These days if you give me the option between:
(a) a long lie; or
(b) a long luxurious yoga practice;
I am going to choose (a) every single time.
Once upon a time, when my son (who is now 10) was about 18 months old, I would set my alarm for 5.30 am every morning. I wanted to make sure that I had completed a full vinyasa flow yoga practice with umpteen complex sun salutations, standing poses, twists, forward bends, backbends and inversions, pranayama and meditation before he woke up. The whole practice would take at least 90 minutes. It seemed imperative at the time to spend at least 5 minutes in headstand.
Now with 2 children to get to school on the during the week mornings and many classes of my own to teach early on weekend days my yoga practice has become shorter and (possibly) more efficient. I shake my head at the indulgence of headstands these days.
If you are a parent and you have a hectic life like mine, here is my top tip for getting your yoga on while you have some time.
Do your yoga practice in bed.
Your bed is comfy and there are no small people, pieces of lego or food crumbs in it (hopefully).
The mattress is thicker than your yoga mat and you have pillows and blankets at the ready as yoga props.
Getting out of bed is when the crazy starts to happen – arguments, elaborate breakfast smoothie requests, notes to be completed and returned with money to school etc.
Enjoy the moment with some gentle and very effective yoga poses. This sequence would
1. Supta Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
This is an amazing reclining/supine hip opening pose that quickly rejuvenates you by encouraging the hip and groin areas as well as opening up the chest.
Sit on your bed with a couple of pillows behind you. Bring the soles of your feet together and slowly lean back into the pillows. You can also put pillows/cushions under your knees. Let your arms rest at your sides or overhead if that feels comfortable, palms upwards. Relax and let gravity pull your thighs down towards the comfy support of your mattress.
Stay in this pose for about five minutes.
Sit comfortably on your bed. Interlace your fingers, pams away from you and stretch your arms out in front.
Inhale: life your arms to the ceiling and expand your ribcage, chest and upper back. Exhale and place your hands behind your head. Bring your elbows out to the sides opening your chest.
2. Side Bends Seated
Side bends stretch out your ribs helping you to breathe more freely and stretch the side muscles from the neck down to the pelvis, opening up the chest and upper back. Fabulous for realigning the spine after a night’s sleep and for toning the waist.
Sit comfortably making sure that both of your sit bones are pressing into the mattress. Inhale deeply feeling the ribs open like venetian blinds, Exhale and lift up to bend to the right. Bring your right hand down, palm to the bed and walk your fingers out. Hold the stretch for 3 breaths, inhale and come back to centre. When you are sitting upright again, exhale and repeat on the left side. Repeat two to three times each side.
A slightly more intense version of the same side bend can be found in Parighasana (Gate Pose) shown here and described here
3. Cat-Cow (Marjariasana in Sanskrit)
A great spine revitalizing sequence and a good centring yoga exercise both for preventing and relieving back pain as well as activating abdominal muscles and stimulating the digestive system.
In a quadriped (four point kneeling) position soften your elbows, inhale. As you exhale, move your tailbone towards your pubic bone, pubic bone to belly button rounding the lower back. Let your eye gaze go to your knees.
Inhale. Move your ribs and chest forward to lengthen your spine and lift your eye gaze to look forward and slightly up.
4. Bennitasana/Semi-Prone Shoulder and Chest Stretch
I always wake up feeling like my left collar bone has been smooshed into my neck. This is my without fail go to morning yoga pose.
Lie on your belly and stretch one arm out to the side at shoulder height.
Keep the hand open with the palm facing down and the whole of the straight arm pressing down into the floor. Bend the opposite elbow while drawing the hand inward toward your trunk.
Push into the opposite hand and begin to roll open to the side of the extended arm. You can also step the top foot up and over the bottom leg to intensify the stretch.
This is a good place to stay—pushing into the opposite hand to intensify the stretch or you can reach the opposite arm up and behind you, letting it hang as you allow gravity to open up your chest shoulder or tucking the finger of that hands under your ribs. Hold for 3-5 minutes to soften the connective tissues/fascia in the chest and shoulder to improve mobility of the shoulder and arm. -
5. Bridge Pose pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose strengthens your glutes/butt and upper hamstrings and stretches the fronts of the thighs. This in turn helps to take the load off your lower back which can get thrown about a bit while you toss and turn in your bed at night.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees and keep the soles of your feet on the bed, heels digging down. Flatten your lower back by pressing your belly down into the mattress. You will feel your tailbone start to rise off the mattress as you do this. Press into your heels and lift your hips off the bed drawing your tailbone to your pubic bone, pubic bone to belly button as you curl up to your shoulder blades. Hold this pose for as long as feels good. Lower down slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae until your hips are back on the bed. Repeat 3-5 times slowly and luxuriously.
6. Supine Spinal Twist – Supta Matsyendrasana Variation
This asana opens your chest and hips and very gently opens your spine while encouraging your abdominal muscles to engage.
Lie on your back with your knnes bent to your chest. Stretch your arms out to the side at right angles to your body.
Join both knees together and bring them to the right side of your body. Turn your head to the left. Hold as long as you can. Then fire up the left side of your belly to bring your knees to centre and then over to the left hand side of your body. Turn your head to the right.
It can feel really nice to put a pillow under your knees as you drop them to the side and to slowly bring your knees closer to the armpit in the twist.
By now you will be ready for your breakfast and a wonderful day :)
The inspiration for this post came by way of an email from the lovely people at Casper Sleep. . They claim to make awesome mattresses that aren’t just for sleeping but so supportive that they can be used for yoga (and probably mat pilates). Although this is not a mattress that is available yet in Australia, it is one that I would like to try out. Night time yoga and then sinking into savasana on a mattress which one reviewer describes as like ‘sleeping on a cloud’ sounds luxurious and decadent.
They asked me if I would help them with their newest project “Bed-time Yoga Poses”. They are going to collect their favourite poses and sequences assemble a post for their blog (http://blog.caspersleep.com/) in due course.