Forward Bend), supported
Benefit: Quiets the nervous system.
Fold one or more blankets and place them on a
chair so they cover the entire width of the seat. Stand facing the chair in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). On an inhalation, reach your arms up overhead and lengthen your spine. Exhale and fold forward until
your forehead rests on the blankets. Rest your arms, including your elbows, on the blankets so they do not slide off when you relax them completely. Stay here for 3 to 5 minutes or as long as you're comfortable. Inhale as you come out of the pose.
2:1 Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath)
Benefit: Calms the nervous system.
Come to a comfortable seated position and breathe normally. Start Ujjayi breath on an exhalation: With your mouth closed, slightly close the root of your throat as though you were whispering and exhale for 2 counts. You should hear a smooth, audible sound (akin to the ocean, the wind in the trees, or even Darth Vader) coming from deep in your throat as you breathe out. Release the restriction in your throat and inhale normally for 1 count. As you become more adept, increase the counts to any ratio of 2:1, such as 4 counts exhaling to 2 counts inhaling
or 6 counts exhaling to 3 counts inhaling. Do this breath for 3 to 5 minutes, followed by 10 to 15 minutes of meditation.
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
Benefit: Triggers relaxation response,
slowing heart, breath, and brain waves.
Bring a folded blanket or a bolster about 6 inches away from a wall (or farther away if your hamstrings are tight). Sit sideways on the support, with the right side of your body against the wall. On an exhalation, slowly turn to your right, lowering your shoulders down to the floor as you swing your legs up the wall. Adjust yourself so that your sitting bones drop down slightly between the support and the wall, the back of your pelvis rests on the bolster, and your shoulders rest on the ground. Bring your arms into a position that supports the opening of the front of your chest, whether out to your sides or reaching overhead on the floor. Relax your legs, face, and jaw. Stay here for 5 to 15 minutes. To come out, slide back off the support, turn to the side, and stay here for a few breaths before sitting up. You can do this right before bed or earlier in the evening. Make sure you don't fall asleep in the pose; save your sleep for when you are in bed.
Benefits: Helps keep spine aligned and reduces snoring.
Get into bed and turn to one side. Put a pillow between your knees and another under your head for support. Your head pillow should be just high enough to prevent your neck from side bending up or down; your whole spine should be straight when viewed from the side. Draw your bottom elbow and shoulder forward far enough so you do not lie directly on your arm. Optionally, place a third pillow in front of you and support one or both hands on it.
Benefit: Releases craniosacral tension.
Caution: Don't use this position if you are prone to snoring or sleep apnea.
Lie on your back in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Bring your hands behind your head with the right hand touching the back of the head and the left hand on top of the right. The hands should be underneath the occipital ridge (the prominence at the base of the skull). Allow your elbows to rest on the bed and let your neck release into your hands so that your head is in slight traction. This is a great position to fall asleep in, although you don't want to stay here all night with pressure on your hands and your shoulders stretching upward.
Ardha Adho Mukha Svanasana (Half Downward-Facing Dog)
Benefits: Alerts the mind, stretches the back
and legs, and relieves shoulder tension.
Stand at the side of your bed, with your palms resting on the bed. Step back, one foot at a time, so that the arms remain straight and the spine elongates as in a regular Downward-Facing Dog. Adjust your feet so that you feel you are getting a nice stretch through your shoulders, hips, and hamstrings. As you breathe, draw your hips away from your head and let your head gently descend between your arms. Stay here for 10 breaths.
Benefits: Stretches the hip flexors and abdomen, opens the chest, and awakens the cardiovascular system.
From Half Downward Dog, come into a lunge by bringing your right foot forward between your arms, bending the right knee and keeping the left leg straight behind you. Try to keep the back heel on the floor. On an inhalation, bring the arms out to your sides and up overhead, lengthening the spine. On an exhalation, bring your hands back to the bed. Return to the Half Dog, then repeat the lunge on the other side. Do this sequence several times until you feel invigorated.
Benefits: Invigorates the body and gets the blood flowing.
Sit sideways in a chair, with the right side of your body alongside the back of the chair. On an inhalation, lengthen the spine. On a soft exhalation, twist to the right, bringing both hands to the back of the chair. Relax your right shoulder and make sure you aren't cranking your neck so that it's uncomfortable. On each inhalation, lengthen the spine, and on each exhalation, deepen the twist. Stay here for 10 breaths. Release back to center, then sit with the left side of your body alongside the chairback and repeat to the other side.
Nora Isaacs is a freelance writer and the author of Women in Overdrive: Find Balance and Overcome Burnout at Any Age. She tries to get eight hours of sleep at her home in California.