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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sleep Aide: Techniques - Add Yoga Stretches to Your Nightly Routine

Rose knows that her sister often has a hard time getting to sleep at night. Like many of us that have insomnia struggle to get our required 7 -8 hours of sleep and find ourselves restless during the day. I have written often on methods to help improve quality of sleep such as; limiting caffeine, reducing noise and light, drinking decaffeinated herbal teas, and taking natural supplements. There are also yoga stretches and breathing exercises you can add to your nightly routine. If you find that you have spent up energy and you need to release it before you can relax enough to fall asleep, try these exercises before retiring:

Focused Breath – Breathing is really the key to calming your nervous system and easing into sleep. We want to do a focused breath, where you are just watching your breath – not trying to change it too much. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a straight-back chair. Breathe in and out through the nose and just observe your breath. Watch how your belly lifts and your ribs expand gently on your inhale and fall back on your exhale. As other thoughts come into your mind, release them and bring your attention back to your breath. As you do the follow stretches, continue to stay focused on your breathing.

Seated Cat/Cow – Sitting tall, with your shoulders over the hips, ears over the collar bones, as you inhale gently lift your sternum and arch your back. As you exhale, reverse the movement, rounding your back, drawing the belly towards the spine. Continue moving with your breath 6-8 times each way. Remember to keep the shoulders down as you move and maintain a pretty slow, deliberate pace. You can also do this stretch on all 4’s (hands and knees) – just make sure your hands are under your shoulders and knees under your hips.

Child's Pose – From all 4’s, rest your hips back over your heels and rest your forehead to the floor if it goes there comfortably. If not, place a small pillow in front of you to rest the forehead there. Allow your arms to rest along your sides, or overhead with hands on the floor. Breathe and stay as long as your body is comfortable. Child's Pose is great for relieving anxiety, calming a racing mind, and reducing stress.

Forward Fold – For this one, you’ll want to move to the floor. Let your legs come out to a comfortable V. If you feel any discomfort here, place a small pillow underneath your hips which should help make this more comfortable. Your legs can be bent or straight, but don’t lock the knees. Take a full inhale lifting the spine and as you exhale, hinge at the hips and come forward, resting your hands or forearms on the floor in front of you. Continue to use your breath, and with each exhale, relaxing a bit more into your stretch. Hold and breathe for 8 breaths.

Recline Twist – Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, legs bent. Extend your arms out to shoulder level, resting on the floor. Inhale and as you exhale, allow your legs to rest over to the right side. You want the legs to be resting on the floor – so if they’re in mid-air, draw the legs farther away from you so that they can rest. Stay and breathe 6-8 breaths, come back to center and switch sides. Twists help us release toxins by helping to move along our lymphatic fluid. They also calm our nervous system and help that racing, to-do list mind take it easy.

2:1 Breath – Finally, breathing is so important, we’ll do two different exercises. With this one, we want to make our exhale twice as long as our inhale. Begin by watching your breath and noticing the length of both your inhale and exhale. Maybe count to yourself. Then, as you exhale, allow that breath to linger and be longer than the breath in. You want to continue breathing comfortably, and never force a longer breath than you can do. Continue for 10-12 breaths.
Good Stretching,
Rose Sheepskill

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