When it comes time to drift off into a peaceful slumber, something that many of us struggle to do, one of the keys isn't to just relax.
You've got to kick yourself into high gear!
A common mistake people make when trying to get to sleep is to ignore the physical stress and anxiety they've built up over the course of the day, week, or months, and instead try to use pure mental relaxation techniques to force an amped-up body to "just ... go to ... sleep, dammit!"
Mind techniques can be effective, but will be exponentially more so if you partner then with a physical practice. And I'm talking about really moving, too.
If your body remains switched into the sympathetic nervous system, which sounds nice, but is actually your fight-or-flight nature, you'll be doing the exact opposite of what's needed to get you to sleep. And sometimes, repeating mantras, counting sheep, or even breathing deeply isn't enough to take you there.
At the end of your day, if you haven't done a body-working and balancing practice like yoga, or other forms of exercise that include slow, mindful movement and deep breath, then your stress will be residing not only in your mind ... but in your muscle tissue as well. And, you have to get it out to be able to fully relax.
If you don't deal with your muscles, they will turn into restless legs, a still-wonky adrenal system, a jumpy mental state and you, remaining wide-awake and frustrated for hours. Or, you'll grab the Ambien. I encourage you to try the natural route first.
If you cut your sleep-depriving systems off at the pass, by doing an intelligent, counter-balancing amount of exercise during your day or about an hour before bed, then a more chill sequence right before you sleep, in very little time, you can make huge changes in the way you feel when you dive under those covers.
Exercise that's specifically targeted towards movement that removes muscle tension and centers your body and brain, like yoga, can be a huge ally in your quest for sweet dreams.
Yoga in particular has been shown to calm the central nervous system even as it tones the body, unlike many forms of exercise where the breath ends up high in the chest and short. This breath mimics panic, and can actually cause your body to develop more stress instead of less.
The bonus is, when you add consistent, conscious movement to your week, you'll reap a host of other benefits, like increased ability to focus on those sleep mantras, more weight loss, strength and flexibility, and even an immunity and anti-aging boost.
So try the vids below, and let us know how it works for you!
ACTIVE SERIES DURING THE DAY
To really release stress from common storage areas like hips, lower back, shoulders, while getting a great workout, try this Hipster Floor Practice, or any of my other strong YouTube videos, many of which can be done in much less time:
SECOND SERIES BEFORE SLEEP:
This is a more calming sequence to make sure you're truly re-set for sleeping. You can hold any of the poses for as long as you wish.