Importance of good sleep
Sleep is an essential function that helps us to recharge our mind and body after entire day’s mental or physical hard work. Once you wake up after a great sleep, you feel really refreshed, energised and alert. It is the rest and digest phase where the parasympathetic nervous system activity is increased to make sure you are ready to relax and get the most out of your rest. This nervous system ensures that all the changes to your breathing, sweat production and heart rate happens gradually.
There are a lot of benefits of a good sleep, some of which are: helps to maintain high energy levels throughout the day, helps to manage any blood pressure issues, keeps the heart healthy and young, helps to control diabetes and body weight issues, reduces the occurrence of mood disorders. However, in today’s busy world, our mind is all the time active and it becomes really difficult to switch off and relax to a good night sleep. Here are some bed time stretches that will help you unwind, loosen-up your muscles, calm your mind and eventually help you to melt into a well-deserved sleep.
Marjaryasana and Bitilasana (Cat and cow posture)
This gentle spinal movement that goes along with deep inhale in cow pose and exhale in cat pose helps in giving a deep stretch in the back torso and neck, opens the chest, stimulates kidney and adrenal glands.
How to do?
- Come into a table top position
- Inhale (cow pose) drop the belly down towards the floor and raise the chest and chin high and gaze up to the ceiling.
- Exhale (cat pose) chin to the chest, round your back, suck your belly to the spine, gaze to your naval
Do couple of rounds of these postures with deep breaths which will help you relax and calm your body and mind
Eka pada raja kapotasana (Pigeon pose)
This is a great posture to release stress from your hips and lower back which are generally tight due to prolonged sitting. As per Ayurveda, the emotions like stress, sadness and fear are stored in the hips and doing this posture regularly will help you relieve internal stress and worry. This posture is also believed to support digestion through gentle stretching and movement of lower abdomen.
How to do?
- Come into a downward facing dog and take couple of deep breaths
- Exhale bend your right leg at the knee and bring it forward in between your palms where your right knee is just behind the right wrist and your right shin is parallel to the mat.
- Gently lower your right buttocks and left knee to the ground but ensure that the weight is equally distributed between both the hips. You can place a block to comfortably adjust and align your buttocks.
- Keep your left leg straight with toes pointing towards backside of the mat
- Inhale push with your palms and roll your shoulders back, extend your spine.
- Exhale lower your torso over your right leg and stretch your arms in front of you.
- Stay here for 5 -10 deep long breaths
- Slowly press up back to the downward facing dog
- Follow the same steps with your left leg in front.
Janu shirshasana A (head to knee pose A)
This is a seated single leg forward fold posture with slight twist in the spine. This posture helps in lengthening the hamstrings of the straight leg and opening the hips of the bent leg. Being a forward fold posture, it naturally brings the calming effect, as it creates space in between the vertebrae in the spine, which is the commander of our autonomic nervous system.
How to do?
- Sit in Dandasana
- Bend the right leg and bring sole of the right foot to the inner left thigh to create a 90-degree angle between the right knee and the extended left leg
- Inhale raise your hands up and slight twist towards the left leg
- Exhale hunch your back and fold forward on your left leg, touching the crown of your head to the knee. Grab the right feet with both hands. If this is too much then you can use straps or rest your hands on shin. You can also bend your left leg at the knee to make it a bit easier.
- Slowly come back up to dandasana by straightening your right leg
- Repeat the same on the left side
Parsva Balasana (Thread the needle pose)
This posture helps in releasing the tension from the back muscles and between the shoulder blades, provides great stretch to arm, chest and neck muscles. As it is a twisting posture, it naturally helps in detoxifying the body and thereby improves the digestive health.
How to do?
- Come to a table top position
- Slide the right arm underneath your left armpit with palms facing up till your right shoulder and ear have touched the ground
- As you go down with right hand, straighten your left hand by sliding it forward in front of you. Be in this posture for 5-10 deep long breaths
- Now slide your left palm back and place in front of your face and using the strength of the left hand press back to table top position
- Repeat this on the left side
Supta badhdha konasana (Reclined goddess pose)
This is a supinal relaxing posture that quiets the mind, opens the groins and hips. This posture can help in relieving lower back pain and tightness in the hip flexor muscles.
How to do?
- Lie on your back
- Bend your legs at the knees, open your knees out on either side and bring the soles of your feet together
- Keep block or pillow under your knees so they are not stressed
- Your arms can be in any comfortable position. Either straight overhead or cactus arms. Avoid arching your lower back.
- Stay here for 2-3 minutes
- To come out of this posture, reach down to your knees with your hands and help them to come back together, then straighten the legs to Savasana
Remember that these asanas are supposed to be performed as restorative exercises. So, feel free to use any props like bolsters, pillows, blankets etc to make them as relaxing as possible. And lastly don’t forget to breathe!
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