For many, this time of year can be extra stressful as we hurtle towards Christmas with all of the extra demands on our time, being unable to drift off to sleep at night can add to and compound the problem and send us into a vicious cycle. Your mind seems to be overly active from the day and evening social activities and won’t quieten down even though your body is tired or even exhausted. Then waking up in the morning you can find yourself even more exhausted than before you went to bed and having to drag yourself through the day only to repeat the cycle again the following night…it really is no fun at all! For when enough is enough, try this simple restorative yoga sequence (the dream-time sequence) as part of your evening routine and see if it helps you to break the cycle and drift off peacefully into a slumber. Try to spend 3-5 minutes in each posture with the breath long and deep and for a little cosmic extra, try some lavender or bergamot essential oil in a diffuser or oil burner and play some peaceful calming music if you like. You can even select 1-3 of the postures with bolsters and spend 10-20 minutes in each if you like. To take this to the next level, you can also learn the specific breathwork ratio that works best for calming your mind and body in my breath work e-course below. For best results, turn off all mobile and electronic devices 90 minutes before you practice this sequence and avoid caffeine 8 hours before bedtime or use lunchtime as your cut-off point.. If your sleep has been very disrupted, then try to stay away from all electronic devices 3 hours before bedtime.
- Belly breathing in constructive rest pose – Lay on your back with your legs bent and your feet as wide as your mat. Let your knees knock in together to touch. Place your hands on your belly with the tips of the middle fingers touching. Now take a nice deep breath into the belly, feeling the belly inflate into the hands and the hands moving apart slightly, then exhale and feel the belly relax as the diagram pushes the air up and out through the nose and the middle fingers move back together to touch. Continue breathing into your belly and hands for a few minutes. Try this breath ratio to help deepen your breath in the postures and get your mind to quieten down: Inhale for a count of 5, gentle pause, exhale for 5, gentle pause. (If 5 feels too much then count to 4 or 3) Try to focus on your breath and if your mind starts thinking about things, quietly but firmly remind it that now is not the time for thinking and come back to focusing on your breath.
2. Child’s pose – Lay over a bolster or pillow with your knees apart and big toes touching with one ear turned down onto the bolster. You can use a folded blanket for extra support. Start to breathe long and deep as you let your body weight be supported by the bolster. Feel yourself softening and releasing tension as you breath and your body melting over the bolster. Halfway through gently turn the other ear down onto the bolster to stretch the neck.
- Cat/cow – Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, start to dip the back into an arch, broaden across the collarbones as you lift the chin and look upwards. Then as you exhale, push the floor away, round through your spine and shoulders and tuck your chin in. Continue unwinding tension from your spine as you breathe and move between the two postures. Move slowly, no rush. 4.Standing forward fold – from all four’s tuck your toes under and roll up into the standing forward fold with your feet hip distance apart. You can fold your arms above your head with your knees slightly bent or stand on the palms of your hands. Relax the head and neck and breathe into the back of your body. Feel how you can really unwind a lot of stored tension from the back and head as you breathe deeply in this posture.
- Seated forward fold – from the last posture come down to all fours then organise yourself into a seated position. Gently extend the legs out in front then fold forwards from the hips holding the feet. You can use bricks, a bolster or any other props to support the weight of the head. Breathe long and deep as you unwind tension from the back of your body.
- Double pigeon or crossed leg forward fold – Cross the legs and fold forwards resting the head on a brick, bolster or pillow if you need support, or for a deeper posture, take opposite ankle to knee then fold forwards. Allow the breath to go deeply down into your hips, soften, release and melt away the tension as you breathe and after 3-5 minutes come out of the posture slowly and change the cross of your legs to do the other side.
- Cobbler pose – Raise the hips and sit on a brick or block if you need to. Place the thumbs in the arches of your feet and start to fold forward from the hips gently using the elbows to encourage the hips to open as you breath. Send the breathe down deep into your hips and pelvis and again try to soften and release the stored tension as you breath.
- Supported bridge pose – Place the feet hip distance apart with the big toes slightly turned inwards. Gently lengthen the tailbone as you lift the hips up and place a brick under the sacrum. Allow your breath to open the chest and heart area as you breathe deeply and slowly. For a deeper pose, turn the brick on it’s side so that it’s on the highest setting then place it under the sacrum. To come out of the posture, remove the brick then slowly roll down one vertebrae at a time and when the hips touch the floor, come back into constructive rest pose (first pose in sequence).
- Legs against the wall – Lay in an L shape against a wall then place a bolster under your hips and sacrum. You can use an eye pillow on your eyes or forehead if you like. Breathe deeply and slowly as you allow this wonderful posture to calm your nervous system and quieten your mind and bring you into a state of tranquillity.
- Alternate nostril breathing – Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position and make a peace sign with your right hand. Bend the peace sign fingers toward the palm and use the thumb and third finger. Close the right nostril with the thumb and breathe in through the left nostril for a count or 4. Pause or float at the top of the inhale for 1 count then close the left nostril with the third finger and exhale through the right nostril for 4 counts. At the end of the exhale pause/float for 1 count. Inhale through the right nostril for 4 counts, pause/float for 1 count, then exhale through the left nostril and pause/float for 1 count. Continue for a few minutes and feel the peace and calm wash over you.
- Corpse pose – To finish the sequence, lay on your back with your legs bent over a bolster and your heels resting on a block each. Use an eye mask on your forehead or eyes and place one in each hand if you wish. You can cover yourself with a blanket. Get ready to drift off into a dreamy restful night’s sleep…Enjoy!
The Dreamtime sequence is a restorative yoga sequence for Insomnia by yoga teacher Claire Smith. Claire is a yoga teacher in Muswell Hill and the City of London so for this and other private or one-to-one yoga lessons, please contact Claire at email@example.com