Sports Relief is here!
With the Olympics to be held in London this summer, it seems as if Sports Relief 2012 will be the biggest to date. A collaboration with Sainsburys and the Sports Relief Mile mean that thousands of people will be taking to the streets on Sunday to run just a single mile (or 3 or 6) for charity. Visit the website and sign up for your local mile. After all, it’s for a good cause and not only will running keep you fit and healthy, but it will ensure a good night’s sleep. Won’t it?
The claim from health specialists has always been that the more you move during the day, the better you sleep at night. But why? Is it simply that you work your body into a state to tiredness? And if this is the case then why is it that there are another set of specialists who insist that you shouldn’t work out too close to bedtime?
The New York Times published an article stating that through a recent scientific experiment using “actigraphs — devices that measure movement — and then seeing whether more movement and activity during the day meant improved sleep at night” it was concluded that, quite simply, “being more physically active can lead to better sleep.”
However, in the same year, the Daily Telegraph published a contradictory article with the headline, “Exercise can keep you awake – not put you to sleep, study finds”. The study they refer to also involved participants wearing “armbands monitoring their movements for 23 days”.
It appears both studies used the same equipment but came to very different conclusions, so which is it? Will we ever find conclusive evidence or is it a case of different strokes for different people?
The Telegraph article seems to agree that we react differently to exercise as Dr Eliasson, of the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington DC, “speculates the findings may be explained by personality types.” It may seem like a cop-out by the experts, but it may be the best explanation we are going to get. So how do you interpret this information and ascertain which type of person(ality) you are?
Experiment, experiment, experiment. Try working out at different times of the day to see how easily you fall asleep. Monitor your sleep patterns on your fitness day off and see what works best for you, because really if the scientists can’t agree, working it out for yourself is all you can do. If you are one with a nervous disposition or predisposed to stress and anxiety, then it’s quite possible that no amount of running/jogging/aerobics is going to induce sleep, which is why people often turn to yoga.
6 Yoga Poses for Insomnia makes for an interesting read as the writer’s sequence includes a set of poses designed to “let off the steam of stress that builds up when the mind gets to running and sleep seems miles away”; suggesting that a stronger workout is needed to switch off your mind and ready your body for bed. Even though you may not classify your situation as severe as “insomnia” incorporating this series of poses into your ‘going-to-bed-routine’ could make for an interesting experiment.
For more information and pictures of poses, visit the blog site directly.
This sequence can be done with or without a yoga mat, assuming your floor isn’t slippery. Keep your sleeping clothes on, and remember to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose for the entirety of the practice.
1. Fists of fire lunge
Step your right foot forward and your left leg back into a lunge stance. Your front knee should be over your heel, or behind it, and your back heel is over the ball of your foot. Inhale, and lift your arms up. Exhale a little more strongly, sweep fists into the side of your hips. Let the inhales bring more breath into your chest, and on the exhales, draw in the navel as you lengthen your tailbone down. Practice releasing more tension on every exhale.
Take five to 10 rounds of breath on one side, then switch legs.
2. Fists forward bend
After your fists of fire lunges, come to stand with feet hip distance apart. Bend your knees and fold forward, bringing your fists into opposite elbows. This helps to relax the large muscles of your back, shoulders and neck. Release your head completely, and let the jumble of thoughts drain out as you envision the space that’s left behind.
Repeat for 15 to 20 breaths
3. Janu front and center
Come to sit in janu sirsasana with your right leg extended and your left leg bent, foot into the right inner thigh or groin. Roll the flesh of your seat back, and ground your legs into the floor. Frame your long right leg with your hands (lifted onto fingertips), and fold forward with a long spine and open heart.
Take five to 10 breaths here, then proceed to the next variation on the same side:
Remain low in the pose, and walk your hands away from your straight leg toward center between your legs, or until you can feel a stretch along the groins and inner thighs. You may want to move your bent leg wider, until the foot rests in its own inner thigh. As you fold, keep your head lifted along a straight spine. Fold at your hip creases — not your lower or mid back — for the best possible stretch.
Take five to 10 breaths here, then come slowly to sit, shake out your legs, and switch sides.
4. Core scissors
Come to lie on your back, legs extended on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your head, and lift the shoulders off the floor. Inhale at center, and exhale, draw your right knee into the chest, and twist so both your elbows are pointing at the knee. Inhale as both legs lengthen, and exhale, twist with the left knee in. Keep your feet on the ground, or for more action, lift them an inch off the ground. Exhales tone the navel toward the spine as your low back lengthens.
Take five to 10 rounds on each side, then relax the head, shoulders and feet to the floor, reach overhead and take a full body stretch to counterpose.
5. Core stretch
After the fire of core scissors, cool it down and counter-stretch the front body by getting back into bed and placing a pillow or bolster beneath the heart. Let your arms rest to your sides, palms up to receive the blessing of calm that comes after a strong, breath-conscious practice.
Breathe here for one minute or more, then progress to the last pose.
6. Legs up the wall
Move the pillows or bolster under your hips, and lift your legs up the wall or into the air. This is a full-body detox only when your legs and hips are higher than your heart, and the head is below the heart. Once you’re situated, keep your hands by the sides or clasp your elbows overhead, rest and breathe.
Practice the slow breath here: Inhale, pause for a few seconds, exhale, pause. Allow your breathing to slow, and follow the sound with your mind.
Know that as you cleanse and center from your day, the tools of yoga are always available to you. Practice often, and you’ll master the ability to switch off the mind and rest easier.
If you’re interested in purchasing one of those lovely, comfy looking bolsters, amazon have plenty for sale.