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

Back to School (by guest blogger Lucy Bannister)

Back to School. Back to Mind

By guest blogger Lucy Bannister (http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/)

Yep, no matter if you have kids or not, September has a ‘Back to School’ feeling about it. And for me September is always a busy month and if I’m not careful I’m steaming headlong into Christmas before I’ve blinked.

So that’s why today’s email is about taking time to blink. To stop. To breathe. To go with the flow.

I want to encourage you to slow down a bit repeatedly throughout the day.

All this is inspired by a quote that popped into me Facebook feed this week: “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” (Ghandi)

PinkFlowers

We are so conditioned to be busy, to keep going at all costs, to push through, that we can easily forget that by stopping to meditate or do yoga we can actually achieve more. We can slow down, appreciate what is happening, where we are and have clarity of purpose and task.

Many of you have commented that you find it hard to do yoga at home. But you don’t have to make it a special thing (although that is lovely and I strongly encouraging finding a space in your week to have a home yoga practice); you can do yoga anywhere at any time. Yoga is the unity of body and mind, being still in the present moment not getting sweaty, throwing crazy shapes or standing on a rubber mat.

Your challenge:

Set an alarm or reminder for every two hours during your working day. When your reminder goes off take five minutes to sit and breathe or go for a silent walk outside or find somewhere to do your favourite yoga pose or meditate – whatever you like as long as it doesn’t involve technology, cigarettes, stimulants or other people!

If every two hours is too frequent, try twice a day to start with and see if you can build it up through the week.

Like the results? Try doing it outside of work too, taking regular ‘time outs’ in the evening and weekends to bring body and mind together.

If you can spare 10 minutes for your ‘time out’ and you have access to You Tube on your mobile device, grab some headphones and head out to the park or quiet place near work and use this mediation, made especially for busy people: http://youtu.be/zIsg5voCmuY

Don’t forget to let me know how you get on. I am joining you with this challenge too so we can share our experiences.

Lucy teaches Dru yoga in London. She teaches yoga for Fit School at Northern Trust as well as popular rooftop yoga sessions in Peckham. http://www.lucyoga.co.uk/

Taking the fun out of fitness

Personal training. Spinning. Bootcamps. HITT training. Weights or no weights. Running vs. jogging. Pilates vs. yoga. Zumba. Walking the dog. Nordic walking … the list is endless. As someone who is immersed the fitness industry on a daily basis, both as a service provider and a writer, I’m forever bemused by the internal wranglings of fitness professionals over what is best, what is optimum and what is just a waste of time. In their opinion.

The thing is, if you are exercising to train in the Commonwealth Games or to rehabilitate a broken back, then the type of training that you do is REALLY important. But if you start a personal training programme and your trainer insists you do X,Y and Z for optimum effect and you hate X,Y and Z, then no matter how clever your trainer is or how keen you are, you won’t stick to it. Would it not be better for you to do a bit of X and Y but then a whole lot more of the stuff you love?

Here’s what I think (for what it’s worth). Enjoyment, community, stress release and fun are THE most important factors when it comes to exercise for most people. Yes, if you have a specific goal in mind like marathon training or weight loss, then you might have to factor in a little more of the optimal training stuff but please not to the detriment of what makes exercise enjoyable for you. When I recently interviewed the man who pioneered fitness clubs in the UK. Ken Heathcote (who was also the founder of fitness industry qualifications) he said social HAD to come first, functional after.

So if someone tries to tell you otherwise … I’d suggest you tell them to optimise their opinions to someone who cares.

Now here are a few people who knew how to laugh at themselves: Acorn Antiques does health and fitness.

acornantiques
Ken Heathcote, Father of Fitness, on creating fitness moments of magic.
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