This week we continue to talk through the Ten Essentials of Intentional Living by discussing movement. As Carol Welch said, "Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states." I have experienced this wholeheartedly through my yoga practice.
Yoga is truly for anyone, but people often feel intimidated by the practice. Advanced practitioners posting their upside-down poses on social media, along with the fact that yoga has settled into western pop-culture power fitness, have skewed the way we often view yoga. I'm not going to lie, I enjoy a tough, power flow class and learning to build strength through inversions and balancing poses, but that is not what my yoga practice is like regularly.
Yoga used to bore me. Honestly, I hated it. I wasn't comfortable with slow and quiet back then. But that's when I only looked at yoga as a form of exercise. After more time on my mat, I learned that yoga is not just the physical poses or asanas, it's a mental practice as well. I like to say that yoga has helped me build strength and flexibility both mentally and physically.
Yoga poses are great for helping you wake up your mind and body (if you want a short wake up practice, check out some Sun Salutations), but they are also an amazing way to settle down before bed. Sore muscles, racing minds, and stimulating electronics often make it difficult to fall asleep. Here are a few very simple movements that you can do before bed to stretch, unwind, and relax the body and mind. Take about ten slow, deep breaths in each pose.
Knees wide, big toes touching (or almost touching), arms stretched out overhead. You can always tuck a pillow up under your seat between your thighs -or- bring your knees together if spreading them is too much for your hips. Allow your forehead to connect to the floor or your mat. This space is considered your "third eye" or your center of intuition. As you feel your forehead making contact, you can bring your attention inward to the present moment and your present feelings.
While lying on your back, bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall out to the sides. You can place a blanket or pillow under each knee for more support if needed. Rest one hand on your belly and one on your heart. As you lay here and breathe, notice the rise and fall of your belly. Notice your heartbeat under your hand. Find gratitude for what your body naturally does to provide you with life.
This one is great for stretching the back after a long day. We hold so much stress and tension in these muscles. While lying on your back, hug your knees into your chest and then drop them over to the left, stretching your arms over to the opposing right side. Pause here and then switch sides. Twisting movements can improve digestion and the removal of toxins. Think of this pose as wringing out the mental toxins of your day as well. Envision any stressors you are dealing with and then let them go for the night.
Legs Up The Wall
We spend all day with gravity pulling us down, so this is a simple way to reverse the flow and improve circulation at the end of a long day. Get close to a wall, lay on your back with your seat up against the wall, and extend your legs up the wall. You can put a blanket under your hips or opt to keep your knees bent if you need it.
Final Resting Pose
(a.k.a. Savasana, pronounced sha-vah-suh-na)
This is the pose that people go to yoga classes for (kidding and not kidding). There's really no wrong way of doing this, but essentially lie on your back and allow the weight of your body to sink into your mat or floor. You can do a body scan from head to toe, relaxing all of the muscles (yes, all the muscles, even the temples and the jaw). Stay here as long as you want and when your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. It's okay if you fall asleep! That was the original goal anyway...
Wishing you sweet dreams and a good night's rest! If you do these poses before bed, let me know how it goes!
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Talk to you soon!