5 Yoga Poses to Do Before Bed and 5 to Wake You Up

Sleep is like an all-natural reset button. Nothing else has such power to recharge the mind, restore and repair the body, improve moods and boost energy levels. While most people take sleep for granted, the transition to and from dreamland isn't smooth for everyone. Some struggle to fall asleep in the first place, while others drift off easily but wake up frequently throughout the night. Or maybe you have no trouble falling and staying asleep, but find the morning alarm to be no less pleasant than a root canal, leaving you feeling groggy and grumpy until lunch.

Whatever your sleep struggles, yoga could provide a natural (and free!) solution. Many poses are designed to relieve stress and tension, so it's not surprising that a national study found that more than 55 percent of people who practiced yoga reported improved quality of sleep. Yoga also has the power to stretch your muscles and leave you feeling focused, centered and energized for the day, allowing you to ease smoothly into your daily routine.

Yoga instructor Irena Miller is a big advocate of using yoga as a healthy bridge between wakefulness and slumber. She shared some of her favorite morning and evening poses to help you regulate your sleeping schedule and get the most out of your time between the sheets.

5 Yoga Poses to Wake You Up

When you're sleepy and feeling sluggish, the best thing you can do is coordinate your movement and breath. Creating flexibility in the spine, lengthening the sides of your body and opening your chest with these poses will make it easier for your lungs to expand and take in more oxygen, which will automatically boost your energy and invigorate your body. Add a little twist to help release the tension between your shoulder blades and you'll be ready for whatever the day holds.

Cat/Cow in Table Position
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: This pose wakes up the spine and releases stiffness in the back after sleeping. It also helps to release lower back pain and upper back tension, improves neck and spine flexibility, and strengthens and opens wrists.

How It's Done:
  1. Begin on all fours. Plant your hands beneath your shoulders with the creases of your wrists parallel to the top of your mat and your knees beneath your hips.
  2. Press your finger pads and the four corners of your hand (mound of the index finger, inner heel of the hand, mound of the pinky finger and outer heel of the hand) firmly into the mat.
  3. Exhale through your nose and draw your belly in as you round your back and relax your head.
  4. Inhale through your nose, roll your sitting bones to the sky, soften your belly, soften between your shoulder blades and look up. Go back and forth five times. 

Downward-Facing Dog
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: Downward-facing dog is effective for relieving tight calves, releasing tight hamstrings, strengthening your arms and promoting blood flow to the brain.

How It's Done:
  1. Start in table position with the knees beneath the hips and hands beneath the shoulders.
  2. Soften between your shoulder blades, curl your toes under and lift your hips to the sky.
  3. Take the time to look at your hands and make sure that the creases of your wrist are parallel with the top of your mat.
  4. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Low Lunge with Side Body Stretch
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: Try this pose in the morning to help you boost energy and open up tight oblique muscles.

How It's Done: 
  1. From the high lunge position, lower your right knee to the floor and hug your thighs in toward one another.
  2. Bring your right hip forward and push your outer left hip back. As your right thigh resists the low lunge, allow your pelvis to come forward.
  3. Rest your weight on your right heel and extend up from your belly to your fingertips.
  4. Use your left hand to hold onto your right wrist, keeping your right arm in the socket and relax your shoulder blades.
  5. Lengthen your right arm and lean to the left.
  6. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
Locust Variation
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: Use the locust pose to relieve stress and open tight chest muscles, which allows you to take deeper breaths. Additional benefits include improved posture and a stronger back.

How It's Done:
  1. Lying on your belly, point your feet behind you. Keep the legs no wider than hip distance.
  2. Press the tops of the feet onto the floor and scoop the tail bone. Interlace the fingers behind the back, or hold onto a belt if shoulders are too tight to reach fingers.
  3. Lengthen from the hips to the underarms, draw the shoulder blades toward one another, lift the chest and head away from the ground. Hold for five breaths before releasing back to the ground.
High Lunge Twist
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: This twist will bring you clarity, focus and help you shed the sleepiness. It's a great alternative to hitting your snooze button 10 times.

How It's Done:
  1. From the high lunge position, with your right leg back and your hands on either side of your right foot, move your right hand 10 inches to the right.
  2. Spread your back toes, hug your thighs toward one another, place your left hand on your left hip and keep your outer left hip tacked back.
  3. Lean onto your right hand as you lift your right inner thigh an inch higher and begin to twist toward your left leg.
  4. Extend your left arm to the sky and look up toward your hand, if you are able. Take three breaths and then switch sides.

5 Yoga Poses to Do Before Bed

When your thoughts are racing as the clock ticks toward the wee hours, this series of yoga poses will help calm your mind, soothe your nervous system and help your body relax enough to fall asleep. "After doing a yoga practice, you will find that you go from the 'flight or fight' stress mode into a place of support and, ultimately, the safety that you need to relax," says Miller.
Wide-Angle Forward Bend
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: This pose helps to calm and soothe the mind, while relaxing the tension in your lower belly. Less is more here, Miller explains. "You don't want to feel an intense stretch in the legs. With restorative yoga, you are supported by the props, you hold for a longer time and will naturally get a deep opening. If you start with a feeling of intensity in the beginning, you won't be able to relax.

How It's Done:
  1. Take a firm blanket, towel or pillow and grab a chair. Sit on the edge of the blanket and widen your legs to 90 degrees or less on either side of the chair.
  2. Keep your knees and toes pointing to the sky.
  3. Place your forearms on the seat's edge and rest your forehead (close to the hairline) onto your arms. Take 10 to 20 breaths.
Puppy Pose with Block
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: Puppy pose calms the body, releases tension in the neck and shoulders, and can relieve stress.

How It's Done:
  1. Grab a yoga block or fold up a firm towel to about four inches high and no wider than your shoulders.
  2. Start on all fours in table position, with knees at hip distance and beneath your hips.
  3. Walk your hands forward two hand lengths to the top of your mat.
  4. Line up the block with the inner edges of your elbows.
  5. Rest your forehead (close to the hairline) onto the block. If your arms don't stretch straight and your head does not touch the block, widen your hands a little wider than your mat. If that doesn't work, simply skip the yoga block and keep your ears in line with your arms in puppy pose. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths.
Child's Pose
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: This classic yoga pose is effective for releasing stress and relaxing tight shoulders, back and hips. It also helps to calm the mind.

How It's Done:
  1. Bring your big toes together and your knees a little wider than your hips.
  2. Sit back toward your heels, make two soft fists and stack one on top of the other.
  3. Rest your forehead on your hands. Take 10 to 20 breaths.
Windshield Wipers
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: This relaxing pose relieves tension in the lower and middle back.

How It's Done:
  1. Lying on your back, bend your legs and widen your feet to the width of the mat. Your knees should be facing the ceiling.
  2. Slowly lower your knees to the right, scoop your tailbone and lengthen from your right hip out through your right knee.
  3. Stretch your right arm alongside your ear and lengthen from your right ribs to your right fingertips.
  4. Take 10 to 20 breaths here and then switch sides.
Legs up the Chair
Image courtesy of Irena Miller

How It Helps: This pose helps to release the overwhelming thoughts that wake you up in the middle of the night, so you can sleep deeper and more restfully. It also helps to alleviate fatigued legs, which is a plus for runners.

How It's Done:
  1. Grab a chair and place your calves on the seat.
  2. Rest with your arms alongside your body.
  3. Hold for two to five minutes.