Four Step Sleep Sequence
You can do this practice either on a mat or in bed just before bedtime...Mat (or bed!) Set Up
You will need a bolster, blanket and small pillow on either your yoga mat or your bed. If you don’t have a bolster, you can create one by tightly wrapping one or two of your bed pillows in a bath towel to create a cylindrical pillow / bolster.
Lie on your side at one edge of the bolster, with your hip on top of the bolster, your bum just hanging over the edge. Then roll onto your back so that the bolster is underneath your hips. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor, toes pointing forward and about hip distance apart. Let your ribs, shoulders and upper back all relax back onto the mat or bed, head resting on your pillow. Arms are alongside the body, palms turned to face up. Start to notice your breath. Spend 3-5 minutes focusing on the full length of your inhalation and your exhalation, breathing gently through your nose. Feel your belly rising on the inhalation and falling on the exhalation. This should help you slow down your breathing and release any tension in the diaphragm, the large muscle in the chest that facilitates the rise and fall of the breath.
Supported Knees to Chest
Lift both feet from the floor and take each knee down to its respective armpit. This will help release any tension in the lower back. You can wrap the arms around the knees and keep them hugged in. Continue to focus on the breath, and remain here for 3-5 minutes. On each slow exhalation, as the belly falls, see if you can also feel the lower back releasing with every breath.
Bamboo Garden (supported inversion)
Extend both feet upward towards the ceiling. Feet should be relaxed and it should feel relatively effortless to have both legs hanging in the air here, as if stalks of imaginary bamboo just swaying gently in the breeze! Let the arms be alongside the body, palms turned to face up so that shoulder blades are completely flat on the mat or bed. Again, you can focus on fully belly breathing and enjoying the benefits of the inversion, with extra blood circulating around the vital organs in this position. Stay here for five minutes.
From bamboo garden, return the feet to the mat or bed, knees bent. Lift the hips up and roll the bolster or pillow down so that it rests under the knees where the back of the thighs meet the knees. Let the legs extend out over the bolster. Let the whole body release and relax.
Whilst in this position, again turn your focus to the breath, inhaling fully as your belly expands and exhaling slowly and evenly as the belly falls. Once you feel you have a steady rhythm to your breath, you can focus on developing a ratio breathing, where you breathe in for a count of four and then pause for a count of two and then exhale for a count of four, and then pausing for a count of two before inhaling again for a count of four and continuing with this 4-2-4-2 (being a full ‘round’) cycle of breathing, seeing if you can do 10 full rounds of breath in this way. You can use your fingers to help you keep track of the overall count so you don’t get confused with your ratio counting.
To finish, I’d like to share with you two quotes that I particularly like and may encourage you to consider giving yoga a try: ‘If you can breathe, you can do yoga’ and ‘saying you’re not flexible enough for yoga is like saying you’re too dirty to take a bath’.