Guest post: How to get to sleep with a wall inversion

This post is written by the amazing Lucy Bannister who has been teaching Dru yoga in the workplace on behalf of Fit School for over a year.

I’ve just started getting my Pilates participants to try this wall inversion. It’s a fantastic passive stretch for your hamstrings and hips. Do try it.

I wanted to get Lucy’s take on the inversion as a yoga instructor. There’s more to the pose than just stretching as many of you have discovered. Give it a try.

How are you sleeping?

If the answer is not so great, or could be better, then read on.

When the clocks change it can totally mess with our sleeping patterns, or perhaps it is the arrival of a small person in your life, long work hours or an intense social life that is leading to you not getting the rest you need.

All too often, though, it is not these external factors but rather our own minds and habits that are causing the barrier to sleep.

Sleep is beautiful, restorative and quite frequently in modern life, an indulgence. And those who are getting too little sleep will know only too well how hard life becomes without it.

Sometimes moving is the only way to get our minds and bodies to rest properly, but there are a few other things you can try too:

Dont drink caffeine after 4pm (it stays in your system and can leave you wired for many hours after).

Switch off your screens. The flicker from digital screens activates our stress responses. So whatever your screen of choice TV, mobile, computer switch them off at least 30 minutes before you go to bed and dont start Tweeting or updating your Facebook status when you wake in the night!

Breathe. Simple but oh so incredibly important. Once you start you will realise how precious being aware of your breath is.

– Yoga. A gentle yoga practice before bed, and if you wake in the night, is ideal for calming and clearing the mind, aiding the all important relaxation response. Had many hours of lying in bed with your body tense and the mind racing? Get up and relax, then return to bed ready to sleep.

A perfect pre-bed yoga pose is Simple Inversion (it also works if you wake in the night). It allows the flow of blood to return to the heart, which is great for easing out a stressed body and calming a busy mind.

WallInversion

Simple Inversion | Sarvangasana 1

Preparation

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor
  • Interlock your hands behind your head
  • Breathe in and as you breathe out draw your elbows together, lifting your head from the floor
  • This stretches out your neck and spine ready for the inversion


Posture

  • Fold a blanket so that is the length of your torso (hips to shoulders)
  • Place the blanket against a clear bit of wall (or door or wardrobe)
  • Sit on the blanket, up against the wall and position your hips as close as you can to the wall
  • Lie down along the blanket and manoeuvre yourself around so that your legs are upright on the wall and your buttocks are resting against the base of the wall
  • Open your arms at right angles to your torso, and no higher than your shoulders
  • Breathe and relax in this position


If your legs won
t go straight up against the wall, place your feet flat on the wall and bend your knees slightly. If your hamstrings are tight it might take a while before you can put your legs flat.


Start with five minutes in this position and build up to longer sessions. Don
t go into an inversion for too long the first time as the venous return (the flow of blood back towards the heart) can be quite powerful.

Give it a try next time you need to relax and get a good nights sleep.

Lucy Bannister teaches Dru Yoga in and around SE London. Class information is available on her website: http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/

Lucy has two yoga retreats coming up this year. Dru yoga is brilliant for beginners so if you fancy some mindful time out check the details here: http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/yoga-retreats/

We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane. How exercise helps the mind.

I like to lift weights. Heavy weights. It makes me feel great.

For me, going to the gym, lifting weights and finishing off with perhaps a ten minute swim or sauna and a shower (in complete peace) is like switching a re-set button in my brain.

I feel calm.

I like to run too. Running gives my heart and lungs a great workout, airs my legs and allows my thoughts to roam. Sometimes I run without music so I can just think but on sunny mornings like today, I’ll tune into some great running beats and just immerse myself in my little running world.

I like to practice Pilates. I might take ten minutes before a class to have complete, flowing, peaceful practice time. There’s a tranquility and peace I find in silent, solo practice that I don’t get from other types of exercise.

But – when it’s just me and the bar and the lift – that’s when I can totally zone out.

No distractions. No kids. No thoughts.

The biggest reason I exercise is to clear my head. Through exercise I can process thoughts or get creative. Sometimes I might need to run hard to get rid of pent up stress or anger. Sometimes I need to just chill. The way exercise makes me look is always secondary to how it makes me feel. And having spoken with so many women in the fitness industry and women who are exercisers (rather than non-exercisers) it always comes back to mental wellbeing.

I can’t speak for men on this one but I do know that for the majority of women, the exercise hook is feels not looks.

We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane!

Every exercise form gives us an opportunity to zone out or re-set, to process thoughts or to meditate.

Here are a few ideas on how you could use exercise to zone out or work out.

  • Yoga can be both challenging exercising and challenging meditation. The postures in yoga were originally based on the meditation. This is why it’ s often recommended during addiction therapy or rehabilitation.
  • Pilates is more of a conscious workout. Joseph Pilates originally called his method, controlology. The control of muscles through the mind. We are very mindful of technique during Pilates exercises.
  • Swimming can feel like re-birth. Yes you can go hard and workout your circulatory system (swimming is a great challenge for the lungs) or you can enjoy the simple pleasure of weightlessness and water. It’s rhythmic and repetitive and no phones are allowed.
  • Running can feel hard or could let you go for a great chat with a friend. When running alone you can internalise by focusing on how your body feels or you can let your thoughts wander.
  • High energy classes like martial arts or boxing can literally allow you to fight off your stresses.

Of course there are always ways of exercising optimally but the most important thing with exercise is to find something you love and find balance.

Enjoy x

How to be happy

Have you ever had a few grumpy days? So grumpy that you feel as if there must be some sort of wiring malfunction inside your brain? Or perhaps a collection of ‘issues to deal with’ mount up and distract you from all the positive things in your life?

Several studies are pointing to gratitude and thankfulness as key factors in how happy and even how healthy we are.

A 2009 study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) examined blood flow in the brain when participants had grateful feelings (Zahn et al, 2009). Those participants who were more grateful had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain responsible for managing stress levels and essential bodily functions like eating and sleeping.

Another study, back in 2003, asked young adults to keep journals (Emmons and McCullough, 2003). One section kept happy, thankful, grateful thoughts in their journals, whilst the others kept journals of things that annoyed them. And guess what … the thankful journal keepers reported more feelings of determination, enthusiasm and energy compared to the others.

The same researchers did a later study on adults and found that even a weekly gratitude journal was enough to have a noticeable effect on mood, exercise patterns and a reduction in physical ailments.

So … when it comes to down days, perhaps we all need to be a little more grateful.

IsaacParkBallZoe1

How can you be a little more thankful?

Last year, we decided to keep a ‘thankfulness’ jar in our family. We started it on January 1st and when something good happens, in work, or at home, we write it down and pop it in the jar. Admittedly we haven’t always been great at remembering but we plan to get them all out at new year and say a huge thank you for the great things that have happened in 2013.

But when it comes to me and my rambling, busy brain, the best moment of the day is when I get on my knees, stare at my sleeping son, and give thanks for each and every lovely thing that has happened during my day. Yes, sh*t happens. And yes, it gets to me (I’m a sensitive soul) but whether you call it counting your blessings, acknowledging the good stuff, meditating or praying it is scientifically proven to make you happy.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com