Efficiently settling down for the night, and preparing the body for sleep can be a troublesome and elusive task.
Nowadays, we have so many distractions around us in our busy and hectic lives to allow much time for simply “settling down”. We could drink all the chamomile tea in the world, spritz lavender essential oil around ‘til the cows come home and listen to an underwater cacophony of different whale species singing their hearts out on an “Ocean Sleep Playlist”, but if we’re still tapping away on smart phones, or have our eyes glued to the blue light of the TV/laptop screen binging our favourite Netflix shows, then we haven’t given our bodies and minds the sufficient time to unwind and the tools with which to effectively relax… and we’ll be counting sheep ‘til the early hours and exhaustion finally takes over.
That’s not a healthy way to hit the hay! (Please excuse all these farmyard animal quips)
We’ll be going into more detail about the many ways of preparing the body for sleep in a future post; but for now I’d like to take you through a short and simple 10 minute yoga sequence to do just before tucking yourself in, to unwind the body, and relax the mind.
After a hot bath or shower, prepare yourself for bed and set your alarm for the morning so it’s taken care of. Then turn off all blue light emitting devices (or switch smartphone to aeroplane mode). This sequence is easily done in bed, and therefore allows you to stay put in Savasana, undisturbed until morning!
Start in Vajrasana;
Kneeling with the sit bones over the heels. Have the hands in Anjali Mudhra; palms together at the heart, the bases of the palms and the fingertips touching but cocooning the space in between the palms into the shape of a seed. Take a moment here to centre yourself, to slow down your breath, and to bring your attention to the area surrounding your heart. And then deliberately allow it to soften. Stay here for a minute or so. Start to let go of your day, your worries for tomorrow, begin to allow your mind to rest; appreciate and acknowledge that it has worked hard enough for one day.
Take a few, slow rounds making sure to move with the breath. Allow each inhale and each exhale to start from the tailbone, and flow up through the spine and back again in a soothing, fluid way. Notice if you are trying to hurry, to catch up with your breath, to get the sequence over with quicker, and if so, deliberately slow everything down. Let your breath guide you through the movement without you really thinking about it; perhaps close down your eyes while you move. Move here for as long as feels necessary.
Childs Pose – Balasana;
Whichever way feels comfortable for you – knees together or wide legged, arms out in front or resting alongside the body, maybe elbows bent and palms together resting behind the head. This pose is wonderful for calming the mind and restoring the body. Find with each deep breath out, something softens, you let go that little bit more, surrendering yourself further down within your body, and onto the mat. Stay here for 10 or so full breaths.
Butterfly – Yin variation of Baddha Konasana;
In a seated position, bring the soles of the feet together and slide them away from the body, slightly further out in front than is usual for baddha konasana. Start to fold forward, allowing your back to round, as you melt towards the floor. Have your hands wherever feels comfortable. Give yourself plenty of time to relax into this pose, using the inhales to find that little bit of space within, and then using the exhales to soften into that space. After a couple of minutes, start to slowly roll yourself back up, and perhaps counter with a very gentle seated back bend.
“Legs up the wall” – Vipareet karani;
This is one of my favourite poses – and is a perfect final pose in our bedtime sequence for complete restoration. There are a few ways to get comfortable in this pose, using props such as bolsters or blankets. I prefer to just lie in bed, legs elevated, arms out to the sides, palms facing up. If you spend a lot of time on your feet this pose will probably begin to feel great within a few seconds. Enjoy the supportive sensation under the flat of your back.
Savasana – Resting pose;
Tuck yourself in, cosy and rested under your blankets. Allow the mind to completely switch off, as you let the breath relax into an uncontrolled and natural rhythm. Start to envisage “switching off” each separate area of the body, starting from the feet, moving all the way up to the crown of the head.