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Relax Completely with These Stretching Exercises before Bed

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

By the appearance of your Instagram feed, you might assume that the most peaceful bedtime routine consists of igniting a candle, indulging in a bubble bath, and documenting your worries in a journal. And while those customs may evoke a sense of calmness and prepare you for a good night’s sleep, they’re not the sole nighttime activities worth adopting. In fact, engaging in stretching exercises before bed regularly could have remarkable benefits for your mental and physical well-being, suggests Kimberly Washington, M.S., R.Y.T., a vinyasa yoga instructor and certified flexibility coach.

“It’s an excellent method to allocate time for yourself at the conclusion of the day and be completely honest with yourself and your current emotional state,” she asserts. “When you truly slow down and deliberately observe and connect, you’ll discover that it will alleviate a great deal of anxiety and enable you to eliminate a substantial amount of stress, including any tensions that you might be harboring within your body, whether or not you’re aware of them.”

Nighttime is also the opportune moment to engage in extensive stretching, which primarily focuses on expanding the connective tissue and elongating the tendons, she explains. Just so you know, the range of motion of a joint is influenced by the flexibility of the soft tissues (such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons) surrounding the joint. Failure to stretch can cause the soft tissues to gradually shorten over time, resulting in reduced flexibility, diminished blood supply to cartilage, and an increased risk of muscle injuries, as stated by U.C. Davis Health. Implementing a routine of regular deep stretching, on the other hand, can enhance flexibility, enhance balance, and promote joint stability, according to Washington.

However, Washington advises against engaging in rigorous activities or running immediately after deep stretching due to the increased openness of your body. “Once you have expanded your body, it is best to allow your body to continue to relax and recuperate,” she recommends. The rationale behind this is that research indicates that performing static stretches for prolonged periods before a workout does not effectively prevent injuries and significantly diminishes strength and power during exercise, as per a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information. To ensure that you obtain optimal results from your workout, Washington suggests incorporating deep stretching into your end-of-day routine rather than performing it in the morning. (For the record, it is advisable to warm up with light cardiovascular exercise to prepare your body for a workout.)

Individuals who are not yet highly flexible may experience some discomfort or tightness while engaging in deep stretching. In light of this, Washington proposes that you concentrate on your breathing while holding each pose. Irrespective of the stretch, try to exhale for twice as long as you inhale (for instance, inhale for four counts, exhale for eight counts), she advises.

This respiration routine will aid in stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system and prompting your body to enter a tranquil, calm, rejuvenated, and tranquilized state,” she clarifies. “Reverting back to the inhalation and exhalation will also provide you with a focal point to concentrate on, reducing your focus on the bodily sensation.” (“

You’ll also desire to listen to how your body feels during each stretch — and don’t disregard its warning signs. “The advantage of staying connected and following your breath [is that] you’ll be able to know if something’s too profound,” says Washington. “You’ll know, ‘Okay, I need to back out of this pose. This is slightly excessive today,’ as opposed to you powering through and not even being aware of those sort of signals your body’s kicking at you.”

One way to evaluate if your before-bed stretches are too intense? Rate the intensity on a scale of one to 10, says Kiley Holliday, R.Y.T., a yoga instructor for PureYoga on Equinox. In general, you’ll want bedtime stretches to feel like a four on that scale, she says. “You want it to feel calming, like something you can breathe through very easily — nothing that makes you want to clench your jaw or furrow your brow or scrunch up your toes,” she explains. “If you’re noticing those, that’s a sign that you’re probably not doing a great before-bed practice.”

If you stay in tune with your body, you might notice that you’re not able to stretch as deeply as you did a few days prior or that your stretch doesn’t match the demonstration photo exactly — and that’s okay. “It is all about exploration, trying something, and finding your truth,” says Washington. “It doesn’t have to be what you’re envisioning a deep stretch would look like on an Instagram post.”

7 Before-Bed Stretches to Include in Your Nightly Routine

Ready to incorporate a stretching ritual into your bedtime routine? Consider performing a handful of these before-bed stretches for a total of 15 minutes each night. Instead of wearing your lace nightgown, make sure you are wearing something that you can really move in without restriction — such as your preferred Lululemon leggings or workout shorts.

While Washington generally recommends trying each stretch for three to five minutes to fully open up the body, it may not feel feasible if you’re a stretching newbie. In those cases, try gradually working your way up to those suggested durations.

If you decide to go off the script with your before-bed stretches, steer clear of moves that fall into the advanced, back-bending category, such as the wheel, crescent lunge, or camel pose, suggests Holliday. “Things like that tend to awaken people a little bit,” she explains. “People should know that they can be more sensitive in terms of getting energized from those deeper stretches that expand the front side of the body and take you into a backbend.”

Above all, choose before-bed stretches that make you feel serene and at peace, says Holliday. “If something doesn’t feel relaxing or if it actually makes you feel a little bit defeated, that’s not something you would want to do before bed.” (Once you’ve finished stretching before bed, practice these sleep affirmations to enhance your shut-eye.)

Advance Bend

Courtesy of Kimberly Washington / @yogabykimberly

One of Washington’s preferred moves, this nighttime stretch aids in elongating the entire back portion of the body. To intensify the stretch, widen your stance slightly or slightly flex your knees and allow your knuckles or fingertips to skim the ground, she suggests.

A. Stand upright with feet hip-width apart. Pivot forward at the hips to descend into an advance bend, extending your arms as close to the floor as feasible. Allow the top of your head to reach towards the floor.

Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.


Courtesy of Kimberly Washington / @yogabykimberly

Surprise: A plank isn’t merely a core-strengthening exercise, and it can be a valuable addition to your nighttime stretching regimen. “[It’s] a stretch that targets the entire back chain of the body,” says Washington. “If you’ve spent all day somewhat hunched over, it feels really good to simply allow the body to lengthen.” If a forearm plank isn’t to your liking, feel free to remain in a high plank to get your stretch on.

A. Begin in a high plank position. Bend your elbows to the floor and rest your weight on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.

B. Tuck your pelvis and draw your navel up towards your spine to engage your core. Press back into your heels and keep your head aligned with your spine.

Hold for 2 minutes.

Supine Leg Raise

Courtesy of Kimberly Washington / @yogabykimberly

To modify this pre-sleep stretch, which elongates the hamstrings and calves, flex one knee and place your foot on the floor. Then, lift the opposite leg as far towards the ceiling as possible, keeping both of your arms at your sides rather than reaching towards your toes, says Washington.

A. Lie on your back with both legs extended in front of your body and your arms at your sides, palms resting on the floor. Raise your right leg up towards the ceiling and lower it as close to your chest as possible.

B. Reach towards your right toes with your right arm, being careful not to lift your chest off the floor.

Hold for 3 to 5 minutes, then repeat on the opposite side.

Lateral Hip Extension

Courtesy of Kimberly Washington / @yogabykimberly

Extend right leg behind you, ensuring it stays straight and aligned with the rest of your body.

C. Lower down onto your forearms and relax into the pose, allowing your hips to open up.

Hold for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Downward Dog

Courtesy of Kimberly Washington / @yogabykimberly

This energizing pose helps stretch and strengthen the entire body, says Washington.

A. Begin on your hands and knees, with palms pressed firmly into the ground and fingers spread wide. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor, straightening your legs and pushing your hips toward the ceiling.

B. Pull your shoulder blades down and back, engaging your upper body muscles.

Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Forward Fold

Courtesy of Kimberly Washington / @yogabykimberly

This calming pose helps release tension in the hamstrings and lower back, says Washington.

A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.

B. Hinge at the hips, folding your upper body forward and allowing your hands to hang down toward the floor.

C. You can bend your knees more if needed to fully relax into the stretch.

Hold for 3 to 5 minutes.

Softly stroll right leg backwards as much as possible, untuck toes and press upper part of right foot into the ground. Gradually stroll hands forwards until head touches the ground or a yoga block. Pull shoulders downward and away from the ears.

Maintain the position for 3 to 5 minutes, then redo on the contrary side.