Many of us can find it difficult to ‘dampen down’ the hectic activity in our head, especially after engaging with a busy day of work and other stressful distractions – periods that can seem like there’s so much to do, yet so little time afforded to getting it all done. The secret is ‘to switch off’ the hormone-related stress-activating mechanisms that result from these circumstances, as this will actually give you more space, time and focus to do all that you need to do in an effective and efficient manner. Please remember that you can only do so much, and remind yourself that you are putting all of your best efforts into fulfilling your responsibilities.
Many of my arts industry clients find it hard to calm down and be in a peaceful headspace when they prepare for one of my classes, especially when they have been entertaining an audience with a loud and active performance – they’re pumped up with excitement and enthusiastic energy. There needs to be a transition from a fully active mindset to a more heart-based and grounded energy when they hit their yoga mat – a passive state of being, a quietening of all thoughts.
It’s important to get plenty of sleep – there’s a reason why it’s called ‘beauty sleep’! Ensuring that you have adequate, nightly levels of deep sleep is one of the key essentials to maintaining a youthful-looking, healthy, glowing skin tone.
Follow the next routine in order to reap the calming and soothing benefits yoga has to offer in promoting a wonderful and sound sleeping regimen.
Standing Twist pose
Twisting is the best way to balance and centre yourself. This realigns your spine whilst bringing your emotional and mental state into equilibrium.
Twist, turn and unravel any of those emotional problems! This pose gets into all those knots and tight areas, helping to alleviate the strain. Bring your feet one leg distant apart, with your toes turning inwards and heels out slightly. Keep your knees soft to protect your lower back. Place one hand into the middle of your legs and as your inhale, raise the other arm up over your head. Lengthen your fingers up towards the ceiling. Keep your legs strong and active. Look up to your top hand, if your neck feels sore, look down to the base hand. Roll your shoulders outward and breathe fully into the whole length of your spine. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths. To release the pose, exhale your lifting arm back down to the floor and repeat to the other side.
Hold and breathe deeply for 5-to-10 breaths each side. You can shake your legs out a little if you need to before starting this next move.
Forward bend pose (Pascimottanasana)
Start with your legs out in front, straight, unless your lower back is tender, in which case bend your knees. Inhale to raise your arms up over your head, and exhale to fold over your legs. Feet and legs active and press together, and keep your belly actively drawing into your spine. This pose turns you inward, to a calm and quiet place with which to fall into yourself. Allow the subtle sound and rhythm of your breath to be your focus – slow each breath down by one count, holding for 10-to-20 breaths.
Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Pigeon pose is one of the best ways to release your hips and take the pressure out of your knees joints. Our hips are the biggest joint in the body, so we can carry a lot of our tension or negative emotion in our hips. The best way to free up this tension is to allow your breath to release any tightness. With your legs out in front of you, bend your right leg with your foot close to your left thigh. Lift your body to ensure your hips are square to the top of the mat. Keeping your back leg straight and working towards the back of the mat, slowly reach your arms out in front as you lay gently over your bent leg. The more open you become, the more your bent leg can open further away from you. Hold and breathe deeply for 10 breaths – 1 minute. Repeat to the other side for the same length of time.
Wide child’s pose (Balasana)
Soothe your body as your fold forward into ‘child pose’ (balasana). Bring your big toes to touch, draw your knees out wide, and sit heavily onto your heels, lengthening your arms out in front of you. As you walk forward with your hands, fold your belly over your legs, and rest your forehead onto the ground. As you sit heavily onto your heels, you’ll lengthen and create more openness into your spine. Breathe deeply into this gentle pose to soothe and soften your inner and outer self for 10 breaths (hold for longer if you need more of a rest).
Legs-Up-Wall pose (Viparita Karani)
Bringing your legs up a wall (or head board) is a wonderful way to take pressure off of your feet (especially if you’ve been standing and performing all day or night) and it also puts your mind at ease as it soothes your nervous and hormonal systems – taking away any frustrations, and gently relaxing a mindful of chatter and distraction. As you hold for longer periods of time, you’ll find yourself drop into a more peaceful and kind space.
Come up against a wall, drop the side of your body down, and swivel your legs up the wall (shuffle yourself up so your sit bones are touching the wall). Hands can come to your chest, your heart, or down by your side – you can decide what’s more comfortable for you. Keep your chin tucked into your throat, protecting the back of your neck. Keep your shoulders rolling down towards the floor and your legs can roll out naturally, and knees can bend slightly. This is a passive posture, so let your body naturally come to a easy and comfortable place. Hold and breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes. To release, bend both knees and roll out to your right side.
Please note, if you’re tossing and turning during sleep, this can help you chill out and relax; you can do this in bed – simply swing your legs up the head board and follow the same instructions as above.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
This is the most important pose, ‘savasana’ and should be carried out after every yoga session, no matter how short your sequence. It allows you to absorb, digest and receive all that you need to from your poses and sequences. That way, you’ll be ready to embrace your next moment of living in grace.
Start by laying flat onto your mat, palms rolled upwards and your feet rolled out to the side. Notice your body relax, and then mindfully relax even more – sometimes we’re holding onto a situation or circumstance whether we notice it or not. Keep your mind focused on the depth and subtle sound of your breathing as you lay for at least 5-10 minutes. Cover yourself with a blanket to stay warm and cover your eyes to keep your attention within. To release, bend your knees, roll out to the right side, take a few moments before coming up to a cross legged seat. You can make a positive affirmation for yourself, before making your way to a restful sleep.
Now you’ll feel rejuvenated and ready to sleep soundly. Your body-mind spirit will be truly thankful. You can be assured that you’ll go about your next day feeling fully alive, and ready to take on any challenges and opportunities that come your way.