This one’s for all the insomniacs out there, the exhausted and the ever-wakeful; for the tossers, the turners, and the burners of both ends, and for anyone else who needs to get more awesome at unconsciousness: this is the YOGALEN guide to getting great sleep. The sequence is about half an hour or so, depending on how long you stay in each pose.
First up, switch off
Turn your phone to airplane mode. Log out of Netflix. Turn the brightness way down on your laptop. Better still, print this out and turn the laptop off. Screens stimulate the brain. They make the brain think it’s getty-uppy-time. Send the right signals and your brain should get the idea. You could even set your lighting to low. Candles are good. Get quiet and listen in. Done? Let’s go:
Brush teeth and get into jammies
Be ready to go to sleep after this, so set the alarm for tomorrow morning and fill a glass of water to put by the bed. Then you’re ready.
1. Stand up and start breathing
Long, deep breaths. Let the day fade to soft focus. Whatever’s been grabbing you, put it to one side. And as you’re doing these stretches, if you notice that the mind has scampered off somewhere, bring it back to the breath. Stop judging yourself. Stop thinking about the pelicans on my t-shirt.
2. Side stretch
Five breaths each side. Get deep into the ribs. Relish how good it feels. Repeat on the other side.
3. Rag doll
Five breaths. Shake out the head. Relax the neck.
4. Low lunge
Ten breaths each side. You should feel this one at the front of the hip. Think of going in two directions here: reach up to the ceiling, and pull the hips down towards the front foot. Get a nice deep stretch and focus in on the sensation as you move deeper. Repeat on the other side.
5. Puppy dog
Five breaths. Be relaxed about farting in this one. You’ll sleep better for it.
6. Bada konasana
Open the feet out, move the little toe away from the others, and push your thumbs deep into the soles of your feet. Five breaths.
7. Wide leg forward fold
Spread the legs into a V. Bend them if its more comfortable that way. Five breaths.
8. Side stretch sequence
Hold each for five to ten breaths. All about releasing the head and neck in these:
Ten breaths each side.
10. Leg stretch with a strap
Or any belt, scarf, tie, or cravat that’s handy.
11. Legs against the wall
Spend five to ten minutes here.
12. Supine twist
Five huge breaths into the low back, then repeat on the other side.
13. Supta bada konasana
Take as long as you like here. Set a timer, maybe, and really relax into it. Get a cushion from the sofa to lie on, but keep your bum on the floor. Stay focused on the breath.
With as little fuss as possible, blow out the candle, get straight into bed, let the mind soften, the face soften, let stillness ripple out through the torso and the arms, the pelvis and the legs to the soles of the feet. Then –
BLEEP you’ll be waking up and springing out of bed to sing to the blackbird after eight hours of deep, refreshing sleep.
Got a better way to get to sleep? Let me know in the comments below. (Hot water bottles are cool, bottles of whisky not so much.)