Preparing yourself for a good night's sleep might involve showering or other rituals that you find help calm you down. Indulging in an all-out exercise routine shouldn't be one of them. You might have to burn off steam from a challenging day, but time your last strenuous workout for a good five or six hours before bed so as not to rev yourself up when you should be winding down. Do little exercises before bed that involve very little activity and a lot of deep breathing, which will help slow your heart rate and prepare you for slumber.
Practicing the Sitale, or cooling breath, before bed will calm your nervous system. Either sit on your bed or on the floor in a cross-legged pose. Sit up tall to give your lungs room to expand. Close your eyes and let your hands relax on top of your knees. Curl your tongue and inhale through your open mouth. If you cannot curl your tongue, just open your mouth and inhale to let the air waft over your tongue. Close your mouth and exhale through your nose. Continue Sitale for up to two minutes.
Every exercise you perform before bed should induce a state of calm. Side bending has the benefit of slowing your rate of breathing while giving the sides of your body a gentle stretch. Sit on the floor in a cross-legged pose. Place your hands on the floor beside your hips. Inhale, then on the exhale, start sliding your left hand away from you while at the same time gracefully arcing your right arm over your head. When your left elbow touches the floor, inhale and come back to your original position. Repeat on your right side, then continue for up to two minutes, slowing your rate of breathing by taking longer inhales and exhales.
Even though you can perform this ultimate relaxation exercise in bed, it's better if you lie on the floor on a yoga mat or rug. Corpse pose, or Savasana, is performed at the end of every yoga class to let your musculoskeletal system relax and unwind after a strenuous workout. Even if you haven't attended a yoga class during the day, this little exercise will help wind you down regardless. As you lie on your mat, let your body and limbs go limp. Bring your attention to your feet and tense them for a couple of seconds. Relax your feet and move your attention to your shins and calves and do the same. Work your way up your body, alternately tensing and relaxing your limbs. Breathe deeply and evenly throughout.
Supported Child's Pose
Have a firm pillow close by as you kneel on the floor. Touch your toes together and spread your knees slightly. Sit back on your heels, then place the pillow in front of you and lower your forehead to the pillow. Arrange your arms alongside your body with your palms facing up. Supported Child's Pose relieves tension in your neck and shoulders, while providing a gentle stretch for your spine. Widen your knees if it's more comfortable, and settle into slow and steady breathing. Take as long as you like in this little exercise before bed.
- "Chakra Yoga"; Gurutej Kaur; 1998
- Yoga Journal; "Sweet Slumber"; Nora Isaacs