6 Yoga Poses for Insomnia

Sadie Nardini by Sadie Nardini | March 7th, 2012 | 31 Comments
topic: Fitness, Yoga

legswall_v3_007Whenever my friend Shannon can’t sleep because too many thoughts are barreling through her mind, she calls it “riding the A train.” She’ll text me at 3 a.m., “I’m on the A train again.” Of course, I get the message because I’m awake, too. My type A personality and business responsibilities are battling it out with my dire need for some mental stillness and rest.

Fortunately, I have a snooze-inducing ally in yoga, and when I get up and do the following sequence, miracles happen. In about 10 minutes, I’m back in bed, shifted toward sleep in a natural, easy way that no pill can provide.

Don’t just stick with the calming poses…

Yoga has been proven to calm the mind, relax the body and release anxiety, all crucial components of drifting off into quality slumber and staying there all night long. However, sometimes, it’s not as effective to stick only with calming poses, as a runaway train needs a strong push to make it stop dead in it’s tracks.

So, I’ve included some stronger poses here, ones that will help you let off the steam of stress that builds up when the mind gets to running and sleep seems miles away. Then we’ll move into postures that balance the adrenals, to create a more mellow central nervous system. You’ll stretch the back body to relieve the itchy, restless leg syndrome that can happen when stress hormones build up in the muscle tissues. Lastly, we’ll move into two restorative, relaxing poses, which will still your mind and cleanse and release you from the responsibilities of your day.

Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in hopping off your own A train, whenever and wherever you choose. You’ll wake up centered and refreshed, ready to start your day off right.



This sequence can be done with or without a yoga mat, assuming your floor isn’t slippery. Keep your sleepwear on, and remember to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose for the entirety of the practice.

1. Fists of fire lunge



Step your right foot forward and your left leg back into a lunge stance. Your front knee should be over your heel, or behind it, and your back heel is over the ball of your foot. Inhale, and lift your arms up. Exhale a little more strongly, sweep fists into the side of your hips. Let the inhales bring more breath into your chest, and on the exhales, draw in the navel as you lengthen your tailbone down. Practice releasing more tension on every exhale.

Take five to 10 rounds of breath on one side, then switch legs.

2. Fists forward bend


After your fists of fire lunges, come to stand with feet hip distance apart. Bend your knees and fold forward, bringing your fists into opposite elbows. This helps to relax the large muscles of your back, shoulders and neck. Release your head completely, and let the jumble of thoughts drain out as you envision the space that’s left behind.

Repeat for 15 to 20 breaths

3. Janu front and center



Come to sit in janu sirsasana with your right leg extended and your left leg bent, foot into the right inner thigh or groin. Roll the flesh of your seat back, and ground your legs into the floor. Frame your long right leg with your hands (lifted onto fingertips), and fold forward with a long spine and open heart.

Take five to 10 breaths here, then proceed to the next variation on the same side:

Remain low in the pose, and walk your hands away from your straight leg toward center between your legs, or until you can feel a stretch along the groins and inner thighs. You may want to move your bent leg wider, until the foot rests in its own inner thigh. As you fold, keep your head lifted along a straight spine. Fold at your hip creases — not your lower or mid back — for the best possible stretch.

Take five to 10 breaths here, then come slowly to sit, shake out your legs, and switch sides.

4. Core scissors


Come to lie on your back, legs extended on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your head, and lift the shoulders off the floor. Inhale at center, and exhale, draw your right knee into the chest, and twist so both your elbows are pointing at the knee. Inhale as both legs lengthen, and exhale, twist with the left knee in. Keep your feet on the ground, or for more action, lift them an inch off the ground. Exhales tone the navel toward the spine as your low back lengthens.

Take five to 10 rounds on each side, then relax the head, shoulders and feet to the floor, reach overhead and take a full body stretch to counterpose.

5. Core stretch


After the fire of core scissors, cool it down and counter-stretch the front body by getting back into bed and placing a bed pillow or yoga bolster beneath the heart. Let your arms rest to your sides, palms up to receive the blessing of calm that comes after a strong, breath-conscious practice.

Breathe here for one minute or more, then progress to the last pose.

6. Legs up the wall


Move the pillows or bolster under your hips, and lift your legs up the wall or into the air. This is a full-body detox only when your legs and hips are higher than your heart, and the head is below the heart. Once you’re situated, keep your hands by the sides or clasp your elbows overhead, rest and breathe.

Practice the slow breath here: Inhale, pause for a few seconds, exhale, pause. Allow your breathing to slow, and follow the sound with your mind.

Know that as you cleanse and center from your day, the tools of yoga are always available to you. Practice often, and you’ll master the ability to switch off the mind and rest easier.

Perfect  your practice with Sadie Nardini yoga videos on GaiamTV.com.


  1. Are these 6 poses to be done at night before going to bed?

    Nirmala | August 13th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  2. Where can I get a pillow the size as shown above??

    Kg Smith | August 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  3. [...] different. This morning I found an email from Gaiam in my inbox, and it featured a link to Six Yoga Poses for Insomnia. So I’m going to give them a try before bed tonight, since I haven’t been doing enough [...]

    Beachin’ it Up with Pineapple Cup(cake)s « Mens sana in corpore sano… | August 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  4. I searched on Gaiam for a bolster but didn’t find one. I got my round bolster like the one above from Barefoot Yoga (We do not allow links in comments) Alternately, you can find them at Hugger Mugger (We do not allow links in comments)

    Hope this helps! Namaste’

    Jess | August 19th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  5. Hi these poses look good :) , I do few of sadies podcast routines on ipod touch, any chance of sadie doing this nighttime routine as pod cast :-)

    wendytoesocks | August 20th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  6. thanks for this great post. I have insomnia problem, and it’s ruin my life the next day. It’s like my brain is not functioning when I go to my work because I have insomnia last night.

    insomnia remedy | November 9th, 2009 | Comment Permalink
  7. These technique seems to work very well. I tried it and left me with a good night sleep. It’s pretty tiring too and I guess that’s why I can sleep easily. Does this mean that any exercise will do?

    Body detox gal | July 27th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  8. [...] courtesy of Gaiam + Yoga Journal [...]

  9. No, not any exercise will do. You need something specifically for calming and for relaxation. I have martial arts class twice a week and notice I have problems falling asleep afterwards. That type of exercise is energizing, I believe. I used to try to walk before bed and that also is energizing.

    I’m going to try these yoga poses before bed and see if it helps me.

    Champ | August 17th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  10. so, for the fists of fire each inhale hands up and open, exhale down with fists?

    lizzi | September 7th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  11. When I do yoga, I sleep through the entire night which is a miracle for me. I think that you should make this a class instead of just a blog. Or, get the word out about these poses, they really work.

    Lucy | November 23rd, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  12. How long do you hold the last pose (legs up the wall)?

    lin | January 14th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  13. Legs up the wall(Viparita Karani) should Ideally be held for 20 minutes.The first 10 minutes the blood pressure and respiration increases,the second 10 minutes it slows way down.Also,it should not be done with the pelvis elevated during menstruation.

    Erica Field | February 22nd, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  14. I’ve had big problems with insomnia & getting really out of kilter, being over-stressed & then panicking about being too tired to do my work in the day properly (cue more stress), & exercise like this yoga definitely helps me as do supplements. When we’re really fatigued, it’s suggested a small high fat & high protein snack before bed helps to regulate blood sugar through the night & supplements such as magnesium & 5HTP help switch off the mind, reduce cortisol – lots to read up on the net re this, but maybe worth trying. Best thing is to remove the major stressor though (in my case – the work I don’t enjoy, to work that’s my passion) Just a thought :)

    ET | August 4th, 2011 | Comment Permalink
  15. These poses are awesome!! I’ll definitely be trying them the next time I can’t fall asleep

    Anonymous | March 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  16. Love these moves! I will try them on my own!

    Dave | March 13th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  17. Did these at 1 am this morning when struggling to fall asleep for the third night in a row in Milwaukee’s sweltering heat. Worked great! Yoga saves the day again. Thanks!

    Amy | July 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  18. Thank you so much! Wonderful workout. Very helpful at 3:45 AM.
    Slept like a baby.
    What also helped was sleeping on my stomach afterwards.

    Joyeaux | July 10th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  19. These are life savers! Well, at least sleep savers!!

    Sherry Tejada

    Sherry Tejada | August 12th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  20. Great info! Thanks a lot ill have to try this!

    Puder Jensen | August 20th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  21. I had insomnia- for three days straight i did not sleep more than 5 hrs altogether. These exercises worked real well for me. Thanks a million!

    Jesse | September 9th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  22. I shared your blog with a friend who has insomnia. She said it worked for her, too. I told her that the best time to do yoga is before going to bed because the stretching and the breathing relax the mind. I even explained to her how yoga does a lot, not just with breathing, but with strengthening the lower back and the spine as a whole.

    Saundra Cortese | September 28th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  23. Very effective workout, thank you! I have trouble getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. This helped.

    Karen | October 24th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  24. [...] Nardini from Gaiam Life blog gives a tutorial on Six poses for Insomnia Image belongs to Huffington [...]

  25. Thanks Sadie for sharing!
    I’ve lost sleep for several months. I’ve tried a lot of different ways to treat it for examples: listening music before going to sleep. Sometimes I also take medication but the problem is not resolved. And I read your article and tried to follow it. After 3 days now I can sleep normal. I need to go back and thank you for sharing :)

    Anna | November 21st, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  26. Sadie
    Thanks for the post but
    Is it really works?

    John | March 22nd, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  27. I had a sleeping disorder for three days in a row i didn’t rest more than 4 hrs inside and out. These exercises worked genuine well for me. Much appreciated!

    Brittany | October 6th, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  28. Wow, this is really helpful! I have never thought of doing yoga before bed before, so I will certainly remember to try these out at night.Thanks again for your great insight.

    Powell | October 22nd, 2015 | Comment Permalink
  29. Very effective workout, thank you! I have trouble getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. This helped.

    Mealplan | April 24th, 2016 | Comment Permalink
  30. Thanks Sadie. Rest is so important to your health. Yoga is something I’ve recently got into so I’ll give it a try.

  31. Yoga is a really important part of anyone’s exercise regime.

    testo | May 11th, 2016 | Comment Permalink

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