Whether you practice yoga in the morning or in the evening – both options provide benefits. However, if you practice in the morning, you’ll probably end up using all the benefits of your practice on someone else such as your work, family, or friends.
Practicing a nighttime yoga sequence, on the other hand, allows you to enjoy all the beautiful benefits of your evening yoga practice yourself. They are most beneficial to you while you replenish your own body and mind in the most important part of your restoration – during sleep!
“A nighttime yoga practice can be really beneficial to help dissolve tension from our day, leaving us relaxed and calm in our mind and our body setting us up for a really great night’s sleep.”
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6 Benefits a Nighttime Yoga Sequence Will Bring You
1. A Nighttime Yoga Sequences Can Improve Your Sleep
A regular yoga practice can not only improve circulatory health and increase the flow of energy throughout the body, it also engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the so-called rest-and-digest functions (as opposed to the fight-or-flight responses).
Therefore, a bedtime yoga practice will make you feel happier and more at ease and, thus, start the relaxation process required for adequate sleep a little bit earlier. Going to bed relaxed will let you fall asleep easier than going to bed angry and stressed. It also lessens the chances of staying awake agonizing about problems or waking up several times in the middle of the night. The result of such restless sleep would bet that you’d wake up feeling tired and whacked.
Apart from that, a study has shown that people who established a regular evening yoga practice fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning. Another expert report suggests that yoga increases the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
2. A Nighttime Yoga Sequence Helps to Release Stress
Incorporating a bedtime yoga practice into your evening routine is a great way to remove stress gathered throughout the day. In particular, if you are stressed out about something or have something on your mind, yoga can help you clear your head and balance you.
You also want to practice your bedtime yoga sequence in a relaxing environment, which may include candles, low lighting, blankets and essential oils. This environment itself is enough to release stress and – coupled with relaxing yoga poses – will definitely calm you down. There are numerous studies indicating that yoga has the ability to lower the level of cortisol, our stress hormone.
3. A Nighttime Yoga Sequence Can Soothe Tension and Pain
Many people experience aches during the night, especially after a long day at work spent on their feet or sitting at a desk.
Stretching during an evening yoga sequence right before going to bed can reduce uncomfortable tension or pain at the end of the day, which would otherwise interfere with your sleep and make you feel groggy the next day. This is why a major benefit of practicing yoga in the evening is that you can release muscle tension right before you go to bed.
In addition, your muscles may feel more hydrated in the evening than in the morning, which makes them softer and more elastic to safely allow for deeper stretches. The same goes for the nerves in your body, which also are more mobile.
Research has also shown that yoga may help reduce chronic pain in conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis. Such continuously experienced pain can also prevent you from getting restful sleep. So, especially if you suffer from chronic pain, a regularly practiced bedtime yoga sequence can soothe your condition and, thus, further contribute to the quality of your rest.
If you need some inspiration for your nighttime yoga, check out our free Yoga Class Plans collection, which does not only include a sample yoga sequence for the, but also for the morning and for beginners.
4. A Nighttime Yoga Sequence Helps to Quieten the Mind
That tendency to mull over thoughts again and again before going to sleep is probably familiar to many of us. These thoughts can distract us and prevent us from falling asleep right away. The good news is that a bedtime yoga practice can help you to forget about the day’s worries so you can fall asleep more easily without any worrying thoughts.
The focused breathing and mindfulness that yoga requires helps you to empty your head of negative thoughts and bad moments experienced during the day. Smoothing your breath and softening your body will affect your mindset and calm your chattering mind to find rest more quickly.
5. A Nighttime Yoga Sequence Means Quality Time for Yourself
Establishing a bedtime yoga routine is a great way to get some ‘me time’ in the evening. After having spent a lot of time with family, friends, or colleagues throughout the day, an evening yoga practice can be your source of relaxation to recharge your batteries. It allows you to spend some quality time with yourself, which will nourish you and help you find harmony and inner peace.
6. A Nighttime Yoga Sequence Can Improve Breathing
Issues like snoring and sleep apnea are due to incorrect – in particular fast – breathing. These conditions are often caused by stress, respiratory problems, obesity, tension, or circulation problems.
Yoga includes breathing techniques (Pranayama) aimed at controlling the breath. Several studies have found that these could help improve breathing. And improved breathing can help build endurance, optimize performance and keep the lungs and heart healthy. This is why yogic breathing techniques can help to overcome these respiratory problems, resulting in a better night’s sleep.
A Bedtime Yoga Sequence for a Great Night’s Sleep
If you now want to experience the benefits of a nighttime yoga sequence yourself, follow Matt Giordano’s Evening Release which will be really beneficial to help dissolve tension from your day. It’ll leave you relaxed and calm in your mind and body to set you up for a really great night’s sleep.
Make sure you have some props nearby to help you out such as a couple of yoga blocks, a blanket, and a bolster. Feel free to use whatever you can from around your home: pillows, blankets, whatever you’ve got. Throughout this bedtime yoga sequence, focus your attention on your breath and the sensations of your body.
1. Cat & Cow
Start on your hands and knees in a table-top position. Take a moment to tune into your breathing. If you’re familiar with ujjayi breathing, establish this breathing pattern as you inhale and exhale slowly through the nose. The sound of ujjayi is a gentle whisper – almost like a snoring – with a gentle constriction of the throat.
Once you can hear and feel your breath, start moving the body. Arch the spine as you inhale and round the spine as you exhale. Do this a few times before you move your hips back onto the heels for Child’s Pose on an exhale.
On the next inhale, shift your body forward again to come into a table-top position. Arch the back, tuck the toes and look up. Repeat this little sequence, moving into Child’s pose with every exhale and into your table-top position on every inhale.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
Now, tuck your toes and move the back of the pelvis up towards the ceiling to come into your first Downward-Facing Dog. Take your feet wide, bend the knees and wiggle the hips a little bit from side to side to shake up the body and create some movement to allow heat to build. It’s the heat that allows us to dissolve the tension. This is why it’s a good idea to build some heat in the body before getting into a calming and relaxing practice.
Next, come forward into Plank pose and bring the knees down into Child’s pose. Come back up on all fours, arch the spine and look up before you come back into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat this little sequence a few times.
If you’re looking for guidance not only for your nighttime yoga, but for various yoga needs, check out our free Yoga Class Plans collection, which provides sample yoga class plans for a variety of needs and levels.
3. Twisted High Lunge
Having arrived in your last Downward-Facing Dog, take the right leg up, bend the knee to open the hip. Straighten the leg again and square the hip before you step the right foot forward. Place the right hand on the thigh and turn the chest to create a gentle twist. If you want, you can keep the hands on the knee or reach your hand up to the ceiling and take a couple of breaths before you release the hands onto the ground.
Step into Plank pose and the place the knees down for Child’s pose. Then, come forward into your table-top position, arch the spine and transition into Downward-Facing Dog and raise the left leg up for your Twisted High Lunge on the left side.
Finish in Child’s pose and take moment to breathe before you come to your table-top position again and arch the spine. Tuck the toes and come into Downward-Facing Dog. Walk the feet to the front of your yoga mat. Soften the knees and keep the feet wide.
4. Chair Pose
Now, lift halfway for Ardha Uttanasana and, with the next exhale, bow down to rest your chest on your thighs in your Forward Fold (Uttanasana) and repeat this movement a few times.
In your Forward Fold, place your hands on your outer shins with the elbows out and push your shins together with the hands like a brace. Push the back of your heels out so that you feel the hamstrings move away from each other to activate the outer hip muscles. With this activation, start to straighten the legs by pressing the back of the sitting bones up.
Now, place the hands on the knees, bend the knees and lift the chest up to stand up with your hands in front of your heart. Bend the knees for Chair pose, placing the hands on the thighs. Move the hips back and align the knees over the heels. Just like in Uttanasana, push the back of the legs apart and feel the outer hips engage. Lift the belly and the chest and reach the arms overhead. Stay here for a deep breath before you bow forward into your Forward Fold.
5. Extended Side Angle
Lift halfway into Ardha Uttanasana and now step the right foot back so that the left foot is forward. Plant the back heel onto the ground and place the left forearm on the thigh to prepare for Extended Side Angle pose (Parsvakonasana).
To gather some strength in the legs, pull the feet toward each other and feel the activation of your leg muscles up to the pelvis. Press down through the left heel to open the belly and the chest to the right side and reach the right hand up.
Stay in this pose for a couple of breaths before you place the right hand back down onto the ground. Pivot the back heel up and step forward. Lift halfway into Ardha Uttanasana, pressing the backs of the legs apart. Fold forward into Uttanasana and notice the difference between your right and your left side before you repeat this movement on the left side.
6. Side Forward Fold
Lift halfway, step the right foot back and plant the heel down again. This time walk the hands to the inside of the left foot. Use blocks for support so that you can keep your upper body a little bit higher or come onto your fingertips.
Bend the elbows to bow forward as far as you can. Allow the back of the neck to release by drawing the chin slightly into chest and looking at the navel. Surrender the upper body and let it rest upon the stability of the lower body.
Pull your feet gently toward each other to feel the legs contracting. Press your front heel down to create some strength in the buttocks. Upon that strength, let everything relax and surrender the upper body for a few breaths.
To come out of the pose, walk the hands back to the top of your yoga mat, pivot the back heel up and step forward for Uttanasana. Repeat on the left side.
7. Deep Forward Fold
Place the hands onto the outer shins again and push inward with your hands to create that brace. Soften the knees and press the back of the hamstrings, the heels and the calves apart. Create resistance with your hands, as you press the backs of your legs apart into your hands.
Start to lean towards your big toes and lift the sitting bones and the back of your pelvis up. Keeping that length in the legs, place the fingertips to the ground in front of you and lean your bodyweight forward into your fingers. Round the upper back by looking towards your navel.
This flexed position of the spine is calming to the nervous system allows you to release the energy that resides inside of you from your day, creating a sense of calm in the body. However, while you are in the pose, it can be still energizing and there might be a flow of heat through your body. The calming effect of the pose starts when you release the pose.
Having taken a few breaths in this pose, lift halfway and step the left foot back. If you have a blanket nearby, place it underneath the back knee and bring the knee down onto the ground. Move the right foot a little to the right side and place blocks in front of you to rest your elbows onto them.
To relax the nervous system, you can flex the spine by looking towards the navel and rounding the upper back. If you want a little more flexibility in the hips, try to stick the back of the sitting bones up and arch the lower back to increase the stretch.
Try to release the back of the neck and keep the mind focused on the vibration of the breath and the sensations throughout the body. This helps you dissolve any tension in the mind by bringing it into focus and awareness.
Maintain this pose for a few breaths. To come out of the pose, place the blocks and the blanket to the side. Step forward, halfway lift, and then step the opposite leg back to practice this stretch on the other side.
From Downward-Facing Dog, take the right leg up and place the right shin across the yoga mat for Pigeon pose. To make this pose more accessible to your body, you can use a blanket or a bolster to place it underneath the front hip and let your bodyweight sink into the pose.
Avoid falling to the side, try to go straight down into it instead. Prop yourself up as much as you need to. Place the elbows down onto the ground in front of you and round your upper back towards the navel. Lengthen the back of the skull and the back of the neck. Stay here for some deep and relieving breaths.
Lift up your trunk to come out of this pose and step back into Downward-Facing Dog. From here, transition into Plank pose and shift right back into Downward-Facing Dog. Raise the left leg up and place the left shin across the yoga mat for Pigeon pose on the other side. Close the eyes and take as many breaths as you want here. Once you’ve come up, step back into Downward-Facing Dog and shift forward into Plank pose.
10. Pigeon Variation
Come into Downward-Facing Dog and reach the right leg out again. Place the right shin across the yoga mat and keep the blanket placed underneath your hip. This time just take your elbows and your upper body diagonally toward the front foot. This puts a little more weight onto the left side, deepening the stretch for the right hip.
Bow your head down again and focus on the sensations you’re experiencing and the breath moving through your body. Round the spine a little bit more and look towards your navel to relax the nervous system and flex the spine. After a few breaths in this pose, walk the hands back, step into Downward-Facing Dog and shift forward into Plank pose.
Come back into Downward-Facing Dog, lift the left leg and place the left shin across the yoga mat to practice this variation of Pigeon pose on the other side. Soften the back of the neck and breathe into the sensations you’re experiencing.
One of the most relaxing things for the mind is to be completely present. Anxiety, anger, frustration, and all the challenges you may be facing during the day with your emotional swings happen quite often when you’re not present. As you become awake from your breath and from your focus, the mind can settle and soften simply by feeling the body, feeling the breath, and feeling alive.
To come out of the pose, walk the hands back, remove your blanket and come into Downward-Facing Dog. Transition into Plank pose again and shift right back into Downward-Facing Dog.
Since a proper and healthy technique is essential to any part of your bedtime yoga practice, we have compiled an ebook summarizing the basic yoga alignment principles to make your yoga practice safe and efficient. You can download our yoga alignment ebook for free and use it as a quick reference before you roll out your mat.
11. Child’s Pose With Bolster
Place the knees onto the ground, bring the toes to touch and grab a bolster to place it between your thighs. Lean forward to rest your entire upper body on top of it. Turn your head into one direction and surrender completely. You can even close your eyes. Support yourself enough with your bolster to enjoy this moment of complete relaxation. There’s no need to hold yourself up. The ground and the support underneath you will hold you.
As your body starts to melt into the bolster, give your mind something to focus on like your breath or the sensations of your body. After some time, switch your head to the other side. If the mind has wandered, simply drift back to presence and observe your breath and how you feel.
Bring your attention back to your breath. Gently open your eyes and come up off your bolster. Take your bolster to the side and crawl your way forward to lie onto your back.
12. Supine Spinal Twist
Place your hips on the right side of your yoga mat. Shift on to your left hip to bring the right knee across. Place a bolster underneath your right thigh and let your right shoulder settle towards the ground.
For a gentle activation, arch the lower back to make this twist feel a little bit more freeing. Let your breath move through the body and enjoy the feeling of being alive.
Come back to center after a few breaths and shift the hips to the opposite side of your yoga mat to twist to the left side for a few breaths. To slowly come on out of the pose, shift your hips to the center and hug your knees into your chest to get a little squeeze.
Let your knees rest on top of your bolster and place your pelvis in a way that feels comfortable. This is how you can take your Savasana in a resting position with the knees bent and a slight angle at the pelvis that allows for softness in the hip flexors. That softness in the hip flexors brings about a relaxation of the nervous system so that the mind can calm and settle.
Keep your mind attuned to the sensation of your pelvis dropping down into the earth becoming heavy and the thigh bones dropping down into the earth becoming heavy. Relax all the muscles that surround the thighs and the hips as well as all the muscles inside the pelvis and the pelvic floor. Rest in Savasana for as long as you like but without falling asleep.
To finish your nighttime yoga sequence, bring your awareness back to your breathing and notice how your body is breathing on its own and how it’s moving because of the breath. Just enhance the breath by letting it be deeper and longer.
Watch the Video: Evening Release with Matt Giordano
As you’re ready, you can awaken the fingers and the toes and stretch the arms overhead. Bend the knees and roll to your right side. Let your body become heavy for a moment here. Feel your bones and, once you’re ready, come up to a seated position. Place the palms together in front of the heart and let the heart and the head bow down. Enjoy this feeling of relaxation as a great foundation for a good night’s sleep.
A bedtime yoga sequence can definitely become an important part of your evening routine. Maybe, you want to deepen the experience by playing soft music, lighting candles, and scenting the air with essential oils such as lavender to encourage better sleep.