Chelsea footballers are partial to a bedtime yoga practice to help sleep according to a BBC Radio 4 interview on Women's hour today. To help sleep and aid relaxation, some players have been advised to lie with their legs up the wall, bottom close to the wall, lying on their back, for a few minutes before bed.
Raising the legs above the heart in an inverted position like this is supposed to calm the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing and settling the system to aid relaxation and sleep. It is a restful position (if you find it comfortable and have strong enough legs and back to hold it comfortably for several minutes). Variations of this posture are suggested if you can't relax in this pose.
According the the sleep specialist , it is common to wake up 10-15 times a night anyway, a throw back to when we lived in caves and had to check that all was well with the world and we were not in danger. Women in late-stage pregnancy and new mums will typically wake up twice as much as this, more self-preservation and baby protection taking place it is assumed.
Top tips to improve your chances of getting a good night's sleep included:
- Incorporating a gentle, restful yoga sequence or meditation before bed
- Not keeping a clock in the room that is visible to you, and don't check the time if you do wake up, just try to go back to sleep
- Keep the room slightly cooler than the rest of the house
- Prepare for sleep well, write down and 'to-do's' before getting into bed so you don't worry about them in the night.
Hope this helps!
Saturday was a lovely afternoon where a group of us explored how yoga can help our posture in every day life. The 3 hour workshop explored our own individual postures, how life has imprinted on us over the years perhaps with our shoulders hunched from rounding over a computer screen, or our bodies become more uneven from left to right as we carry children or heavy bags over the years always preferring one side over the other.
Some postures of course we are born with, but for many of us it reflects how we carry ourselves and our individual strengths and weaknesses. Have you ever noticed how body builder may have rounded shoulders as the over-strengthened abdominal muscles don't have the appropriate back strength to maintain a well balanced posture? Interesting imprints of life!
Yoga was traditionally applied to help strengthen the body so that the student could then go on to sit for long period in meditation without the body aching or distracting and with the mind calm and ready to meditate. So many yoga asana are directly aimed at improving our own posture, whether our goal is to meditate or not.
Yoga can help us notice our posture, developing awareness in our lives of our habits and patterns, and exercises that can help compensate and strengthen or stretch us appropriately to rebalance our bodies. Just 15 minutes a day can help have a significant impact on our own posture and help us all stand tall.
You don't immediately think of the Olympics or yoga championships when you think of yoga. But there is a small but growing movement for encouraging competition in yoga with yoga celebrities like Bikram Choudhury at the forefront of the movement.
Yoga competitions currently judge asana (postures) based on strength, flexibility, alignment, difficulty of the poses demonstrated and overall demeanour and execution. More about it in the emerging trend and Olympic Yoga aspirations in this interesting article in the Telegraph this week.
The arguments against competition in yoga are relatively obvious. For a long time, and now more than ever, the tools and techniques of yoga have been used for individual development. Using bodywork, breathing, study, meditation etc. with personal aims that will be different from one person to the next. You might be at your group yoga class working on an old back injury that your yoga practice helps, the person next to you in a class may be settling an over anxious mind. How can there be a competition in this?
But to reject the notion of yoga as an Olympic sport as an obviously ludicrous notion perhaps could be short-sighted. If you agree that the more people who practice yoga the better, and that the benefits to practicing yoga are widespread and adaptable and have lots to offer people from all walks of life, then it naturally follow on on from that that the more people who know about yoga the better - and what better way to get to know about it than seeing it on TV in the Olympics? Of course that is a simplistic argument, and what you would see on TV would be a range of twisted bodies doing gymnastic type moves. But it could pique curiousity, and be followed up by perhaps venturing to a yoga class to find out more about it. The onus is then on yoga teachers to gradually introduce the student in to the full range of potential that yoga has to offer. Perhaps this could inspire a new wave of people to try yoga, or perhaps it would just foster more spectator participation which really would miss the point. The physical beauty that makes up one of the aspects of yoga does deserve spectators. BKS Iyengar emphasises this in his approach to teaching as a way to encourage uptake and participation. So perhaps Olympic Yoga a natural extension of this?
Patanjali would almost certainly disapprove and have no interest in this as a pursuit. In the Yoga Sutras he warns against getting caught up in the physical comforts that yoga can bring, seeing it as a big potential pitfall. But in the West the physical benefits are the typical starting point for anyone trying yoga. That is the reason for getting involved. So perhaps Olympic yoga isn't as far off as perhaps we might think it is, and not as ludicrous as it initially sounds.