as close to the wall as is comfortable for the backs of your legs.
  • Rest a blanket under your head as a pillow and under your low back for support.
  • It can also feel grounding to put a folded blanket on top of your feet, especially if the weather is cold.
  • Breathe deeply and hold as long as you’d like.
  • If you choose to practice this pose on your bed, roll right into sleep from here.

Sleep is an essential element in a well-balanced life. If there is anything natural and healthy that can help you get a good night’s sleep, it’s worth a try. Yoga poses, breath awareness, and creating a calm environment can assist you in the getting better sleep. When you are well rested, you will be able to show up as your best self for your family, friends, coworkers, and community. Try out the yoga poses suggested and see if they help in releasing physical, mental, and emotional tension built up in your body. Here’s to a night of good rest and sweet dreams!

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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About the Author
woman smiling in yoga pose

Lena Schmidt

Certified Yoga Instructor
Whether it’s exploring the local trails, playing pretzel on the yoga mat, or diving into a book on inner peace, Lena loves an adventure. You can find her teaching yoga in San Diego, leading retreats near and far, and empowering others to be the change they wish to see in the world. Learn more about Lena at www.yoginilena.com The spiritual aspects of yoga have aided Lena in the never-ending search for peace, calm, and positivity within, and she’s passionate about sharing these tools with others. She is intentional about taking yoga off the mat and loves finding the bridges between the heart and mind, the individual and community, and mindfulness and expression...Read more