Best practices and postures for deep rest and relaxation.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving weekend to you and your loved ones! May this weekend bring you some well deserved rest and relaxation.
Do you ever have nights where you toss and turn and wake up feeling like you haven’t slept at all? Tension and worries from the day can often disrupt sleep patterns leading to feeling groggy and unrefreshed the next day.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can eventually lead to health consequences that affect your entire body and mind.
Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air, exercise and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical and hormonal balance. Your brain forges new thought connections and helps memory retention.
Taking 10 to 30 minutes before bed to practice relaxation strategies will balance the nervous system and promote feelings of deeper relaxation leading to a better night’s sleep. You will fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep to wake up feeling more rested.
Along with a warm bath, turning off technology an hour before bed and avoiding caffeine later in the day or heavy meals a few hours before bedtime will also promote a good night sleep when combined with these suggestions below.
Try one or all of the following in sequence:
1. Mindful Awareness
Start with your breath. First, tune in the its natural rhythm. Then after a couple of minutes begin to slow down the exhalation even more. You’ll notice your heart rate begin to slow along with gradually dissolving pent up tension.
By directing our attention to our breath for a few minutes, we are taking a time out of our head and the busy-ness of our mind to tune in to our inner landscape. Mindful Breathing can be an exercise in « present-moment awareness ».
Exercise in Self-Awareness
How to develop self-awareness in 3 steps:
1. Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Listen intently to your breath.
Consider the following questions as you are starting this relaxation exercise:
a. Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth?
b. Is it shallow or deep?
c. Slow or fast?
d. Calm or shaky?
e. Rhythmic or irregular?
f. Do you feel your lungs and abdomen expand and contract as you breathe?
g. Does the air feel dry or moist?
h. Is there congestion in your nose, throat, or chest?
i. Can you breathe more clearly through your right or left nostril?
Simply observe the breath as a silent witness without judgment or trying to change it.
2. Expand your awareness to your entire body. Like a scanner bring awareness to the top of your head, forehead, eyes, ears, nose, lips, mouth, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, abdomen, back, hips, thighs, knees, lower legs, feet.
Qualify your relaxation experience :
a. Is there discomfort or pain anywhere?
b. Pressure or tightness?
c. Do you notice the beating of your heart?
d. Is it rapid or slow?
e. How about your digestion? Is your body relaxed and at ease?
f. Any tingling, pulsating, numbness or burning anywhere?
g. Is your body warm or cold, extremities cool or warm?
h. Can you feel the flow of energy or blood circulation throughout your body?
Once you have scanned your entire body you may notice sensations internally or externally, just take note in your awareness without trying to change anything.
3. Extend your awareness to your surroundings. Try with your eyes closed.
a. Do you feel the clothing touching your skin, what does it feel like?
b. What is the air temperature, how does it feel to sit in the space or the air surrounding you?
c. What about the lighting, is it sunny, bright, or cloudy, dim?
d. What do you hear? Sounds in the immediate space or more subtle sounds further away.
e. Do you detect electromagnetic fields from appliances, technologies, or other subtle energies in your immediate environment?
f. Are there other people around you?
g. Is it quiet or noisy?
h. Calm or busy?
i. Comfortable or uncomfortable?
You may want to conclude by sensing how you feel in general - tired, energized, edgy, centered, calm, chaotic, focused, confident, agitated, sad, joyful, inspired?
Now let go and be in the present moment. Resist entertaining any thought patterns in your mind, either in the past or future based thoughts.
By directing our focus to our breath and our body, we allow the mind to calm and the body to release tension.
2. Breathe your way to well-being
There are simple yet profound techniques that can be done anywhere and anytime to center yourself, relax and breathe more effectively. Just a few minutes of daily focused breathing can help alleviate tension, decrease stress, or improve your mood. The science behind heart rate variability and how we can restore our natural and optimal inner frequency is helping millions of people restore their natural balance and optimal rhythms to sleep better, digest better, feel happier and think more clearly during the day.
3. Have you heard of Yoga Nidra?
Rest, recover, recharge. The practice of yoga nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. Yoga nidra assists in reprogramming the mind to access the subconscious mind through entering deep meditative states. This practice helps the body rest and repair by balancing the nervous system.
According to the traditional teachings, one hour of yoga nidra practice equals four hours of natural sleep. A great way to rest and recharge when we need it the most.
This technique has always been a favorite one of my clients (and mine!) who attend my yoga for relaxation classes. Try the yoga nidra technique before bed to help you rest and relax deeply.
Here is a yoga nidra audio I created for you. You’ll find it here
4. Ahhh Yin yoga and Restorative yoga
Both Yin and Restorative yoga styles are wonderful options to help unwind and relax. These two styles of yoga include longer held, floor based postures often supported by cushions or blankets to help relax the hips, back and shoulders, which are areas most people hold onto the stresses of the day.
When we stay longer in certain positions, we influence our deep connective tissue that encapsulates our joints and inner organs. By breathing into our these tighter areas of our body while holding poses mindfully, we begin to reorganize and hydrate our deep connective tissue which directly influences how we feel due to its correlation with our nervous system.
Even just a few longer held poses before bed with make a difference in having a more restful nights sleep.
Would you like to try a slow moving, restorative, YIN style yoga routine?
You are invited to join me for a live online class on Wednesday at 6pm ET. Yoga for relaxation employs many of these techniques and more to help you feel more like yourself. Less tension and stress equates to less burnout and better health, harmony and joy. When you are ready to unwind and let go of aches and pains, send me a private message at email@example.com and I will send you an invitation to join us on a date that works for you.
I always say sleep is sacred! Go a few night’s without a good night sleep and our entire outlook on the day can be altered. The above mentioned tips are some of my favorite tricks to help get the kind of sleep I enjoy so the next day flows with greater ease. I hope you find them helpful too!
Cheers to your good health and a happier mood.