Relax and Energize with Evening Yoga Practice at Home
Let the River Flow
How I Came to Practice Hatha Yoga
When I was a pre-teenaged girl, I sometimes had trouble relaxing enough to fall asleep easily. My mother taught me a wonderful method that I’ve used frequently since then, for many decades. Little did I know that her special trick was actually related to methods yogis and yoginis (female yoga practitioners) use to center their minds in their bodies, check to make sure their bodies are in order, and to relax for meditation or restful sleep.
Mom taught me to focus my mind, as I lay in bed ready to sleep, on each part of my body progressively, from the feet through the legs, torso, arms, shoulders, and head, and as my mind touched each part, to will it to relax. This procedure worked without fail, often putting me to sleep long before my attention reached my upper body, arms, or head. The simple act of bringing my attention to my own physical body, concentrating and relaxing, brought easy compliance by my body despite whatever obsession, worry, or emotion was troubling me. Sometimes I was not troubled but simply was out-of-sync with myself, thus unable to function easily and naturally and fall asleep. Perhaps my reader is already aware of, or even practices, this age-old trick for coaxing the body to sleep. If not, I suggest you try it!
As I grew older, I formally discovered hatha yoga, taking local classes in the 1970’s when I transitioned from high school to college. I cleared a wide space on my bedroom floor and regularly practiced poses at home, as well, becoming increasingly strong and flexible and valuing yoga greatly for that. I did not commit to a regular practice when young, however. Decades later, though, in middle age, I took up yoga more seriously, and over the last twelve years, have studied and practiced increasingly. Recently, at age 58, I began a Yoga Teacher Training Program, and am close to completing it, expecting my 200-Hour Certification this fall 2012. I have found yoga to be a wonderful healing companion, and am grateful for the incredible benefits it gives one during all parts of one’s life.
Why Not Give Yoga a Try?
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Finding Balance, Working to Open and Lift
Practicing Yoga at Home
Yoga can be practiced at any time of the day and in a wide variety of places. Arguably, it is always best practiced outside if the weather permits. Extreme hot or cold weather, storms, or very bad air conditions might make practicing inside better. Otherwise, few things are more restful and pleasurable than a gentle, relaxing yoga session on an open-air terrace in the cool evening breeze or by water.
Practicing yoga in the evening to relax can also be done indoors of course; one needs a clean, open space; quiet or relative peacefulness (though relaxing music played softly can be very beneficial); several feet of wall if possible; a sticky yoga mat to keep from slipping (ideally); and loose, comfortable clothing. Turn off the TV, cell phone, and computer.
Long hair should be tied back, and I recommend taking off one’s glasses and putting them aside in a safe place when doing yoga. If one is practicing with children and/or one’s partner, give each other room to move, an arm’s length, and arrange the mats in an organized manner, rather than haphazardly.
The room should be a comfortable temperature and open to fresh air if possible. I do not recommend burning candles to set a mood because they can be fire dangers and since most candles exude toxic substances, unfortunately. I do recommend turning the lights down to medium or low, and playing relaxing music quietly while you practice. I’ve linked to some You Tube music specifically for relaxing, but any favorite relaxing music will do.
Where Is the Best Place to Practice Evening Yoga?
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Evening Practice Creates Relaxed, Empowered Evenings
While even five minutes of hatha yoga benefits one, I recommend evening practice for thirty minutes to an hour, and beginning at least one hour after finishing the evening meal. Preparing for evening yoga practice is a good reason to avoid stuffing oneself at supper and to avoid overindulging in wine, spirits, or other similar mind-altering substances. Yoga is about health and consciousness, but also is peaceful and relaxed. Sometimes a cup of tea will help freshen one’s mind and settle the stomach if still feeling full an hour after dinner; I recommend peppermint or chamomile. I sometimes drink a (guilty) cup of coffee before yoga, but that is definitely not for everyone, especially those who will stay up for hours after a cup of coffee.
Evening yoga can be enjoyed by people of any age, from children to seniors. If one lives alone, yoga is a wonderful way to open one’s senses to the night, as well as to take stock of one’s inner mind through concentration and even meditation if one chooses to add that after practicing poses. Yoga is not a religion, but practicing hatha yoga helps one to unite one’s mind and body, making it easier to practice whatever one’s spiritual persuasion might be. For example, after relaxing one’s body and calming one’s spirit, it is very easy to pray, to write in a journal, to meditate, to study, to write poetry or fiction, to sketch, or to engage with nature or one’s loved ones in a focused, peaceful, and healthy way.
Couples can bond by practicing yoga in the evening together, and they can practice partner poses, as well. Families can practice together, and children love spending time stretching together in the evening; it’s a loving, bonding game. Seniors will find yoga an incredible rejuvenator. Yoga helps one counter pain from arthritis, hot flashes and hormonal imbalances from menopause, as well as many other ailments.
Many hatha yoga postures are great for relaxing. One that I highly recommend is lightly named Legs up the Wall (in English). It is a modified shoulder stand, the traditional, full shoulder stand being a pose that requires practice and development. Almost anyone can practice Legs up the Wall, though. It requires just a floor and a wall. Raising one’s legs up against the wall, with one’s bottom against the wall and the torso extended perpendicular to the wall, and relaxing there, breathing deeply and fully, for an extended period will restore the blood flow that is restricted by sitting at a desk or driving for hours on end, as many of us do every day. Even few minutes of this pose will help one relax, but try to stay longer, up to ten minutes, and feel the benefits!
Yoga is an ancient system of healing and caring for one’s body and spirit. There are many forms of yoga, including hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is the practice of physical postures and breathing exercises, and it strongly heals, rejuvenates, and maintains the body. It can be practiced at any time of the day with various types of emphasis and benefit; I highly recommend practicing yoga in the evening for relaxation and deep rest.
Yoga Journal's guide to Legs Up the Wall pose, using supportive props
- Yoga Journal - Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose
Yoga article: Modern yogis agree that Viparita Karani may have the power to cure whatever ails you.
Some Additional Resources for Further Understanding and Practice
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