I love my asana-based yoga practice, but sometimes it gets neglected as daily routines and obligations get in the way of regular practice. Instead of beating myself up for not spending an hour on my yoga mat each day, I try to find other ways to maintain my yoga practice in some form. Recently that has come in the form of night yoga. Night yoga is a great way to relax your body and prepare for sleeping. After a long day of work and family obligations, doing some simple yoga stretches and deep breathing is relaxing and soothing. No props are necessary, though they can be used if you desire. The following asanas (yoga postures) are great all day, but are especially relaxing at night!
Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall) – this gentle pose is a great way to get some of the benefits of an inversion without the energetic effort of full inversions. All you need is a clear patch of wall, or a closed door. If you want to add in a folded blanket or bolster under your hips, that can enhance the relaxation, as well as making the stretch more comfortable if your hamstrings are tight. To do this pose, simply lay down and scoot your seat as close as possible to the base of the wall or door. Swing your legs up the wall, and flex your feet. If you like, you can stretch your arms overhead and rest them on the floor. This lengthens your torso, allowing you to take deep breaths. Stay here at least 10 breaths.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound angle on the wall) – Bound angle is a great stretch for the inner thighs and groin. When we sit all day, as many people do at work, our hips and groin tighten up and become stiff. Stretching out these areas feels great at the end of the day. From legs up the wall, it’s easy to bend your knees and bring your feet together. Be careful of your knees, and don’t try to force your knees to the wall if they don’t comfortably go there. Remember that nighttime yoga and stretching should be gentle and relaxing, not energetic! Stay at least 10 breaths, and then stretch your legs back up the wall to release.
Ananda Balasana (Happy baby) – This is another nice pose for stretching out the groin and hips. Again, take care to do happy baby gently, focusing more on breathing deeply and relaxing rather than exerting a lot of muscular effort. From legs up the wall, bend the knees toward the chest and then grab your feet either from the outside or at the toes. Open your knees out wider than your torso, and keep your feet flexed. Stay here 10 breaths and then stretch your legs back up the wall.
Viparita Karani Variation (Wide angle legs up the wall) – Sitting with the legs in a V shape stretches the hamstrings and the muscles on the insides of the legs. On the wall, gravity helps to gently stretch the legs, while your upper body is resting on the floor. With this pose, take care that your knees are pointing directly out from the wall, rather than twisting to the sides. From legs up the wall, simply allow your legs to open outward in a V shape as far as is comfortable. Stay here at least 10 breaths, then gently bring your legs back together up the wall. Use your hands if necessary to move the legs.
Corpse pose (Savasana) – The ultimate relaxation pose, corpse pose is a time for your body to integrate the work of a yoga practice. After a series of relaxing poses at night, resting for a few moments in corpse pose allows you to take stock of how your body and mind feel as a result of the practice. At night it’s much easier to fall asleep during corpse pose, so take care to stay mentally aware or set a timer if needed. From legs up the wall, you can swing your legs back down to the floor, and then slide your body around so your head is next to the wall and your feet to the middle of the room. Relax and breath, and feel any differences in your body and mood.
(Editor’s Note: We love yoga at night, too! Recently Anne Novak did a Kundalini yoga video for Spirit Voyage at night. We love the sound of the crickets in the background as we chant along with the meditation!)