Why was I awake? It was a long night, after a long day, after a long week. I had looked forward to crawling into bed since I had crawled out that morning. I could barely keep my eyes open by late afternoon, and found myself nodding off during my evening work event. Yet here I was, finally in bed, awake.
Has this ever happened to you? Somehow stress has a way of both wearing us out, yet keeping us from a sound sleep. As we move through our day our bodies take on the stress of our schedule and social dynamics, work demands and home life. Even on the easy days, we often feel tension creeping in by evening—so how do we let it out?
We all have a few things we do before bed. Some are a mere matter of personal hygiene, but others have a distinct mind-body connection. That hot shower gets you clean, but it also calms you down. Moisturizing is also a nice destressing mini-massage. And when I put on a face mask it has just as much to do with emotional self-care as it does skin care.
Stretching is no different. While flexibility is valued for reducing muscle soreness and increasing flexibility, it also known for reducing tension and calming the mind—resulting in an unwound, destressed self, ready for a refreshing eight hours.
Add these gentle restorative stretches to your nightly routine for a more relaxed sleep.
This stretch is one of the most popular to sooth the mind, reduce stress, and increase relaxation. Come to the ground on your hands and knees—knees wider than your hips, toes touching. Sit back onto your heels and fold forward, chest and torso coming between your thighs and toward the ground. Stretch your arms out in front of you and slow your breath.
Refrain from this pose if you have a knee injury. And like all stretches, do not proceed if the stretch causes pain.
Imagine wringing out a dishtowel to dry—it’s a similar idea here, but rather than removing water we’re detoxifying our internal organs with a deep, full body twist. Twists are for other reasons as well. Easing digestion, aches, and pains. Relieving back and neck tension. There’s nothing quite like a nice twist from head to toe!
Bend your right knee and bring it toward your chest while lying flat on your back. Gently bring your bent leg across the left side of your body, using your left hand to apply slight pressure if desired. Extend your right arm straight out, palm up, shoulder blade grounded. Turn your head and gaze over your right arm and breathe a few rounds of breath. Repeat on the left side.
Knees to Chest
Lying on your back, gently bring one knee in to your chest. Wrap your arms around your shin and give yourself a gentle squeeze, stretching out that lower back, as well as giving a bit of relief to your glutes and hip flexors as well. Alternate legs. It’s simple, relaxing, and releases tension in your back.
This is an ideal moment to offer up a positive word of gratitude to yourself. Sounds cheesy? Give it a try. We’re often quick to offer encouragement to others, but we diminish our own efforts and focus on our flaws. Acknowledge something good, something you did right, or simply that you did your best today (which is all we can ask of ourselves). End the day decompressed, content, and with a little more appreciation for what you have to offer the world.