If you’re feeling stressed or wound up at the end of your day it might be helpful to notice, perhaps try to shift it, BEFORE trying to head off to sleep.
Let me preface this by saying you may not be ready for slow, restful or focusing-in practices. It may be that you feel the need to move in ways that burn off energy. Maybe rocking or swaying from side-to-side, bouncing a little, shaking things out. Perhaps some dancing in the dark… might be what’s needed in the moment.
However, if you’d like to try some ways to calm the nervous system you might practice one of these restful poses. Or maybe do them after the movement mentioned above. Something like legs up the wall, providing support and perhaps release for the back muscles, or tension elsewhere in the body. Or maybe the beginnings of turning inward, so a forward fold on a chair, or over a bolster.
This doesn’t have to take a long time. You may want to stay in one of these poses for 5 to 10 minutes. See what happens.
Notice the length and the quality of your breath. Notice if it shifts at all, while in the pose.
Notice your thoughts. Feelings.
Maybe it’s helpful for you to listen to calming music, be in a place with lowered, soft lighting.
Taking a few minutes may help to make the transition into sleep a little more easeful. Try it. I’d love to know if anything changes at all for you.
In preparation for sleep at the end of your day, it might be another time to check in with how you’re feeling.
You might feel fully exhausted, in which case you may have an easier time falling asleep. Yet, even if you’re physically exhausted there is also a possibility of being in a mobilized, or upregulated state in your nervous system.
You may have been going full speed ahead with what feels like a million things required of you on any given day. Trying to balance what seems like never-ending demands.
Maybe you’ve just had an emotional or stress-filled conversation with someone.
You might be feeling some of the long-term stress from these strange times of Covid-19.
Maybe you ate a big meal late in the evening as you didn’t had time to do so, earlier.
Your body, your physiology, automatically changes and/or responds to what is going on, what is required in a given moment of time. First of all it takes some awareness to even notice what the state of being, or the state of your nervous system, is. If you’re in fight, flight or freeze (a more sympathetic nervous system response) sleep might not come so easily. However, if you can learn to shift into a more parasympathetic type response (the rest and digest response) it might make the transition to sleep more easeful.
The first step is in the noticing.
Perhaps you can do a body scan to notice what you feel. Bringing your awareness slowly to each part of your body, noticing any sensation you feel or any thoughts or feelings that arise as you do this. Or you may come to know through noticing the quality of your breath. Or perhaps noticing your thoughts and emotions.
People often have difficult going to sleep. More so these days, I find. You might want to look at it, approach it, in a way that requires some preparation. We need both types of nervous systems responses. We have stresses in our life, we need to mobilize. Yet, how might we find some balance and what practices might be helpful in the evening to downregulate our system. To allow for rest and build capacity to meet the challenges of our days. What might make the transition, more easeful? We’ll dig into a few this week.
Again, this is not to say you should be doing “ALL OF THE THINGS”. Particularly as some of THE THINGSlikely won’t resonate or feel right for you in your life as it is today. We all have different lives, environments, needs, bodies, histories.
Which is why getting curious and exploratory can be useful rather than having someone tell you this is THE THING that will work for you. In my experience, if THE THING worked for everyone we wouldn’t have 1 in 4 people living with chronic pain, or so many other conditions or concerns. What if you’re told ‘just do this’ and it doesn’t work? Maybe you end up feeling like you failed in some way (once again), rather than perhaps it wasn’t what was right for you.
If you’d like the opportunity to work with me, I currently offer private 1:1 sessions. Stay tuned for new offerings coming your way in the New Year! Sign up on the yogatoolsforlife website, or follow along on Facebook or Instagram.
I can recall when our son came home to visit after living on his own in Europe for a couple of years and he had acquired a new habit. That being changing from his work clothes to his inside clothes. They were kind of like pajamas, only a bit dressier. It seemed strange at first. I’d not seen him walking around the house dressed like that since, well, a very long time ago. I guess I can relate a little thinking back many years ago and coming home, changing out of my ‘corporate suit’ and into something more comfortable. At least I think I did. Did I, or did I move straight into doing stuff with the kids, tidying up, cooking dinner? This leaving of one job or role and straight into another?
When practicing yoga it is often the transitions where problems occur in terms of difficulty or even injury. I wonder if it’s because we’re already thinking about the next ‘pose’ rather than giving much thought to how we might get there.
I think it’s where we often face our greatest challenges. Transitions. How do we ‘go across’ from one thing to another.
Child to teenager. To cohabitating with a partner, moving into parenthood perhaps. Then it often feels like 20 years zip by and we’re confronted with children leaving, the possibility of retirement. Other big transitions in the mix like illness, career changes, loss of loved ones, jobs, homes, maybe moving.
But back to even just the simplest of these. How might you transition from your work day and whatever that is for you… into the evening? Does your 5 o’clock look like a big energy crash? A wild and untamed household? Too many demands on your time, yet again?
How might you make it supportive in some way? Less overwhelming?
If you’ve spent your day where conversation is required non-stop, maybe you recognize your need for quiet. If you’ve been working alone where there is no conversation, you may be in need of connection. How might you meet those needs? And if you’ve others to consider during these transitions – how might you somehow meet in the middle?
I surely don’t have all the answers.
It might be worthwhile to consider though.
Creating some kind of ritual might be helpful. We have rituals around big life changes, or at least we used to. Weddings, funerals, rites of passage.
What might you do? Perhaps it is about changing your clothes. Or slowing down, having a cup of tea, or some kind of (prepared in advance) snack so you’re not reaching for the cookies or chips, or whatever’s nearest to your fingertips.
How do you move from one thing to the next? This going across? How do you know one thing is ending and a new one is beginning? It makes sense to first bring some awareness that it’s even happening. From there, perhaps making choices that might support it in some way. So, it’s more easeful. Less frantic.
What ideas do you have, do you use? I’d be interested in your strategies.
I remember the first restorative yoga I attended. Taught by the lovely Olivia Kulla, back in my Doha days. I thought I would feel all so sleepy, y’know? After the supportive poses, soft music, candle light. Basically having so much support, someone to “tuck me in” so to say. Allow me to fully rest.
What I didn’t realize is that afterwards I didn’t feel sleepy at all. During, yes. But after I felt energized. Rested. Ready to move forward with whatever I needed to do. It was a fascinating experience.
It was a good lesson in doing less. How less might be more.
Though I no longer practice strength or power styles of yoga like Ashtanga or even a flow-style of yoga I do like to get my sweat on. Take me on a good hike. Some downhill skiing and I’ll be right with you. I’m not against high-powered, cardio building stuff.
Yet, there is something about resting.
Not sleeping. Not watching TV. Not scrolling on the phone. But shutting out what can be overwhelming sensory information that bombards us from every angle these days.
Why not slip into some rest, mid-day? All the suggestions below take only minutes. Like 5 minutes or less. (Though of course if you have more time, you could do them for longer.)
Stand up and sway from side to side, gazing out the window. Maybe you bounce a little, shake out the arms, legs, fingers, feet.
Close your eyes. Massage around your eyes, temples. Maybe into your neck and jaw. The back of your neck.
Nadi shodhana or equal nostril breathing. I’ve had clients say how energized they feel after this. However, it might also be used to help fall asleep, so notice how it shifts your energy.
My favorite is laying down on the floor. Perhaps a blanket folded, to support the head. Maybe a pillow under my knees which often feels good for the low back. And just rest. I always suggest laying on the floor, rather than a bed, or sofa. If you can notice it, find the support of your body’s structure (bones) on a hard surface. This might allow for the muscles to release any ‘holding’ or tension… and to relax.
Why not do one of these for 5 minutes a day, either before or after lunch (one might feel better for you) and notice what you notice. What feels right and do-able for you?
Restorative yoga. It seems these days it’s often combined with yin, or slow or gentle yoga, or perhaps confused with these. Yet in the trainings I’ve done in the style it’s not about stretching. It’s not about holding. Rather, all about support.
As you can see from the suggestions, it doesn’t have to be restorative yoga but perhaps making some time and space to do something else, take a break, might be useful. What does providing some mid-day support or rest feel like, to you? Let me know how it goes.
Mid-day. I wonder what this time of day feels like for you.
So often, due to work and other commitments people skip lunch, eat on the go. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, that it’s probably the best time to eat your most substantial meal of the day. Perhaps as that is when the ability to digest our food is at its highest.
I haven’t quite figured this out yet, eating more for lunch and less for the evening meal. Our family always gathers for dinner, early evening, so it tends to be the largest meal of the day. More effort put into it. More time spent. It’s also just a long-worn pattern I’ve held all my life.
I also used to think sitting down and eating a proper lunch was rather a waste of time. There were many times, years in fact, when I didn’t feel like I had the time and space to do so. Or at least I didn’t prioritize it to be that way. Using time meant for nourishment and rest and instead running errands, working harder, filling the time with even MORE TO DO.
Yet, even just stopping and giving some space and time to eat lunch, might be useful. At least in these days, I have found it to be so.
Do you feel like you have time to stop and eat lunch? Do you make it a priority? Do you have a big meal? What are your go-to’s? I’d love to hear your ideas or suggestions.
Next, we’ll explore some simple ways you might also grab some rest, along with nourishment, mid-day. It doesn’t have to take long either. But it might make all the difference. I hope you’ll join me.
All of this noticing, listening in to your body, your feelings and thoughts might provide some direction or suggestions in terms of movement for the day.
We were built to move yet it seems through all our modern conveniences we don’t have to do a lot of it these days. Like who can recall even having to get up to physically change the channel on the TV? Seems so long ago.
We’re told, we all know, we’re supposed to exercise for good health. That word, exercise, seems to have a negative connotation to it for many. These days, I tend to think of movement instead of exercise and try to frame it as something I get to do. And even not so much what I do as long as I DO SOMETHING.
Yet, especially for people who live with pain, even thinking about moving can be daunting. Often it seems to be the thing that aggravates or brings on their pain. I often wonder if people say, “Yoga, for pain? You must be kidding.” I get that. Particularly in the way yoga is portrayed throughout the media.
Yet, you might begin to move slowly. Softly, gently. You might even just imagine movement to begin with. Consider finding that felt sense of safety I spoke of here. If you can begin from your place of safety, it might just change things up for you.
Listening in to what you notice in your body can be a helpful guide. Today, you might feel unwell, fatigued or overwhelmed so choose do less in terms of movement. Or in ways that feel really easeful. If you happen to feel energized, or perhaps are feeling some anxiety it might feel good to move a lot! The important part is noticing the difference and and learning to respond in a way that best suits your needs.
In our culture, there is often just this push to do more. Not to rest. Conversely, that people aren’t trying hard enough. I wonder if we might just listen in and (re)learn what might be useful to each individual in any given moment, rather than what is often the expectations and judgements placed upon them.
What might serve you best in this moment? On this day?
I can imagine it is difficult these days to feel safe. Find stable ground.
Creating a sense of safety for yourself, like anything, will be unique to you based on your life, your history, experience or environment. Now more than ever, probably a challenge.
For me, getting close to the ground helps. That is, literally. close to the ground. Sitting on the floor with lots of support below helps me to feel secure. Find stability. Another way for me is to find something familiar. That might be my breath. Noticing each inhale, each exhale. Yet for someone who is asthmatic or perhaps experiences anxiety, focusing on the breath might not be ‘the thing’.
Maybe it’s sitting next to your dog, or cat. Perhaps feeling the rhythm of their breath, their purring helps calm your nervous system. Providing that felt sense of safety. We often do that with those we love and care for. Just ‘being with’ them, sitting next to, holding each other’s gaze. Hearing a soft familiar voice might be soothing.
What is helpful to you? You might want to notice that during your day. And if you feel safe, how do you know that? What do you notice or feel in your body? Maybe your breath is long and slow, your muscles soft and relaxed. Your heart rate or blood pressure isn’t noticeable.
If you’re finding it hard to notice, try the opposite. It might be a different experience and one not always welcome but what do you feel, when you’re not safe? How do you know that? Where do you feel it? Hard to breathe, muscles tense, heart beating fast, sweaty palms?
What do you notice about your pain, in either of these states? Or your emotions, thoughts? It might be something worthwhile exploring, during your days. Having an anchor, a place or practice to go to when it feels like these big waves keep crashing down one after another, relentless at times, can be useful.
Hopefully the days will become more certain in the months to come, but it the meantime, this might be a useful practice to cultivate.
It surely does not look like this out my window today. I have yet to venture out into the snow that landed over night but I will at some point. You see, I find great pleasure in being outside in the fresh, crisp air but also as nature helps me with the practice of noticing the subtle, or smallest things.
Which can be really helpful if you’re someone who lives with pain.
If we understand pain to be a protective system, it makes total sense that pain wants your attention. The most important thing for your brain to focus on ALL DAY LONG long is keeping you safe and alive. Top priority. Your brain is constantly monitoring all the systems in the body, slowing things down, speeding things up, secreting hormones and enzymes, adjusting the nervous system to respond to what is required in any given moment. Telling you when to sleep, to drink, to eat, to move. Providing messages, clues.
Throughout the day you may notice when you are in pain. For some people this may be, or feel like, it’s all day long. 24/7. But I suspect for many there are times when you don’t feel pain. Moments, minutes or days perhaps.
I wonder if you might notice when you don’t experience pain.
I invite you to notice those moments. And get curious. Why, perhaps, are you not experiencing pain just now? This practice of noticing, provides clues.
What makes your day, your life, feel more easeful? Safe, perhaps. Comfortable, pleasurable. Less painful.
Spend some time, noticing that. I’d love to hear how it goes.
If this is something you’re interested in exploring, I offer private 1:1 sessions via Zoom. Click here, for more information or arrange for a free 15-min conversation.
These dinner rolls I made to accompany a warming pot of stew on Friday night, were not too bad. Though it wasn’t my first time making them. I recall the first attempt, some 25 years ago. Not. So. Good.
I had to practice a little. Take some time to get a feel for the dough, figure out how to make rolls, the many pieces of the task at hand.
While working with someone 1:1 in a private session, we usually meet every week or two. The reason being is after an assessment, clarifying of goals or focus, whatever we decide to use in terms of practice… is meant to be, well, practiced. For a while. Noticing any effects.
If you’ve been following along with the morning practices over the last week or so, I’m going to pause and allow space for that. You might go back through the various options. There may be some you are already exploring, using. They are not meant to be ‘the thing’ but rather to be used as an exploration. An inquiry as to what you notice, what feels useful. What does not. If you want to go back and review, the posts are noted below:
Nov 3 – Here I am, again
Nov 4 – Softening
Nov 5 – To breathe
Nov 6 – Pause, notice
Nov 9 – Ease, into morning
Nov 10 – Sense making
Nov 11 – Warming up
You might benefit from some included here or what feels right for you might be something altogether different. These are a few suggestions.
We’ll pick this up again on Nov 23rd looking at various practices you might choose to do during the day. Then again, we’ll pause for a week before moving on to evening practices starting on Dec 7th. I hope you’ll stay tuned. Let me know If you have any noticings, feedback or questions along the way.
If this is something you’d like to explore with me privately, I currently offer 1:1 sessions via Zoom. Information can be found here.