Sunday, 19 June 2016

Yoga for seniors - sleep

Many of us do not sleep as well as we age.  We are not supposed to need as much sleep when we get older but I, at least, find this not to be true.  Poor sleep quality has many causes in seniors - you may wake needing the bathroom, you may have anxieties over health issues, pain associated with health issues, the medication you are on may cause insomnia or sleep apnoea becomes more common with age.  If you are having problems with sleep talk to your doctor to rule out any medical cause.  

It has been shown that yoga has a beneficial effect on sleep quality in the following ways:-

  • Yoga releases tension in your body and when tension is released in your body your mind becomes calm.  
  • Yoga forward bends and inversions calm your mind, relieving the stress that can interfere with sleep.
  • Yoga triggers the relaxation response which means there is a switch from the sympathetic nervous system (which is the stimulating ‘flight or fight’ nervous system) to the quieter parasympathetic nervous system which reduces heart rate, blood pressure helping you 'wind down' for sleep.
  • Meditation quietens the mind.  Often it is a busy mind that keeps us awake.  

Try the following restorative sequence to release tension in your body and mind that has built up during the day helping you prepare for sleep.  You will need two cushions, a chair and a bolster if you have one or a rolled up blanket.  

Supported Cobbler's Pose - lie back over your mat and bend your knees so that your heels are close to your buttocks. Roll onto the little toe sides of your feet so that the soles of your feet are pressed together and your knees release down towards the mat. Support your thighs with cushions to protect your SI joint.  Place your hands on your tummy and watch your breath without trying to change it in any way. Stay focused on your breath and if any thoughts pop into your mind, let them go like clouds passing by. As you watch your breath you may start to notice that as you breath in your tummy lifts, as you breathe out your tummy releases back towards your spine.  Continue to watch your breath for a few minutes. This is meditating. To come out out of the pose take your hands to the outside of your thighs and draw your knees together.  

Reclined Twist - place a bolster or rolled up blanket on your right side. Starting with your knees bent, heels close into your buttocks and your arms a little way from your sides, breathe in and as you breathe out release your legs to the right to the support of your bolster/rolled up blanket.  If you have no problems with your neck, you can turn your head to the left.  Hold the twist for a few minutes tuning into any sensation, then when you are ready to release, breathe in, centre your head and knees.  Move your bolster/blanket your left then repeat second side.  

Supported Sphinx - lie with your bolster/rolled up blanket just below your ribs, your tail bone pressed back.  Have your elbows under your shoulders, forearms parallel and your fingers spread and open.  Your gaze can be straight ahead or down at the mat so that the back of your neck is long.  Hold for a few minutes if it feels comfortable for you then remove the bolster/rolled up blanket, place your forehead on your hands and rock your hips from side to side.  

Supported Swan - come to the back of the mat with your big toes touching, your knees wide and the bolster lengthways along the mat.  Fold over the bolster and let your arms relax by the sides of the bolster.  Rest with your right cheek on the bolster for a couple of minutes with a feeling of relaxing and releasing.  Turn your left cheek onto the bolster and rest there for a couple of minutes watching your breath.  When you are ready, breathe in, press into your hands and come up.  Put the bolster to one side and come onto all fours.

Cat/Cow - with your hands under your shoulders, knees under hips, breathe in lift your head and chest, breathe out tuck your chin and arch your back.  Continue working with your breath.  

C twist - come back to an all fours position breathe in and as you breathe out swing your hips to the right and turn to look over your right shoulder.  Breathe in and come back to centre, breathe out and repeat to the left and continue.  

Downward Facing Dog - come back to an all fours position, breathe in curl your toes under, breathe out lift your hips.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe in, lower your knees to the mat, breathe out take your bottom to your heels, stretch your arms forward.

Supported Seated Forward Bend - sit with your legs under the seat of a chair placed on your mat so that it will not slip. Breathe in and as you breathe out, hinge from your hips and hold the sides of the chair.  Place a cushion under your head for comfort.  Stay here for a few minutes watching your breath then breathe in and come up slowly.

Supported Legs up the Wall (caution heart problems, glaucoma, neck issues - an alternative would be to lie back on your mat in Savasana)- sit on a mat with your right hip to the wall and your knees bent.  Swivel so that your legs come up the wall.  Press your feet into the wall to enable you to lift your hips and pull a bolster/rolled up blanket under you.  Lower your hips onto the support of your bolster/rolled up blanket and relax.  Stay here for several minutes then remove the bolster/rolled up blanket, roll to your right and stay here for a minute before slowly coming up as you breathe in.

To finish - Alternate Nostril Breathing - sit on a chair or in a comfortable cross-legged position.  You may wish to blow your nose before you start. Rest your left hand on your lap and bring the first two fingers of your right hand to your palm.  Hover your right thumb over your right nostril and your right ring finger over your left nostril.  Take a few centring breaths.  When your breath has settled into a smoothe, natural, rhythmical pattern, close your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril.  Close your left nostril as you open your right and breathe out through your right nostril.  Breathe in through your right nostril, close your right nostril as you open your left and breathe out through your left nostril and continue for up to five minutes.  

Still not sleepy?  Try a Yoga Nidra - see
You may also be interested in my You Tube video 'How yoga boosts health - better sleep' 
and 'Love your sleep' on the wellness blog for tips on getting a better night's sleep.

Please also see :-

'Yoga for seniors- An introduction'-

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 1'-

'Yoga for seniors - Posture 2'-

'Yoga for seniors- Improving your balance'-

'Yoga for seniors- Circulation'-

Sweet dreams,
Janet x

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