10 Yoga Poses for a Relaxing Evening Practice

1
Begin With Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog for Evening Yoga
joSon/Stone/Getty Images

Though you can do yoga at any time of day, it makes sense to make the type of practice you do appropriate for the hour. First thing in the morning, this means easing yourself out of bed and into alertness. In the middle of the day, choose whatever type of practice appeals to you most. Try to finish any particularly vigorous yoga two to three hours before you plan to go to bed, otherwise you may have a hard time getting to sleep. The following ten-pose sequence is designed for an evening practice to wind down the body, helping you move intuitively to stretch away tension and transition from your active day to a relaxed state that is conducive to a good night's sleep.

Start in downward facing dog for a full body stretch. This feels particularly good if you've spent a lot of the day sitting at a desk or in a car. Pedal your legs to stretch the hamstrings and do any other movements that feel like they will get into your tight areas, for instance bending both knees and coming up on your toes or coming forward to a plank and then back to down dog. Take several breaths to indulge the movements that feel best and then settle into stillness for around five additional breaths.

2
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

Triangle Pose - Trikonasana
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana). Ann Pizer

You'll continue to stretch the tension out of your legs by coming into triangle pose. Step your right foot to the inside of your right hand. Turn your left foot parallel with the back of your mat and straighten both legs. Your right hand can be on the floor on the outside of your foot, up on a block, or resting on your right shin, whichever is most comfortable. Bring your left hand to your left hip and use it to gently open the hip before raising it up toward the ceiling. Turn your torso toward the ceiling to open the chest. Hold this position for about five breaths.

Then step back to downward facing dog and repeat triangle pose with the left foot forward. 

3
Standing Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)

Standing Straddle Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Standing Straddle Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana). Ann Pizer

After doing the second side of triangle pose (above), straighten both legs and parallel your feet so that you are facing the long side of your mat. Inhale deeply and fold forward on your exhale, coming into prasarita padottanasana. Take any arm position that feels good. Possibilities include holding onto your big toes, ankles, or calves; interlacing your hands behind your back and straightening your arms; or just bringing the hands to the floor. 

4
Garland Pose (Malasana)

Garland Pose (Malasana)
Garland Pose (Malasana). Ann Pizer

Scoot your feet toward the midline of your body until they are about two feet apart. Turn your toes out and bend your knees to a squatting position for garland pose. If squatting is very difficult for you, there are a few options to make it more accessible. If your heels don't come to the floor, roll up a blanket and put in under your heels for support. You can also try sliding a block under your butt to sit on. If you want to get into the hip creases a little more, you can rock from side to side, bringing your weight into first one foot and then the other. 

5
Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose - Ardha Matsyendrasana
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose - Ardha Matsyendrasana. © Ann Pizer

Let your butt come to the floor and sit down. Bring your right foot to the outside of your left thigh for a seated spinal twist. Inhale to lengthen your spine. On your exhale, twist to the right. You can hug your right knee with your left elbow or or bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee for more traction. Stay for five breaths, growing tall on the inhales and twisting on the exhales. Then switch the configuration of your legs to twist to the other side. 

6
Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose
Pigeon Pose. Ian Hootan/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

The leg that is bent at the front of your mat in ardha matsyendrasna (above) is already in the correct position for pigeon, so swing your other leg behind you to make this transition. If this doesn't work for your body then make your way there another way that makes sense to you. 

Again, there are a number of possible variations to tailor this pose to what your own body wants and can do. Take padding (like a folded blanket or a block) under your butt if it is a long way from the floor. Try a forward fold over the front leg. If this position just isn't happening for your body, you can do eye of the needle pose or even pigeon in a chair to get essentially the same stretch. After you feel sufficiently stretched on the first leg, switch sides by coming through all fours or back to downward facing dog if you prefer.

7
Sphinx Pose

Sphinx Pose
Sphinx Pose. Ann Pizer

After doing both sides in pigeon (above), stay in a forward fold with your forearms on the floor. Snake whichever leg is forward back to meet the other leg. This is a fun way to come straight into sphinx, but if that doesn't work just make your way onto your belly another way. This pose in the perfect way to counteract the forward slumping of a long day spent sitting at the computer. Be sure to press firmly into your forearms, which will help keep your shoulders away from your ears.

8
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Happy Baby Pose. Ann Pizer

Roll over onto your back to prepare for happy baby pose. Hug your knees into your chest and the grab hold of the outsides of your feet to draw your knees toward your armpits and the shins perpendicular to the floor. You can rock side to side a little bit if that feels good on your sacrum.

9
Goddess Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Goddess Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Goddess Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana). Steve Miller Photos/Photodisc/Getty Images

Bring your feet back to the mat with the soles touching and let your knees open to either side. Props (blocks or blankets) can be used here under the knees for support if you like. If you find goddess pose to be very comfortable, you can end your practice here.  Otherwise, you can stay for 15 to 20 breaths before transitioning to savasana. 

10
Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Corpse Pose - Savasana
Corpse Pose - Savasana. John Freeman/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Straighten your legs for your final relaxation in corpse pose. Use any of these savasana props to help you get really comfortable. You may want to set an alarm for five minutes so you don't fall asleep. Then crawl into bed ready for a restful night.

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