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Sleep like a caveman (although not in a cave!)

So, how have you been sleeping this week?

I hope some of the tips from last time helped. In the next couple of blogs I’m going to be looking at some more yogic ways of ensuring you get the rest you need.

The first thing to ask yourself is are you actually tired or more wired? By that I mean, do you feel physically tired when you go to bed or is it more of a brain fatigue feeling and once you get to bed the mind and body can’t settle?

Our bodies are meant to move.

They are designed to walk, run, jump…all the things you would expect to do if you were a hunter / gatherer. Luckily, most of us no longer have to hunt for our food (although after a Friday evening supermarket shop, I admit maybe wrestling a sabre tooth tiger would be easier!). Instead a great majority of us spend a lot of our days sat at desks, in front of computer screens or driving. These activities tire the brain but not the physical body and if the physical body isn’t tired it doesn’t settle.

Modern life then throws us another curve ball, along with our sedentary lifestyles, which hampers sleep. Stress!

Let’s go back to our hunter / gatherer image.

Ancient caveman goes out hunting for food, when; horror of horrors he bumps into a sabre tooth tiger. His body reacts to the stress of this by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol (part of the fight or flight response).  Amongst other things, these hormones raise his blood pressure, increase the heart rate, take blood away from body systems which are not deemed to be useful at the time of emergency (eg. digestive, urinary, reproductive systems) and pumps it into the muscles so that they can work harder. This gives him the energy to do whatever he needs to do to survive – ie. he either runs away or he fights.

My caveman makes a quick gettaway back to the safety of his cave and when he gets there he’s lucky, he can just lay down and rest because he doesn’t have to pick his dry cleaning up or take the kids to football practice or make a meal which he knows won’t be appreciated…..

This is our fight or flight response working perfectly, unfortunately for us our body still reacts to every stress in our life (large or small) in the same way as we would react to meeting a sabre tooth tiger. The trouble is that the stress hormones have to be burnt off by exercise, otherwise they just continue to course around your body keeping us in stress mode. So if we’ve been wound up at work, missed a deadline, got stuck in traffic etc. we still react by releasing the stress hormones but if we are not then physically active to burn them off they continue to raise the blood pressure, increase heart rate, keep the brain on alert etc. etc.

Therefore, the first thing to do is to move.

In Dru Yoga we always start with lively body activations, which warm the body so that we can practice safely and help us to let go of the stresses of the day, so that when we come to the restorative, calmer part of the class we are ready to be still. Try to move every part of your body – a great way to start is by shaking out all your joints, working systematically through the body, those of you who come to classes will be familiar with how this works.

You might like to then do some simple twisting movements from the waist, try circling the hips and rolling the shoulders back and down. Listen to your body, it will tell you how it needs you to move!

You might then try a few rounds of sun sequence (surya namaskar), the powerful Dru vitality sequence or some warrior (Virabhadrasana) flows. Whilst these are best not done just before bed time, practiced a couple of hours before bed they will really help you to let go of that “wired” wound up tight feeling and relax the physical body.

The easiest way to find out what to practice is to attend a regular class. Ask your tutor and jot down in a notebook the postures and sequences that work for you. If that’s not possible or you want to practice between class why not try one of Dru Yoga’s popular DVD’s, CD’s or books, all available from Inside Out? Please do ask us to find out which one would help you the most.

Until next time, when I’ll be looking at calming things down, sleep tight and take care. Ix

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