Yoga for Sleep: 17 Poses to Help You Relax

December 13, 2019 | Casper Editorial Team

*This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended as medical or other professional advice.
There’s nothing worse than not being able to wind down after a long day. Lying awake at night can start a vicious cycle of sleeplessness that can impact your well-being and productivity.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to help your body relax — yoga is one of them. While some people may think they can’t do yoga, or that they aren’t flexible enough, that’s not always the case. There are many simple and relaxing yoga poses that can be adapted to all bodies.
Certain yoga poses can help you stretch, relax and get in a restful mindset for a good night of sleep. The poses we outline focus on the breath and putting the body in positions that allow for optimal blood flow to the brain, all of which encourage a calm state.
Warning: Those with injuries or chronic pain should approach these poses with caution. Consult your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.

1. Wide-Legged Forward Bend: Prasarita Padottanasana

A cartoon cat making the Prasarita Padottanasana yoga pose.
Relaxes the lower back, hips and spine.
Not only does this standing pose help stretch and strengthen the hamstrings, calves, lower back, hips and spine, but forward bends are known to be very calming. Here’s how you can reap the rewards of both forward folds and inversions by letting your head hang and your neck relax.

  • Stand up tall and walk your feet out wide, turning your toes out slightly.
  • Bending at your hips, fold forward and bring your hands down to the mat right under your shoulders.
  • Soften your knees while releasing your hands and neck.
  • Stay here for a few breaths before slowly rolling up into a standing position.

2. Standing Half Forward Wall Bend: Ardha Uttanasana

A cartoon dog making the Ardha Uttanasana yoga pose against a wall.
Stimulates the organs for better digestion.
This variation of the forward fold lengthens the spine and stimulates the abdominal organs and belly, which has been said to improve digestion. It’s a great way to get your entire body ready for rest and relaxation.

  • Stand about a foot away from the wall, feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend over, pressing your hands against the wall with your palms at the height of your hips.
  • Step back until your back is straight and your torso and arms are parallel to the floor. Your feet should still be shoulder-width apart.
  • Press down into your feet and lengthen all of your limbs. Feel free to adjust your distance to the wall if need be.
  • Breathe deeply for five breaths before slowly walking your feet back toward the wall to stand upright.

3. Standing Forward Bend: Uttanasana

A cartoon ostrich in an Uttanasana yoga pose.
Calms the mind and relieves stress.
Another variation of the forward fold, Uttanasana is a great standing stretch to help calm the brain and relieve stress. A pose that’s easy to perform anywhere, it’s a great addition to any calming yoga sequence.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees.
  • Hold your elbows with opposite hands, exhale and bend at the hip until the top of your head faces the floor.
  • Release tension in your jaw and your neck, allowing your spine to lengthen toward the floor.
  • Hold for 10–15 breaths before slowly straightening back up to a standing position.

4. Three-Part Breath: Dirga Pranayama

A cartoon elephant striking the Dirga Pranayama yoga pose.
Focuses attention and grounds the body.
When doing seated yoga poses, it’s helpful to start with a breathing exercise to focus your attention and ground the body. A three-part breath sequence can help slow your breathing and add to your overall relaxation.

  • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes, relax your face and body, and breathe naturally.
  • Place your left hand on your abdomen and your right hand on the outer right edge of your rib cage.
  • Feel your belly lift and your ribs expand and contract.
  • Next, bring your left hand to your chest and focus on inhaling fully. Feel your chest rise.
  • Release your arms and focus your mind on your breath for 5–10 minutes, inhaling and exhaling fully.

5. Seated Spinal Twist: Ardha Matsyendrasana

A cartoon bear sitting in the Ardha Matsyendrasana yoga pose.
Opens the rib cage and relaxes the spine.
This pose can open your rib cage and relax the spine. It can also help stretch the shoulders, hips, back and neck. While performing the pose, allow your spine to lengthen and keep the crown of your head elevated toward the ceiling.

  • Sit on the ground with your left leg outstretched and the right bent, foot to the outside of the left leg.
  • Inhale, lifting your spine, and take your left hand to your outer right knee. Place your right hand on the floor behind you.
  • Twist deeper, inhaling as you lengthen your spine, hold for 10–15 breaths.
  • Return to center, before repeating the sequence on the other side.

6. Reclining Hero: Supta Virasana

A cartoon llama making the Supta Virasana yoga pose.
Lowers the blood pressure and calms the body.
Supta Virasana can be very relaxing, but keep in mind that you’ll likely need some props for this one. Many people like to use a bolster or a stack of pillows under their back. Remember, you don’t need to overextend your body to reap the benefits of this pose.

  • Kneel on your shins, separating your ankles to sit in between them.
  • Bring your knees as wide as you need for them.
  • Lie back to rest on the ground or a bolster if needed. Support your head with a blanket or pillow.
  • Stay here with eyes closed, focusing on your breath for up to three minutes.
  • To release the pose, stretch one leg out and then the other. Slowly lift your body off the pillows or bolsters.

7. Head to Knee: Janu Sirsasana

Cartoon monkey sitting in the Janu Sirsasana yoga pose.
Stretches the core and eases digestion.
This restorative pose can help stretch the core and ease digestion. While performing this pose, ensure you’re not rounding your spine — the idea is to lengthen.

  • Sit on the floor legs extended straight in front of you. If you need to bend your knees slightly, that’s fine.
  • Bend the right knee out to open your hip, bringing the bottom of your right foot to your left thigh.
  • Bend your torso forward as you exhale, keeping your spine and neck long.
  • Outstretch your hands on either side of your left leg.
  • Breathe in and out slowly for 10–15 breaths.
  • Sit up slowly, then stretch out your right leg slowly before repeating on the other side.

8. Child’s Pose: Balasana

A cartoon sloth laying in the Balasana yoga pose.
Increases circulation to the head, relieving tension.
This is another pose that encourages blood circulation to the head which can help with relaxation and tension relief. One of the more well-known poses, Balasana allows you to stretch your spine, shoulders and neck.

  • Kneel on the floor, touching your big toes together and sitting on your heels.
  • Separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
  • Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs, lengthening your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis.
  • Stretch your hands forward, palms toward the floor.
  • Keep your forehead on the ground and stay here for a few breaths. You may want to gently roll your head from side to side to lightly massage your forehead.
  • After 5–10 breaths, release the pose by slowly sitting upright.

9. Sphinx Pose: Salamba Bhujangasana

A cartoon dog laygni in the Salamba Bhujangasana yoga pose.
Opens the chest and helps combat stress.
This stress-relieving pose can help stretch the spine as well as the chest, lungs and abdomen. Some people like to perform this stretch with the help of a rolled-up towel in a U-shape under their belly to help support the stretch.

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Place your elbows under your shoulders and begin to lift your chest.
  • Draw your shoulders down your back to allow your chest to open.
  • Drop your chin slightly and hold as long as you’re comfortable.
  • Exhale down to the floor to release the pose.

10. Locust Pose: Salabhasana

A cartoon locust in the Salabhasana yoga pose.
Stretches the spine and stimulates the abdominal organs.
Salabhasana is a great starting place for beginner yogis because it prepares the body to do deeper backbends. Known as a “baby backbend” this pose allows your spine to lengthen and your chest to open. It also stimulates the abdominal organs for eased digestion.

  • Lie down on your belly with your arms at your sides, palms facing the floor.
  • Inhale, lifting your chest. Keep your gaze forward.
  • Hold for 10–15 breaths before releasing down and exhaling.

11. Cat and Cow Pose: Marjaryasana and Bitilasana

A cartoon cat and cow in the Marjaryasana and Bitilasana yoga pose.
Eases back pain by stretching the back and flank muscles.
These two poses, often performed together, are helpful for people that wake up with back pain. Since they stretch the back and flank muscles, these poses are said to be relaxing and restorative.

  • Get in a tabletop position with your palms on the floor and knees hip-width apart.
  • Exhale as you tilt the crown of your head and your tailbone toward the ground, arching your spine like a cat. Focus on stretching your shoulder blades apart.
  • When you inhale, bring the crown of your head and your tailbone upwards toward the ceiling, lowering your belly to the floor.
  • Flex slowly between these two poses, holding each for a few seconds.

12. Knees to Chest: Apanasana

A cartoon turtle in the Apanasana yoga pose.
Improves circulation and comforts the body.
This simple pose is said to help relax the mind and body by improving blood circulation and stretching the spine. The act of hugging your legs into your body can be comforting and relaxing.

  • Lie on your back, arms extended out side to side.
  • Exhale and bend your legs to bring your knees to your chest. Clasp your arms around your shins.
  • Release your shoulder blades down to your waist and focus on lengthening your spine.
  • If it’s comfortable, slowly rock back and forth or side to side.
  • Hold for up to one minute and ensure you’re breathing steadily.
  • Exhale and release your legs to the floor.

13. Reclined Bound Angle: Supta Baddha Konasana

A cartoon monkey in the Supta Baddha Konasana yoga pose.
Stimulates the heart and improves circulation.
The full version of this pose can require a bit more flexibility, but keep in mind that you can place blocks or rolled up blankets under your knees as a modification. The pose lets you release, breathe and allow gravity to help you stretch.

  • Lie on your back with your legs and arms outstretched.
  • Bend your knees from and draw your heels in toward your body. Press the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to drop on both sides.
  • Allow your arms to fall open at your sides, palms up.
  • Allow your spine to lengthen along the floor and stretch your tailbone toward your heels.
  • Breath naturally for 1–10 minutes before drawing your knees up to roll out of the pose.

14. Supine Spinal Twist: Supta Matsyendrasana

A cartoon pig in the Supta Matsyendrasana yoga pose.
Aids the kidney and liver in digestion.
If your glutes, chest and obliques are in need of a stretch, this is the pose to do. Often done toward the end of a yoga session, the pose is said to help counteract the hunched back associated with sitting in a chair all day. It’s also, of course, very relaxing.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Extend your arms directly out to the side in a T-shape, keeping your shoulder blades on the floor.
  • Exhale and drop your knees to your left, then gently turn your head to the right. Allow gravity to take your knees as close to the floor as is comfortable.
  • Hold the pose for a few breaths, then bring your head and legs back to center.
  • Exhale and drop your knees to your right while turning your head slowly to the left. After a few breaths, return to center.
  • Hug your knees to your chest for a few breaths, then return your legs to the extended position to come out of the pose.

15. Legs Up the Wall: Viparita Karani

A cartoon flamingo laying in the Viparita Karani yoga pose.
Eases anxiety and helps soothe insomnia.
Viparita Karani is simple but is said to help ease a variety of symptoms including anxiety, insomnia and more. If you want to elevate the pose, you can put a bolster or towels under your lower back to increase the inversion.

  • Sit sideways against a wall. As you lay down on the floor, extend your legs one by one up the wall.
  • With your legs now relaxing on the wall, extend your arms at your sides, palms facing up.
  • Close your eyes and breathe in and out as you feel your shoulders sink toward the floor.
  • Stay here for as long as you feel comfortable, up to five minutes.

16. Happy Baby: Ananda Balasana

A cartoon pony in the Ananda Balasana yoga pose.
Stretches the groin and calms the mind.
This pose stretches the inner groin and spine, and yogis say it calms the mind. If you’re unable to hold your feet with your hands, try modifying the pose with a yoga strap or belt looped around the arches of your feet.

  • Lying on your back, exhale and bring both knees into your chest.
  • Grasp your big toes with your index and middle fingers, pulling your heels up to the ceiling.
  • Keep your tailbone on the ground and tuck your knees into your underarm area.
  • Gently rock back and forth to massage your spine while breathing slowly.
  • Hold the pose for 10–15 breaths before releasing your toes.

17. Corpse Pose: Savasana

A cartoon possum laying down in the Savasana yoga pose.
Puts the body in a state of rest.
Probably the most relaxing pose of them all, savasana is typically the last pose in a yoga class. It’s a restful posture and can be held as long as you like. If you breathe in and out long enough, who knows — you might just fall asleep!

  • Lie on your back, placing a pillow or folded blanket under your knees. Allow your legs to rest fully.
  • Close your eyes and allow your body to feel heavy.
  • Practice relaxing each body part from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.
  • Turn your awareness inward and breathe normally, doing your best to calm your mind.

Does Doing Yoga Before Bed Help Sleep?

The short answer is yes, however, you will need to do poses that relax the body and mind. Studies have shown that people suffering from insomnia who added yoga to their daily routine fell asleep faster, slept for longer and had better sleep quality.
Of course, it’s important to be aware that not all yoga is appropriate for bedtime. Some poses are focussed on energizing the body and may have the opposite effect on helping you sleep. It’s also important to listen to your body — if you ever feel uncomfortable or like you’re over-exerting your body during these stretches, stop immediately.
Another easy way to make sure you get a good night’s rest? Sleep on a comfortable mattress and with sheets that are soft and breathable.