Mindful Movement to Ease into Sleep

9 Minutes: Let go of the day’s tension and prepare for bed with this simple movement practice and breathing meditation.

Hello! Before you drift off to sleep tonight, try this bedtime mindful movement practice to stretch and relax areas of your body that tighten up during the day.

1) Cat/ Cow: This movement stretches your upper back and loosens tension down your spine. Place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders and your knees on the ground beneath your hips, keep your back straight and your head forward. As you inhale gently drop your belly towards the floor, lift your chest and look forward arching your spine slightly. As you exhale bring your face towards your navel while doming your upper spine, rounding the top of your back. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.

2) Deep Lunge: From an all fours position, step your right foot forwards and slide your left knee further behind you. Place your hands on your knee. This deep lunge stretches the front of your hips, an area that gets tight after a day of sitting. Keep your hands on the floor or place on your front knee. Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.

3) Seated Neck Stretch: Have a seat and cross your legs if you can. Bring your right hand over your head and place it on your left ear. Gently drop your right ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 5 breaths. Bring your head back to center gently, switch sides, going easy on your neck with you switch.

4) Dynamic Bridge: Place your arms flat on the ground by your sides a few inches away from your body, with your palms facing down. Place both feet to the floor under your bent knees. Make sure your back is flat and your body feels centered and balanced. Then, as you inhale lift your hips up towards the ceiling, creating a straight line from your knees, down your thighs, to your chest. Interlock your fingers under your body and shimmy your shoulder blades towards each other to open your chest muscles. Hold for 8 deep breaths.

5) Knee to Chest into Twist: Stretch out your legs and slide them together. Pull your right knee into your chest clasping your fingers around your right shin and gently hug your knee in to stretch your low back and hips. Hold for 3 breaths. Release your knee and send it towards the left for a gentle spinal twist. Turn your gaze to the right. Hold for 3 breaths and switch sides.

Mindful Breathing to Ease into Sleep

For this meditation you’ll extend your exhale twice as long as your inhale as a way to settle your mind and nervous system before getting under the covers.

Let go of your day. Now that your body is more relaxed, stretch yourself out long on the floor. Separate your feet and position your hands with your palms facing upwards.

Notice your breath. Don’t change your breathing yet; just notice the subtle lifting and lowering around your belly as you breathe.

Extend Your Breath. Breathe so that your exhale is twice as long as your inhale. F example you could count to three on your inhale and six during your exhale. (If that feels uncomfortable, you can change it by counting 2 on your inhale and 4 on your exhale, etc.) The point isn’t to hyperventilate or pass out. You want the ratio to feel comfortable, so that you’ll stay with it. The counting will help you stay focused and relax your body at the same time.

  1. Breathe in slowly while counting to two.
  2. Pause for a count of one.
  3. Breathe out slowly while counting to four.
  4. Pause for a count of one.
  5. Once again, “Inhale, on, two, pause; exhale, one, two, three, four, pause.”
  6. Continue to breathe this way. At some point it will feel natural to let the counting go and to allow your mind to rest in the direct experience of breathing.
  7. Eventually let go and just breathe however feels normal to you.

After a few minutes open your eyes and notice how you feel. Slowly get up and crawl right into bed.

Try the 4-7-8 Breath:

This technique was developed for inducing sleep and relaxation. Try it: place the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth. Exhale fully through your mouth, making a “whooshing” sound. Close your mouth, and inhale through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth making the whoosh sound for a count of eight. Repeat three more times. Intentional breathing defuses stress and teaches your brain and body to relax.

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About the author

Cara Bradley

Cara Bradley, a best-selling author of On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine, is a former pro skater for Rollerblade and the founder of Verge Body-Mind Center in Philadelphia. As a speaker and body-mind expert, Cara teaches executives and athletes how to live in flow using strategies integrating movement, breath, and mindfulness training to optimize wellbeing and performance. She works with organizations including Coca-Cola, World Bank Group, SAP and Goldman Sachs and college sports teams including the 2018 National Champion Villanova Men’s Basketball team. Cara hosts a weekly podcast on body-mind training and is a frequent contributor to Happify, Whil, Mindful, Oprah.com, and Thrive Global.