As kids, we encounter that thing dubbed “the summer slip.” Time off from school usually means liberal bedtime schedules. You get to go to bed late and wake up later. When school starts again, alarm clocks are not your friend because you feel like you are shifting into a different time zone on another planet (unless your parents sent you to summer camp . . . in that case you fell asleep to Taps and woke up to Reveille — still having a little bugle PTSD here). Longer days can pull a real doozy on sleep patterns for kids but also adults. That’s because more daylight delays the boost in melatonin levels. We need that natural uptick to help put us to sleep. When it is time to settle in for bed, lower core body temps also help make for a good night of sleep, however, hot weather can prompt a waking effect.
Outside of the advice I get from doctors, I find that yogis always have some of the best coping tips to help us get over that counting sheep hurdle. “Cooling down from the summer heat is an inside-out job, from the foods you eat to when you go to sleep. Do your best to honor the season by eating cooling foods mother nature provides such as watermelon, berries, and cucumber,” says Sara Clark, a top instructor and Yoga Journal cover star based in New York City. “Oil down after a nighttime shower with an infusion of cooling oils such as lavender, peppermint, and sandalwood. Most importantly, get to bed so the body can truly cool itself off. Between 10 pm and 2 am is when your body restores itself, recalibrating everything from your sweat glands to your heart rate.”
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To help you sleep comfortably, fellow yogini Lisa London of She Yogic created a pre-bedtime routine just for Books for Better Living readers!
“At one time or another, all of us have experienced insomnia. There are times when the lack of sleep just can’t be helped. One trick I like to do before I go to my yoga mat is to write down any troubling thoughts on a piece of paper and leave it on the dining room table where I sit in the morning,” says London. “This form of compartmentalization works for me as it allows my subconscious mind to work on a solution, while I and my conscious mind get some much-needed rest. There are a few simple moves that I do to help me when I’m tossing and turning instead of fast asleep.”
Check out London’s BBL sleep plan:
Child’s Pose helps to release tension in the neck, shoulders, and back, which are areas where most people hold most of their stress. This pose also helps to promote relaxation by encouraging steady conscious breathing, which is particularly significant for people living with insomnia as this calms the nervous system.
How to Enter/Exit Child’s Pose
1. Kneel on the floor/mat. Bring your big toes to touch. Take a big inhale, and exhale to sit on your heels. Then separate your knees about hip-width apart.
2. Stretch your hands out in front of you or bring them on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
3. Stay anywhere from 15 breaths to a few minutes. To come up, first, lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift up from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis. Sit up straight for a few seconds before moving into Reclined Spinal Twist.
Reclined Spinal Twist
The Reclined Spinal Twist increases blood circulation and reduces the generation of free radicals. It is great for sciatica and insomnia. You can do this right in your bed.
How to Enter/Exit Reclined Spinal Twist
1. Simply lie down on your back, hugging your knees into your chest.
2. Gently drop your knees to the right, keeping your knees and hips at the same level.
3. Turn your head to the left. Stay here for 10-15 breaths.
4. Slowly bring your knees back to center; dropping them to the left.
5. Turn your head to the right. Stay here for an equal amount of time.
6. Bring your knees to center.
7. Prepare for Legs Up the Wall; or drop both legs down for Savasana, with your legs a little bit wider than your shoulders. See Pose #4 to learn how to enter/exit Savasana.
Legs up the Wall
This pose is said to reverse the normal downward flow of a precious subtle fluid called amrita (immortal) or soma (extract) in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Modern yogis agree that Legs up the Wall may have the power to cure whatever ails you as it reverses the flow of blood, and gravity assists circulation, giving the heart a little help so it doesn’t have to pump as hard.
How to Enter/Exit Legs Up the Wall
Without a wall
1. Simply lie down, open your arms out to a T-position.
2. Inhale your legs up to a 90-degree angle. You can place a bolster, block, or pillow underneath you to make it more restorative.
3. Hold this for as long as 5 minutes.
With a wall
1. Your distance from the wall also depends on your height: if you’re shorter move closer to the wall, if taller move farther from the wall. Experiment with the position of your support until you find the placement that works for you.
2. Start in table-top position on hands and knees with your butt against the wall. Lie down on your right side and lift your legs up against the wall.
3. Your sitting bones don’t need to be right against the wall, but they should be “dripping” down into the space between the support and the wall.
4. Stay in this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Be sure not to twist off the support when coming out. Instead, slide off the support onto the floor before turning to the side. Come up to sitting with an exhalation.
Savasana is a pose of total relaxation — making it one of the most challenging asanas. Savasana helps with sleeplessness because it calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression. It also helps to lower blood pressure.
How to Enter/Exit Savasana
1. In Savasana, it is essential that the body be placed in a neutral position. Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor, and lean back onto your forearms. Lift your pelvis slightly off the floor and, with your hands, push the back of the pelvis toward the tailbone, then return the pelvis to the floor.
2. Inhale and slowly extend the right leg, then the left, pushing through the heels.
3. Release both legs, softening the groin, and see that the legs are angled evenly relative to the mid-line of the torso and that the feet turn out equally.
4. You should feel your body sinking into the mat, floor, or bed — whatever surface you are lying on. Stay in this pose for 5 -10 minutes.
5. To exit, first roll gently with an exhalation onto one side, preferably the right. Take 2 or 3 breaths. With another exhalation press your hands against the floor and lift your torso, dragging your head slowly after. The head should always come up last.
You can do poses 1 – 4 as a night-time sleep sequence or simply pick one to help ease your nervous system and lull yourself into a deep sleep.
Photo Credit: Sara Clark Yoga