We sleep for more than one third of our lives, which roughly equates to 165,000,000 breaths, assuming we make to to the grand age 80 years. It is widely accepted that sleep is vital for a healthy and long life, there are plenty of books and podcasts to substantiate how important sleep is for us.
Yet, despite all of this knowledge and information, good regular sleep evades some of us. Modern lifestyles exacerbate the problem with the levels of caffeine we take on board, late nights and the constant simulation of artificial light from the technology we apparently rely on.
If we encourage our body, breath, and mind into a more rested state before we ‘climb the wooden hill to Bedfordshire’ we are more likely to benefit from a better night’s slumber.
There is a great yoga posture that I encourage people to try, before they retire into the evening, Viparita Karani, or ‘legs up the wall.’ It is exactly that.
To get into the position, start by sitting down, side on and against a clear wall, (even better if you can do this from your bed), then swing your legs up the wall as you let shoulders and head come to rest on the floor. Get your backside as close to the base if the wall and join the legs together up the wall, take the arms out to the side and rest here. For added comfort, place a pillow or blanket under your head or lower back.
Now relax all of your muscles, allow the skeletal frame to take the load and simply fall into the floor with gravity, feeling the sense of release.
You can close your eyes and bring your awareness to the sense of grounding through the pelvis, back and shoulders, and the lightness of the legs and feet. Perhaps you can sense a gentle pulse in the feet and legs or an echo of your heartbeat in the ears.
If you find your mind still busy and churning away at the issues of your day, bring your attention entirely to each breath, as it moves in and out, noticing the movements of your tummy and chest. Perhaps count each breath, from one to five and then start again.
Stay in this position for 5 – 10 minutes if you can. You might try to move your legs apart occasionally or join the soles of the feet together and bend the knees slightly, any variation that helps maintain comfort and a sense of release.
When you are finished, very carefully slide to the side and come back down, stay lying on your side for a few moments and as soon as you can, get ready for bed.
It’s a great posture, it is an inversion as the heart is above the brain. The nervous system must slow the heart down and regulate the carotid artery to prevent the rush of blood into the noggin, which calms the mind. It improves circulation by drawing stagnant blood from your legs to the lower torso, I like to think it reverse flushes the venal return valves, but I’m no expert, it can reduce fatigue and swelling in your legs.
This is just one of many techniques in yoga to improve health and wellbeing, sleep well!