Yoga can certainly make you break a sweat and provide an energizing workout, but it can also be a great way to wind down and relax at the end of the day. For a calming evening yoga session at home, poses like forward bends can help quiet the nervous system, while seated and reclining poses can help you release tension and prepare your body for a good night’s sleep.
Consider these five soothing poses for your evening routine:
Seated Forward Bend (paschimottanasana)
Start by sitting on the floor with both legs extended straight in front of you. Place your palms on the floor beside or slightly behind your hips and breathe here. If sitting upright feels challenging, try placing a blanket or small pillow under your sit bones, which will give you more leverage in your hips. Lift your arms up so your biceps are beside your ears and lean forward, keeping your spine in a long line. When you’ve gone as far as you can with a flat back, bring your palms to the floor on either side of your shins—or grasp your feet, if you can reach—and allow your back to round slightly as you release your upper body, head and neck toward your legs. If you feel like you’re slouching, think about extending your spine with every inhale and releasing deeper into the forward bend with every exhale. Remain in the bend for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat once more.
Plow is a bit like Seated Forward Bend (paschimottanasana) but upside down, which means it has the calming effects of a forward bend as well as the gravity-reversing benefits of an inversion, including healthy blood flow to the heart. Start by lying on your back with a folded blanket placed just under your shoulders. Lift your legs up toward the sky, supporting your lower back with your hands. Then allow your legs to come all the way over your head until your toes reach the floor behind your head. You can either leave your arms on your lower back or straighten them out on the floor beneath you and clasp your hands. For a more restorative version of Plow, try placing a chair just behind your head and resting your legs on the chair instead of the floor.
*Note: Avoid this pose if you have a full stomach, tight hamstrings, low back problems or, more specifically, an issue with your cervical spine.
Supine Bound Angle (supta baddha konasana)
Prepare for this restorative pose by having a couple of yoga blocks or pillows handy. Sitting on your mat, bring your legs into Bound Angle pose (baddha konasana), which means the soles and heels of your feet are pressed against each other and your knees are falling out to the side. (You may know this position as “butterfly.”) Place a pillow or yoga block under each knee for support and then lie back on your mat, letting your arms fall to your sides with your palms facing the sky. You may also want a pillow or additional folded blanket underneath your head for comfort. Breathe here for several minutes, feeling the openness that this pose provides.
Legs Up the Wall (viparita karani)
This is a restorative variation on Shoulder Stand (salamba sarvangasana). Sit sideways on a folded blanket positioned about six inches away from the wall. Swing your entire body around to face the wall as you simultaneously lie back onto the floor, your upper body flat on the ground and your legs extended straight up on the wall. Your lower back and sacrum (the base of your spine) should be on the blanket with your tailbone pointing down into the space between the blanket and the wall. Spend a few minutes breathing here. To come out of the pose, roll gently to the side and sit up slowly.
Corpse Pose (savasana)
Most yoga sessions end with at least a few minutes in savasana. To prepare for this deeply relaxing pose, turn the lights down low and turn off any music. Lie on your back with your hands a few inches away from your thighs, palms either facing up or down, whichever feels more comfortable. Separate your legs slightly and let your feet fall away from each other. If you have lower back tension, you may want to roll up a blanket and place it under your knees. It can also be a treat to place an eye pillow or any folded cloth over your eyes. Breathe deeply here for five minutes, relaxing all your muscles and letting the floor support you completely. To come out of the pose, roll to your right side and push yourself up gently into a seated position.