Dear Coach, I have trouble relaxing at night before bedtime. I keep thinking of all the stuff I need to do and just can’t clear my mind of it all. Any suggestions?
Ever since the Beatles went to India in the 1960s the idea of meditation and yoga have become popular. It is a good way to distract your brain from everyday problems. Here are suggestions on how to incorporate two minutes of these concepts into your life.
The value of yoga comes from the breathing technique and that teaching breathing should be the primary goal of yoga, not the posing. Yoga should be a meditative breathing exercise using the technique of diaphragmatic breathing or what is also called ‘belly’ breathing. This technique is used throughout the martial arts world, in biofeedback therapy, military training, high level sports, and a host of other related fields. Belly breathing is the common denominator between all of these pursuits.
It is quite simple to incorporate these relaxation practices in bed just before you want to fall asleep. First you have to turn off all the social media and related machines and notifications 90 minutes before bedtime. All the stimulation from these sources overloads the capacity of the brain to sort it all out. Brains become fatigued from having too much information to process. STRESS is the result. Turn it all off and give your brain a chance to recover from the day.
When you finally get to bed it’s good to spend a minute and stretch a tight muscle or two. This is also a good time to strengthen posture muscles by doing a few hip bridges, holding hips up for a ten count and to then lift both knees up and hold for a 10 count a few times. Give your hips a stretch by pulling a bent knee up toward the opposite shoulder and hold for a 10 count. After that it’s now time to practice belly breathing for just a minute or so. Next thing you know you wake up and it’s morning.
Here’s how to do the relaxation belly breathing. Stretch out comfortably on your back. As a learning aid, place a paperback book (or something similar) on your belly. To inhale, extend your belly and raise the book up. As you expand your belly air gets pulled into your lungs. Expand your belly to inhale then contract your belly to exhale. Do not expand your chest to inhale. Make your chest stay still and use your belly to pull air in and push air out. Inhale in 4 counts, hold for 4 counts and then exhale in 8 counts. This technique takes practice to learn to slow your breathing down and get comfortable with the timing.
Now imagine standing by the ocean’s shore right where the waves come up to wash around your ankles then recede. As the water recedes be breathing in. As the next wave starts to peak hold the breath and then exhale as the wave breaks and washes up toward you. Finish the breath out as the water swirls at you ankles then start your next breath in as it starts to recede again and repeat for a few cycles. Use your imagination to enjoy the view of the sunset while standing on the beach with the waves coming in and out.
Belly breathing is not just for relaxing before sleep. Be aware when you get tense during the day and take a few belly breaths to reboot your brain and carry on. Strive to live long and prosper.