With the sun streaming through the window as I write, it’s clear summer has well and truly arrived here in the UK. For many, this heatwave means a calendar crammed with social events, hot summer nights, disrupted sleep and a lack of energy. If you’re craving time to slow down, it can be helpful and relaxing to build a bedtime yoga sequence into your day.
SOL expert Clem Balfour has put together five poses that will help you create a sense of calm and prepare your body for sleep.
This bedtime yoga sequence is designed to create more space around the heart, spine and upper back areas. These poses can be done separately or as a short 10-minute sequence before bed. Don’t worry if you don’t have a yoga mat, a soft rug or towel will be fine, and you can easily practise in your pyjamas.
Find a comfortable seated position, lifting the hips a little higher than the knees by propping yourself up on a cushion or rolled up yoga mat.
Allow your hands to rest in your lap or on your knees with the palms turned up to receive the pose.
Start by noticing your breath, allowing yourself a few moments to become aware of your in breath and out breath. Notice where your breath starts and ends. Is the breath shorter or shallower that you expected? Is it cooler when you breathe in and warmer as you breathe out?
As you breathe in, you can feel the belly naturally expanding and contracting. Perhaps place your hands on the belly to build a deeper connection with the breath. Stay here with the breath moving in and out of the body for 8 – 10 breaths.
Cow pose offers a gentle massage to the spine, inviting the breath to lengthen with each exhale. It targets the front of the torso and neck, inviting space around the front area of the body, which is great if you’ve been sat down in front of a computer all day.
Come on to your hands and knees in a table-top position with the fingers spread wide.
Check your shoulders and elbows are in a line and perpendicular to the floor and your hips are lined up over your knees.
As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest towards the ceiling, so your belly starts to sink to the floor. Lift the head gently and look straight forward. Exhale and come back to a neutral table top position on your hands and knees.
Repeat this with the breath, moving from inhale to exhale 10 – 15 times.
This is one of my favourite balances and a great pose to help you feel more grounded and steady at the end of the day. Just as trees have roots, see if you can visualise shoots growing out of your feet and into the floor beneath you to create a stronger sense of balance in this pose.
Begin in a standing position. If you’re feeling wobbly, set yourself up near a wall. Spread the toes evenly on both feet and connect with your inhale and exhale.
Start with your right side by shifting the weight into your right foot. Bend your left knee and place the sole of the left foot so it rests on the inner side of your right calf.
Move your hands so they’re resting in prayer at the heart centre, letting the spine be long and tall. Slowly draw your tailbone down, your lower belly in and find a gaze point to focus on directly in front of you. Soften your jaw and keep the focus on your breath.
To challenge yourself, draw the left leg up higher, so the left sole of the foot presses into the right thigh (never on the knee) and the right thigh presses into the sole of the left foot. Try doing the pose with your eyes closed and see how this affects your balance.
Repeat the same on the left side with the right foot.
This pose can be done at any time of day as it helps calm the brain and can reduce stress and fatigue in the body. It’s perfect to open up the hips and lengthen your spine. It’s also a pose the body is familiar with as most of us will have done it since we were babies.
Lie on your back, bend your knees and hug them into your chest on an inhale. Broaden your shoulder blades, creating space between them and between the ears and shoulders.
Slowly take hold of the outside edges of your feet, bringing the knees a bit wider than your torso and up towards your armpits.
Flex the feet and heels and create a dual action as you push your feet into your hands, drawing the hands down into the feet to create a feeling of resistance.
If you are struggling to hold the outside edges of the feet, you can take hold of your ankles or use a belt or dressing gown cord to wrap around each sole. Try and keep the tailbone softly pressing down into the floor.
Stay here for 8-10 breaths.
This is a deeply nurturing pose that can help relieve back and neck pain, gently stretching the hips, thighs and ankles. It can feel nice to place a soft blanket or cushion underneath the forehead to create a greater sense of grounding through the whole body.
Come on to your hands and knees, taking the knees wide so the big toes come to touch. If the sitting bones are far away from the heels, you can place a rolled blanket or cushion beneath them.
On an exhale, lower the torso between your thighs and extend your arms forward so the torso, forehead and arms rest on the floor.
As you inhale and exhale, visualise sending the breath to the back of the body here, creating space around the lower back and kidney area.
To make this more of a restorative pose, place some cushions or a bolster between your thighs and lie the torso on here, with the side of your left or right cheek resting on the cushions. Stay here for 10 – 20 breaths, or longer if it feels good.
You could also practise this sequence in the morning, but if you fancy more of a flow and stretch, you might want to start the day with a series of sun salutations.
Love Lizzie, Clem and the SOL team x