Restorative bedtime yoga
I was recently asked a great question by an innovative mattress design company, Casper (check out https://caspersleep.com/mattresses for some interesting stuff on getting a good night’s sleep) and thought it might make a fun blog! ….. So the question they asked was…. “What yoga moves can I do from my bed?”
Ease your lower back
I liked this question, not just because I love my bed and anything that means I can stay in for a few minutes longer gets my vote, but also because I love that yoga can, and should, be done whenever and wherever you feel the need, and if it gets you practicing at home even better. A firm, supporting mattress is a definite plus when yoga-ing in bed! Memory foam mattresses are perfect.
Just before bed is a perfect time for restorative yoga, to help us let go of the day and get a good night’s sleep. This is a great time to reflect on your day. What went well? What are you grateful for? Maybe some bits didn’t go as well as you would have liked, how would you do it differently next time? Good questions to ask whilst you are preparing for sleep, it helps to settle the mind. These are my “easing into sleep” poses that can be done in bed.
Release the lower back. We hold lots of tension here, and often our anxieties and busy-ness from our day lodges here, so start by lying on your back, knees into your chest, perhaps rocking from side to side. Let your arms stretch out, knees still bent feet on the mattress, allow your knees to relax over to one side, into the lying twist, looking to the opposite arm. Relax as you breathe into the abdomen, hips and low back, before repeating on the other side. Remember there’s no need to hurry. Now hug 1 knee into your chest as you allow the other leg to stretch out, don’t force it, let it naturally lengthen, then swap legs.
Squeeze and release. Let your muscles feel the difference between tension and relaxation. Start at your feet, squeeze the muscles of your feet and then with an out breath consciously relax the muscles of your feet. Continue to work systematically up the body, squeezing and releasing each muscle / body part. You’ll be familiar with this routine if you come to one of our classes. Don’t forget this little move, which will help to switch on your relaxation response – as you exhale gently turn your head to one side, inhale as you bring back to the centre, exhale as you look to the other side, inhale back to the centre.
Breathe and let go. Spending some time focused on your breathing will help you to relax and gives your mind something to do instead of worrying about the day that’s been. With your hands resting on your tummy, finger tips gently touching over the navel, inhale feeling the hands lift and separate (a gentle movement, don’t force it), as you exhale consciously draw your tummy in so the finger tips come back together. Continue with this breath for as long as feel comfortable (or until you nod off!), keeping your upper chest and shoulders relaxed, they don’t really need to be part of this. If you’ve got this, see if you can equalise the in and the out breath with a gentle pause between each part of the breath. Remember it shouldn’t feel forced.
One of my favourite times of day is that moment when I’ve just woken up and everything in my world is still. Use this stillness to set the tone for your day ahead, for me, the qualities I want to bring in are calm, collected and unhurried. Visualise the day you want , include some positive affirmations.
Slowly become aware of your body. Focus on your breath, taking deeper breaths in and out. Wriggle your fingers and toes, before unhurriedly giving every part of your body a beautiful awakening stretch. Be creative and listen to your body, how do you want to move?
Tree pose. This is a great pose to stretch the torso and open the hips out and there’s no need to focus on your balance. You can include a nice deep inhalation as you take the arms up and over head if that feels good for you. Breathe into the abdomen whilst in the pose focusing on the breath coming right up into the chest.
Counter this with the Universal twist to take the hips in the opposite direction and bring some life into your lower back and gluteal muscles. Left leg extended, right knee bent, right foot rests on left knee. Take hold of the right knee with the left hand, anchor the right arm into the bed and mindfully ease the right knee toward the left, allowing your hips to expand and relax. When you’ve held for a few breaths, feeling the hip soften, swap sides.
Paying attention to starting our day calmly and allowing each day to be rounded off satisfactorily will definitely reward us with more harmonious days and peaceful nights.
I’ll leave you with a couple of lines from “Salutation to the Dawn”, which I think sum up the sentiments of this blog nicely :
“… For yesterday is but a dream, And tomorrow is only a vision. But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness And every tomorrow a vision of hope…” Ix