Hi everyone, I’m Sophie and I specialise in Vinyasa Krama and Yin yoga. Whilst some of us are getting ready to go back into the office, your nerves might be starting to kick in, or you might find it harder to drift off the night before. So I’ve put together a few ways that can help you relax and beat the work blues.
What are some simple stretches/poses I can do to relax before I go to bed to improve my night’s sleep?
If you are struggling to sleep it is often helpful to try and identify what it is that is stopping you from sleeping. Whether it be a racing mind, work stress, body aches, or pains – target the area, and create a relaxing bedtime routine to help gain a more peaceful night’s sleep.
Supported caterpillar pose
Find somewhere comfortable to sit down, this can be on your bed or on a chair. Straighten your legs out in front of you, and place a pillow or two on top of your legs. Inhale and lengthen your spine before you exhale. Fold your body over your legs onto the pillows and try and hold this for 2-5 minutes. You should immediately feel at ease and relaxed after completing this pose.
Reclined Butterfly pose
This stretch can be done on your bed or a comfortable flat surface. Whilst sitting upright, bring the soles of the feet together so you create a diamond shape with your legs. Inhale, recline onto your back and slowly exhale. Relaxing back onto your bed or flat surface, place your hands on your belly, beside you, or behind your head. Set a timer for 2-5 minutes, close your eyes, and relax your mind.
Remember: The closer you place your feet in, the more intense the stretch will be.
Gentle and slow cat – cows
On the floor, get onto your hands and knees. Slowly Inhale and drop your belly towards the ground and then head up to the sky, exhaling, rounding, and curving out your spine to the cow position. You can do this for up to 2 minutes at your own pace.
If you have any overwhelming thoughts that come up during some of these poses; write them down. Get them out of your head and onto paper. This exercise helps to slow the mind and target the issue.
This is also beneficial if you have lots of things that need to be done the next day and you can feel yourself getting overly anxious about doing them. Again, write down all the things you have to do, so you can feel prepared and ready to start your day.
During these gentle poses, controlling your breathing will also relax the body further. Inhale for a count of 4, then hold it there for a further 4 seconds. Exhale for a count of 4, this will encourage the parasympathetic nervous system to turn on, relaxing the body and mind before bed.
Quick stretches to feel peaceful/relaxed/ease anxiety
A favourite pose I do is “Uttanasana” in yoga, but a variation I use for relieving anxiety or stress is more commonly known as “ragdoll”. This is where you start standing with a slight bend in your knees. Roll through your spine starting from the head, and imagine you are curving each vertebra in your spine towards the ground until you cannot roll any further forward.
From here, relax your head and arms till they are hanging above the ground. You can interlace the fingers behind the head for a gentle stretch, cup opposite elbows, or merely hang out there like a ‘ragdoll’ without any muscular engagement.
I love this stretch as it lengthens the spine, relaxes the shoulders (when we get stressed or our shoulders tend to creep up towards the ears), and refreshes the mind.
If you are new to this pose, do not hold this pose upside down for more than 2 minutes at a time.
I struggle with mobility and walking, are there any stretches I can do whilst I am sitting down?
Chairs are great to use for stretching as they allow the body to be supported whilst not putting pressure on the joints or bones.
Place your hands on your knees and inhale, arch your spine towards the sky, and exhale whilst rolling your body inwards creating a C-shape in your spine, bowing the head as the last movement. This pose encourages movement in the body and mobilises your spine.
Place your right foot on your left knee, keeping the hips centered on the seat. This may already be intense enough, but to increase the stretch of the pose, lean further forward to add intensity. Make sure to swap sides after a couple of minutes. This pose is great at stretching the hips and lower back.
Gentle wrist/feet/neck rolls –
Gently roll your wrist firstly clockwise, then anticlockwise for a few rounds. Then place your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing down. Point your fingers up to the sky so you feel a stretch along the inside of your forearm, followed by pointing them down to the ground to get a wrist stretch. Do this same routine with your feet, your neck and head.