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Sleep Tips, Tips & tricks
Salute the sun with these easy stretches to help wake up the mind and body.
Do you rise and shine, or do you wake up, caffeinate and hope for the best? If the latter sums up your morning vibe, you’re not alone. Despite the very best of intentions, and an abundance of illuminating evidence on the benefits of rising early, getting out of bed is still a challenge for many of us. In fact we’d bet money on the fact that most of us are looking for ways to liven up a little in the ‘am’ and improve our flow. Whether it’s sluggishness or the warmth of the covers that keep you in bed, it is helpful to know there are ways of increasing your energy in the morning and preventing you from hitting the snooze button again.
Let’s start by taking a cue from your household pet cat or dog. You’ll notice that most animals, after a long slumber, almost always take a moment, or a few moments to completely stretch out before going about their business. According to Ohiyesa, a Sioux tribesman ‘you will observe that no dog gets up and walks off without thoroughly stretching himself, from the nose to the tip of his tail. This is an excellent cure for morning laziness.’
Let’s start by taking a cue from your household pet cat or dog. You’ll notice that most animals, after a long slumber, almost always take a moment, or a few moments to completely stretch out before going about their business. According to Ohiyesa, a Sioux tribesman ‘you will observe that no dog gets up and walks off without thoroughly stretching himself, from the nose to the tip of his tail.
This is an excellent cure for morning laziness.’
Lengthen out from your fingers to your toes: - here’s an easy one to start, in fact it’s so easy you don’t even have to move from your laying down position. Just wriggle down the bed before you begin so you can really stretch those arms and fingers over your head without interference from the wall or bedhead.
Stretch your arms and legs away as far as possible from each other so that you’re lengthening out from your toes to the tips of your fingers. Inhale as you extend your body and exhale as you relax and sink your body into the bed. Repeat 5 times, each time becoming more and more aware of your body and how you’re feeling as you wake your body up from sleep.
There are several stretches and mobilisation techniques you can try while still laying in bed including neck mobilisation, side lying reach and hip rotators. If staying horizontal to stretch is more your groove head to http://www.artofmanliness.com for more.
Mobilising your neck and shoulders: - it’s time to sit up, either on the edge of the bed or cross legged on the floor (yes, we’re asking you to channel your inner yogi). Start by stretching the muscles on the right side of your neck, turn your left ear over to your left shoulder and hold for 10-20 seconds. Then repeat on the other side. You can also try taking your left ear to left shoulder and right ear to right shoulder, slowly and gently. Next, with your hands resting on your knees, roll your shoulders to the back and then to the front. And lastly lift your shoulders up to your ears, hold and then allow them to relax back down. Repeat the entire sequence 3 times
Reclined spinal twist: - if you want to get fancy feel free to throw around the Sanskrit name ‘Supta Matsyendrasana’. Technically this is the laying down version of the popular seated twist, but either version work well for stretching out first thing in the morning. There are many benefits to this one including stretching the back muscles and glutes and lengthening and realigning the spine but also massaging abdominal organs and encouraging flow of blood to the digestive organs.
Lay on the floor, draw both knees to your chest and clasp your hands around them. Extend your right leg along the floor keeping the left knee drawn into the chest, extend your left arm along the floor at shoulder height, shift your hips slightly to the left and place your right hand on the outside of your left knee while dropping your left knee over the right side of your body. Exhale as you do so. Lastly turn your head to the left. Hold the pose for 10 breaths or so before drawing both knees in on the inhale and repeating on the other side.
Be gentle with this one, and avoid if you have back issues or degenerative disk disease.
Hamstring stretch: now it’s time for the good old hamstring stretch. It’s a great way to wake up the legs and stretch out the back of the leg without risking toppling over. Once again, lay flat on on your back. Ensure your hips are square (i.e. centred and flat to the floor). Now raise your leg and wrap you fingers around the upper part of the leg, gently easing your leg towards your body. Don’t force it - allow the leg to come closer with every exhale. Hold for 10 seconds and then repeat with the other leg. Try circling your ankle a few times in each direction also.
Standing lunge stretch: by now you should be ready to get to your feet and try a standing up stretch and this one is great for those of us seated at desk all day. Opening up the hips and increasing blood flow to the hips and legs is an effective way to energise first thing. So start by facing the bed and raising one foot up on the edge of the bed. Lengthen through the torso right through the top of your head as if there is a string pulling you up - even your pelvis should be pressing up. You should feel a transfer of weight onto the leg that is on the bed. Keep bringing your weight forward until you feel a stretch across the front of the hip on the standing leg and across the hip and groin of the leg pressing against the bed.
There are so many different moves and yoga poses (including downward dog) you can incorporate into your stretching routine. But hopefully those suggested above are both manageable and enjoyable, which we all know from experience is key for ensuring regular commitment. Good luck!
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