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.

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