Easy bedtime yoga sequence for a better night’s sleep

Legs up the wall and seated forward bend - September 26, 2014

Legs up the wall and seated forward bend – September 26, 2014

(Casper, the company that reimagined the mattress, tweeted this post!! Maybe they’ll feature me on their blog next.)

Bedtime sequence: Legs up the wall to seated forward fold to savasana to sleep


Growing up, I shared a room with my younger sister. We had bunk beds on one wall, a dresser with a mirror on another, and a bookshelf filled with books and boardgames on a third. We spent a lot of time together in our room playing (and fighting), talking and growing closer.

The best time for bonding and togetherness happened at night after our mom tucked us in and kissed us each good night. When the lights went out and the door closed, our room came alive with whispers and giggles. We enjoyed conversations that gradually dissipated into the darkness until all that could be heard–if you were a fly on the wall–were our deep inhales and exhales. Sometimes, if my sister fell to sleep before me, I would focus on the rhythm of her breath coming from the bunk below, which soon lulled me fast asleep.

I look back now and think, “How very yoga-like and comforting we were for each other.”

Today, I have a 9-year-old son. He has no siblings, and sometimes I feel guilty about that, especially when it’s time to tuck him into bed at night. When I turn away and shut the door, he is alone in the darkness. There are no whisperings or shared laughter or the gentle sound of inhales and exhales in tandem.

It’s just him.

So I make it a habit each night to spend time together on my bed just before tucking him into his bed for the night.

We sprawl out on the mattress, talking and giggling and  sometimes hitting each other with pillows. Most nights, we even practice a few gentle yoga postures together.

He likes headstands, while I prefer shoulder stands or legs up the wall to relieve pressure in my lower back and legs. We both like countering those poses with a seated forward fold and even make it a game to see who can touch their toes and hold the position the longest.

Although it’s a challenge some nights, we end the ritual lying still and quietly in savasana (corpse pose) for a few minutes just breathing and meditating on the sound of our collective breath.

He may view this as a quirky request from his mother…I don’t know. But I can’t help but believe that when I do step out of his room at night leaving him alone on his bed, he can still hear the sound of our collective breathing in his mind and find comfort in the darkness.


Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)

Benefits (list source – Yoga Journal):

This pose is considered by many to be a restorative posture and may help to:

  • Relieve tired or cramped legs and feet
  • Gently stretch the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck
  • Relieve mild backache
  • Calm the mind

Getting into the pose

Start with your pillows or rolled blanket or bolster about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall. Sit to the right of the pillow with your right side against the wall. Exhale and swing your legs up onto the wall. Your buttocks is as close to the wall as possible (not on the pillow) while your lower back rests on the pillow/bolster and your shoulders and head rest onto the mattress behind you. Extend and straighten your legs to a point that is comfortable for you. (You can also move further away from the wall and bend your legs deep enough to place the soles of your feet on the wall.) Flex your feet and engage the front and back of your calves and thighs. You will feel a gentle release of tension in your lower back and hips. Your arms are either outstretched on either side of your body or can be placed on your belly or chest. Focus on your breath and gently and deeply inhale through your mouth and exhale through your mouth.

Hold Time:

5 to 15 minutes

Coming out of the pose:

Do not twist or contort your body to come out of the posture. Either slide backwards off the pillow putting your butt on the mattress or bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift your pelvis off the pillow and move it to the side. Lower your pelvis to the mattress and turn to the side. Stay on your side for a few breaths then come up to sitting with an exhalation.

(Read more about viparita karani here.)

Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Benefits (list source – Yoga Journal):

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis

Getting into the pose:

From a seated position at the top of the bed either directly on the mattress or using a pillow to prop your pelvis, extend your legs straight out in front of you. Flex your feet and toes to the ceiling. Adjust your sits bones as needed for comfort. Place your hands firmly on the mattress on either side of your hip bones. Inhale and lift your sternum (chest) energetically to the sky as the backs of your thighs and knees gently relax and straighten meeting the mattress. Draw in your groin toward the pelvis and inhale deeply and begin to fold forward from your hip joint, not your waist. Extend your arms out in front of you and touch or grab your toes. Your torso rests on your thighs. With each inhale, lift through your pelvis. With each exhale, relax deeper into the pose bending your elbows the deeper your are able to extend the crown of your head forward closer to your toes. If you are not able to go that deep, no worries. Fold forward as far as you can and place your hands on your thighs or shins, whichever is accessible to you today. It’s not about depth but about engagement of your breath and body together. The benefits are the same regardless of depth.

Hold time:

1 to 3 minutes

Coming out of the pose:

Lift the torso away from the thighs and straighten the elbows again if they are bent. Inhale and lift the torso up by pulling the tailbone down and into the pelvis. Relax back into savasana for 5 to 10 minutes.

(Read more about paschimottanasana here.)

Sweet dreams!

Paula


 

Paula Carrasquilo is a certified yoga teacher, health coach and author of Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Follow her on Twitter and on her Love-Life-Om blog.

Yoga heals the body and the mind

Yoga heals the body and the mind.

Yoga heals the body and the mind.

Yoga is not just a passing fad for exercise elitists. Yoga is a safe and highly effective form of therapy for individuals seeking relief from post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety in the aftermath of abuse and trauma. Do you know how yoga works?

To learn more, read my latest story on CDN:

Yoga therapy for survivors of trauma and abuse

Namaste!
~Paula

Paula Carrasquilo is a certified yoga teacher, health coach and author of Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath. Follow her on Twitter and on her Love-Life-Om blog.

 

Back to Bikram at a non-affiliated Bikram Studio

After 5 months of searching, I finally discovered a studio that teaches Bikram Yoga but is not a Bikram Yoga affiliate/franchise.

If you read my post from January about mourning my Bikram Yoga practice, you know I gave up the practice after much struggle, thought, and consideration.

I am a survivor of abuse and work every day to bring awareness and help to others struggling in the aftermath of their abuse. When I discovered the abuse and sexual assault allegations against Bikram Choudhury, I had to consider their legitimacy based on the combination of multiple allegations and on what my gut and intuition was telling me.

And because the majority of studios that teach Bikram Yoga are affiliates and pay fees to Bikram, Inc., I could no longer reconcile giving my hard-earned money and energy to a man and empire that directly counters my ultimate hopes for this world.

Last week, my husband, son, and I were driving through Bethesda. I glanced over in the direction of the Bikram Yoga Bethesda studio and was shocked to see that the name of the studio had changed to Pure Om Yoga. I immediately grabbed my phone and messaged the studio through its Facebook page asking if they still offered Bikram-style yoga and if they remained affiliated with the Bikram brand and empire. Happily surprised, I received a response within an hour confirming that they still taught the same yoga but were no longer affiliated with Bikram, Inc.

Do yo have any idea how thrilled I was? Despite who and what Bikram is today, he created a series of poses and breathing exercises that helped me in many ways. Like with any style, there are teachers who exploit and harm through inflated egos and their need to be revered as gurus.

I just want the yoga without the guru and without knowing my money is lining the pockets of an empire that misrepresents all that I have come to understand and love about yoga and life on this planet.

I am a conscientious consumer. Every day and with each new experience, I become more and more aware of what I put into my body and where and with whom I interact daily. As information is provided to me, I will continue to make choices that resonate with my core values and beliefs. As a deep feeler and emotional person who has been harmed in the past by overlooking the seemingly insignificant misdeeds of those around me, I can never again compromise my core beliefs, as I have in the past, for the sake of convenience.

I visited Pure Om Yoga on Saturday and went back on Sunday. The anxieties I had been feeling a few months ago before I quit my Bikram Yoga practice no longer interfered with my conscience while on the mat and in the hot room. Where I was drained prior, I am invigorated today.

Outside of this explanation, I can’t express exactly how that “letting go” filled me with peace, joy, and hope.

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

I’m going to be featured in OM Yoga Magazine!

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International, UK-based OM Yoga Magazine will feature my book (Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath), me and fellow survivor, blogger, and entrepreneur, Andrea Clark, in their upcoming edition.

As part of a larger story on the benefits of yoga and meditation for domestic violence victims and their children, our professional bios and contributions to issues of safety, DV/abuse recovery, and sociopath awareness will be highlighted.

To put an international spotlight on survivors of sociopath/pathological abuse is HUGE!! It’s huge for everyone from victims to those who offer assistance and support to survivors in recovery.

Please checkout Andrea’s blog, The Eternal Victim and her Safe Girl Security site.

Also, consider following OM Yoga Magazine or getting a subscription. Their mobile app is free!

Namaste!
~Paula

Article share: 7 Scientific Examples of When Yoga is the Best Medicine

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Victims of domestic violence, war veterans, children with autism, caregivers…all proven to benefit from a therapeutic yoga practice.

It’s amazing to find this information in one place. I have experienced many of these benefits personally.

7 Scientific Examples of When Yoga is the Best Medicine:

Yoga helped me calm my mind long enough to allow my old habits to be broken and for my brain to get rewired toward focusing on life-preserving behaviors, thoughts and actions.

Yoga is amazing! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself to be honest. 🙂

Namaste!
~Paula

(Image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/235031674273329001/)