- I was approached by Casper https://caspersleep.com/mattresses a new mattress company with what they say is an incredibly comfortable latex memory foam mattress (I hope one day I will get to try one out for myself and speak from experience!) asking me to write a blog post about yoga for better sleep. I've never been asked to write FOR someone else. That is pretty exciting to me :) I am pretty easy to excite. SO here goes.
If you are currently practicing yoga these postures and pranayama techniques will be familiar to you. If you have never practiced yoga these postures will be easy to understand.
Here are my favorite postures for working out the day’s kinks and stress before bed.
Apanasa: Start by lying on your back with your knees drawn into your chest with one hand on each knee. As you exhale gently pull the knees into your chest a little more fully. When you inhale allow the arms to straighten and let the legs move away from your chest. This will gently massage the lower back, the internal organs and the lungs causing you to breathe more easily and more deeply. Do this several times. Pay attention to how the breath changes as you continue to repeat apanasa.
Pelvic Tucks and Tilts: With your feet flat on the bed, knees bent, on an exhale draw your navel center towards your spine and tuck your tail bone as if toward your knees. Feel your lumbar spine press a little more fully into your bed. On your inhale allow your tailbone to tilt as if into your mattress. You will feel your lumbar spine move a little away from the bed. Repeat this about 15 times before bed and again in the morning before you get out of bed. This is the simplest way to keep a happy lower back and to calm a cranky one.
Pelvic side to side shimmies (yes, I made that name up): To find the action of this pose start by putting one hand on each hip point (the bony part of the front of the hip). Then as if your right hand is pulling your right hip point towards your right shoulder and your left hand is pushing your left hip point towards the left heal, move your hips in a side to side shimmy action. The hips and lower back never leave the bed. Enjoy the subtle stretch inside the hip and side body.
If you are an active, healthy person these postures are easy and will help ease you into a deep sleep by releasing stress in the hips, low back and psoas. If you are bed ridden and/or immobile these postures may or may not be helpful to you.
However, as the alternate title suggests, as long as you can breathe you can practice yoga. The following are some simple pranayama techniques. Pranayama means, essentially, breath control. A deeper meaning is ‘life force control’. Because as we know our breath is our life force or energy.
Viloma: This breath begins with a tiny, partial inhale, followed by an even tinier pause. Then another tiny inhale, another tiny pause. A final tiny inhale, final tiny pause. Then one long slow exhale. Try exhaling through your mouth as if you are blowing out through a straw. This lengthens the breath and calms the nervous system.
The Falling Out Breath: This simple breath is not just great for helping you fall asleep, it is great for frustrating situations like, traffic, paying your bills, and teenage children! It can be practiced anywhere anytime and in most cases no one will know that you are practicing yoga breathing. Begin by taking a normal natural breath. Exhale through an open mouth with a sigh. (much like a teenage girl would). Or as if through a straw, or as if blowing bubbles. When we allow our breath to exit through the mouth a shift in the nervous system occurs and stress and pain are reduced.
Three Part Breath: Imagine that you are lying on a beach, just at the water’s edge. As you inhale imagine the breath is an ocean wave filling your belly and lungs from the bottom up. The lowest part of the belly fills first (the first part is navel center to the pubic bone). The middle part fills seamlessly next. (the middle part of the belly is navel center to sternum.) Finally the upper chest and the base of the throat fills. As you exhale the breath leaves the body in reverse order as if the wave were going back to the ocean. Keep this imagery of the ocean wave gently washing over you as you inhale and exhale.
P.S. I really mean that part about, if you can breathe you can practice yoga. As I write this blog post I am sitting by my dear father in laws bedside. He is on oxygen 24/7 and in the background is the gentle wisp, wisp, hum of his oxygen machine. He couldn't do the simple asanas even if I were able to help him. But he can breathe, even though his breathing is compromised he can still watch his breath as it enters and exits his body. He can still notice how his breath feels, without judgment. He can still use the breathing techniques.
Two quotes I can’t seem to keep out of my mind:
"Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured." BKS Iyengar
"Yoga is an internal process, all the rest is a circus" K. Pattabhi Jois
In this room today we are all practicing yoga, we are enduring what cannot be cured and our process is internal...although it is certainly not without it's circus moments. Because, that is the truth of life and of death; it is rarely easy, clean or uncomplicated. It is often confusing, complicated and messy.