Add these restorative yoga poses to your night time routine to take away the day’s stress.
Hands up if you’ve ever got into bed still buzzing from the day? Keep your hands up if you couldn’t sleep while you lay on sore muscles and bones, and rattled through all of the day’s stress in your brain? You’re not alone: our busy lives mean we’re go, go, go until we crash into bed, but that means we never put aside any of the physical or mental stress from the day.
Yoga can have lots of different effects on our body, from energising us in the morning to reducing pain. It’s also the perfect form of movement for right now, when the hot weather demands we opt for less intense exercise: a stretch can help you reap the benefits of movement without getting overly exerted and sweaty. But the one thing all practices have in common is the ability to slow us down, meaning it’s the perfect tool to help us unwind after busy days.
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“Yoga helps to calm your mind when it’s racing, over thinking everything you’ve been doing in the day and what you’ve got to do the next day,” says yoga teacher Ebony Flow. “It’s a great way to sit still, take a deep breath in and release stress after a long day. Scientifically, it engages the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body to relax and will give you a deeper, better quality sleep.”
Stretches will also help relieve physical tension that we build up from exercising, sitting at our desk, or walking around with bad posture Ebony says. “We build a lot of aches, pains and tension in the shoulders, spine and hips. Yoga will release all of that.”
Unlike a morning sequence, when your stretches might be more dynamic and focus on flowing through the practice, a wind down practice might be a bit more gentle, focusing on passive, restorative postures.
Ebony has shared some of her favourite relaxing stretches for you to try.
Come down onto your knees and fold your body down towards the floor with your arms extended out, keeping the legs as narrow or wide as is comfortable. “This is really great for releasing tension in the hips and stretching the back out after a long day,” says Ebony. “It’s a passive pose that feels really soothing.” Ebony recommends holding for anywhere from five breathes to all evening: “you can stay here for as long as is comfortable and necessary for you.”
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Simply sit or lie on on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall open. “This takes away tension in the hips, because it’s another passive pose and gravity is doing the work,” explains Ebony.
“This is great to release tension after a long day sat in uncomfortable positions,” says Ebony. Coming on to your hands and knees, arch the spine down as you inhale and as you exhale bend the opposite direction push the spine away from the floor, keeping your shoulders away from the ears.
“These are great for stretching out the lower back, the hamstrings, and the calves, places where we build a lot of tension as well throughout the day,” says Ebony. They can be done sitting or standing, depending on what feels the most comfortable for you. To do this seated, come onto the floor taking your legs wide and fold your upper body down towards the floor. “You don’t have to set aside a load of time for this – I do it in front of the TV,” says Ebony. For standing folds, bring feet hip width apart and take your head to your knees, either bringing the arms up behind you or hold either elbow in front of you.
Legs up the wall
Lying down on the floor or your bed, simply lift your legs up in the air. You can leave them free or lean them against the wall. “This is a great alternative to handstands while still being an inversion. It’s the simplest way of being upside down, which is known to relax the nervous system,” says Ebony.
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).