Yoga flow for better sleep

  • 15 Jan - 21 Jan, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly

For many people, sleep (and the process of getting to that point) is a delicate dance: no afternoon coffee pick-me-ups after 3 pm, A/C and fan on full blast, cooling eye mask, weighted blanket, and a white noise machine piping whale calls from the corner of the room.

Oftentimes, though, no matter how precisely you try to time the perfect fall-asleep routine, your snooze still suffers. And much of the reason for lacklustre snooze? You guessed it: boatloads of stress.

Granted, while it can be difficult to rid yourself of stress entirely, there are some things you can do to help ease the effect that stress has on your body. For example, doing yoga for better sleep. Science has found that the practice itself, which relies on gentle stretching, deep breathing, and mindfulness, releases a brain chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been shown to aid in your body's response to stress by reducing inflammation and keeping your mood elevated.

Here, we share a 15-minute flow of yoga for better sleep. For each pose, allow for five to 10 deep breaths. Focus on each breath. As thoughts come into your head, even stressful ones, allow them – this is your time to release and let go. But don't dwell [on those negative thoughts].

Seated breathing

Sit cross-legged on the floor or bed, propping a blanket or block underneath hips if desired. Ground through sit bones and draw the crown of head toward the ceiling. Place one hand on the belly and the other hand on the heart, inhaling to fill lungs with as much air as possible. Allow eyes to close. Hold for one to two counts, then release while exhaling. Take another deep breath in, feeling the heart open and expand. Hold for a few moments, then exhale again with an audible sigh. Take another deep breath in, when releasing, this time envision letting go of all the stress and chatter of the day. Hold for roughly five to 10 more breaths.

Side stretch

From a cross-legged seated position, inhale to press palms together and reach both arms up toward the ceiling. Hold for a moment at the top, then exhale while slowly bringing the right hand roughly six inches to the outside of the right thigh. Extend the left arm up over the ear while bending upper body slightly to the right, feeling a stretch in the left obliques and back. Gaze up toward fingertips and allow eyes to gently close. Take a moment at the top to breathe, feeling the chest and stomach stretch and expand during the inhale, then deflate during the exhale. Take a deep breath and inhale to return to center, repeating on the opposite side. Hold each side for five to 10 breaths.

Seated twist

Still in a seated cross-legged position, plant both hands behind back on the floor. Open up the chest and gently bend backwards, allowing chin to tilt up and head to dip back slightly. Hold for a few counts. Inhale, bringing arms back up to center with palms pressed together. Exhale and plant the right hand behind body and left hand on the outside of the right knee, using the left hand to gently twist torso further to the right. Exhale, then inhale, and exhale again, attempting to twist a bit further with each exhale. "Wring out" all the unnecessary energy and stress stowed away in the body. Hold for roughly five to 10 counts, then release, coming back to a neutral cross-legged position.

Bridge pose

Move to lie face-up on the floor or bed, arms extended by sides and palms pressing into the floor or bed. Bend knees, planting the soles of feet into the floor or bed. Inhale as to lift hips into the air, squeezing glutes at the top. Continue to take deep breaths in and out. (Optional: Place hands underneath lower back for support, or position a soft pillow beneath shoulders.) Hold for roughly five to 10 breaths and release. Hug knees into chest for a few counts, then release legs down to the mat.


Continue to lie face-up, hands turned slightly toward the sides in a neutral position. Close the eyes and take a deep breath, filling the chest and stomach with as much air as possible. Hold for a few seconds, then exhale, allowing the chest and stomach to deflate. Continue to repeat this inhale-exhale pattern until ready to climb under the sheets.