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A guest blog by yoga and wellness expert Lydia Sasse. For more information and links to Lydia's work, please scroll to the bottom of this article.
These days sleep seems to be the topic of conversation amongst my friends and clients: who is getting it, who isn’t, how can we get more, how can we possibly function without it?
Our lives are getting busier, our bodies are being asked to do more work and our nervous systems are chronically overloaded. This means that the part of our nervous system that is responsible for rest and repair ( our parasympathetic nervous system) never gets a chance to kick fully into gear, resulting in less sleep, worse quality sleep when we do get it and a higher chance of burn out.
Yoga is one of the best ways we can begin to address this as the poses themselves and the breathwork accompanying them help us to drop into the parasympathetic nervous system and bring the body back towards balance.
When I am working with clients I always advise them to practice this simple routine on their bed right before sleep to help them release tension from tired muscles after the long day, reconnect them to correct breathing patterns and help them find the way back to a more relaxing night's rest. One of the many lovely things about bed yoga is that your mattress is a very forgiving surface, unlike a yoga mat, so it allows you to feel comfortable in poses that you might not usually love and the softer surface supporting your body gives you the chance to surrender more deeply and relax into the pose. The best thing of all though is when you have finished all you need to do is roll over, curl up under your lovely sheets and go to sleep.
Cobbler's Pose opens the hips and groin. Stretching the hips and inner thighs in this pose can begin to counteract the effects of spending too much time sitting at a desk or in a car. It will take pressure off a tight lower back and also help prepare you for other meditative seated poses, which require good flexibility in the hips and groin.
Begin seated with your legs outstretched straight in front of you.
Child's pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. It is calming for the brain and the nervous system and helps relieve stress and fatigue. This is one of the most restorative poses for back and neck pain. Child's pose is also known for helping us get to sleep easier and stay asleep for longer.
Knees to chest pose is often recommended for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, it can help to relieve trapped wind, indigestion and constipation.
At bedtime, this pose helps to relieve lower back tension before you lie down to sleep. As well as this because your body is curled inwards in the pose, your thoughts are more easily drawn inwards too, which is useful for calming the mind and rebalancing a frazzled nervous system at the end of a long day.
This simple supported twist has a host of benefits that help your tired body unwind at the end of the day.
It releases tight shoulders and a tight low back, it eases digestive discomfort and helps to lengthen the long muscles that run along either side of the spine that have to work so hard to keep us upright all day long. It also helps to stretch the intercostal muscles between the ribs that allow us to take bigger, deeper breaths. The longer and deeper our breaths, the calmer we feel which in turn enables us to sleep better at night without our busy minds disturbing us.
Legs up the wall pose is what is known as an inversion; commonly we think of these as elaborately acrobatic things like handstands but they don’t have to be. There are many benefits to inverting your body. Here are just a few; when you put your legs up the wall or up your head board in this case, with your pelvis elevated on a pillow, lymph and other fluids that can lead to swollen ankles, tired knees, and congested pelvic organs flow into the lower belly; this refreshes the legs, the digestive system and the whole reproductive area.
This pose also gives the blood circulation a gentle boost toward the upper body and head, which creates a rebalancing effect after you have been standing or sitting for a long time and can relieve tension headaches or migraines. If you are stressed,or tired, this pose is especially beneficial.
Stay in this pose for 5 to 20 minutes. If you are not used to restorative yoga, you may want to get up after 5 minutes, and that's fine. Over time, you will be able to stay longer.
Legs up the wall pose is a perfect position to try out a calming breath practice in. I always recommend a 4;6 breath to my clients as it is one of the quickest and simplest ways to bring the body back to that parasympathetic nervous system, we were talking about in the beginning. This is the place of deep healing, deep relaxation, and deep rejuvenation that we all need more of, especially as we head towards dreamtime.
Now you should be feeling lovely and relaxed and calm and ready for a deep and peaceful nights sleep.
If you have any questions for Lydia, or want to follow her on social media or attend her workshops or classes please find her on Instagram @yogawithlydia, Twitter @yogawithlydia, or Facebook Yoga with Lydia.
Lydia also runs a health and wellness podcast with her friend Finn Murray owner of The Hopsack health food store in Rathmines, Dublin; you can find it on the usual podcast channels and youtube @wanderingintowellness
The beautiful photographs in this article are taken by the brilliant Irish photographer Hannah Jayne Rowe. Hannah specialises in weddings, maternity and mum and baby shoots. You can find her @hannahjaynephoto and hannahjaynephoto.com