A Ritual for Sleep with Kirsten King
Images by Caroline McCredie
This week on the IN BED Journal we asked our friend Kirsten King, founder of Fluidform Pilates to share a gentle stretching routine to help prepare the body and mind for deep slumber and wake feeling more rested.
Often we forget the importance of stretching and the impact such simple movements have on our bodies and mind. Whether our lifestyles incorporate working at a desk or physical strain on the body, we become faced with poor postures, imbalances down our spine and through our shoulders, tired muscles and ongoing pain and discomfort. Stretching allows our bodies to reset, realign and find balance - all crucial to how we sleep, move and feel. Finishing the day with a specific stretch sequence releases tightness and tensions in our entire body - improving our posture, form and sleep leaving us feeling strong and moving with confidence.
Start lying on your back with your feet elevated on a chair, pillow or bed. Rest your eyes and allow your entire body to sink into the ground beneath you. Take your awareness to your body and focus your mind on your breath, following the inhale and exhale for up to 10 breaths.
2. Mermaid Stretch
Begin seated on the ground with your legs in mermaid position - left leg in front bent inwards towards your pubic bone and your right leg bent behind you. Inhale to prepare as you stretch your right arm upwards towards the ceiling and on the exhale, reach this arm up and over towards the floor on the left side of your body. Repeat three times on one side, before swapping to the other side.
Rotate your body towards your front bent leg and relax your body along your leg sinking into the ground. Inhale and exhale twice in this position to release the spine and hips. Repeat on the other side.
3. Calf and Hamstring Release
Place your hands on the floor under your shoulders with your feet out behind you in a plank position. Inhale to begin and on the exhale push your tailbone up towards the ceiling to create a pyramid with your spine.
Once you are in this position, begin to bend and stretch your legs one at a time. Stay strong through your arms and shoulders while you cycle your knees.
4. Hip and Psoas Release
Begin seated on the ground with your legs in mermaid position (stretch one). Stretch and place your left arm (same arm as the leg behind you) on the floor behind your bottom. Inhale to prepare and on the exhale lift your bottom up and off the floor, gently squeezing your glutes and pushing your hip bones forward, reaching your right / front arm to the ceiling. Look back and towards your back hand to increase the stretch. Inhale to hold and exhale to return to the seated position. Repeat three times before swapping to the other side.
5. Neck Release
Begin seated on the floor, place your hand up and over your head and spread your fingers out and across your ear and side of head. Gently place pressure into your hand by lifting your head slightly. Take five breaths in this position before you change sides.
6. Lower Spine Mobility
Begin lying on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale to prepare and on the exhale gently roll your pubic bone back towards your belly button.
Begin to lift your bottom, lower back and ribcage off the floor each vertebrae at a time. Lift up so the weight of your body rests across your shoulders. Inhale to hold and exhale to return the spine back down and onto the floor each vertebrae at a time.
7. Hip, Inner thigh release
Begin lying on your back with the soles of your feet together and relax your knees out wide. Inhale and on the exhale press your feet together. Continue to squeeze and release your feet. Try not to allow your knees to lift as you squeeze your feet.
8. Thoracic Spine Stretch
Start lying on your side with your legs bent up towards you and your fingers interlocked with thumbs running down the back of your neck and elbows folded forward around your head. Inhale to prepare with your head resting down, on the exhale keep your knees together and gently lift your top elbow up and behind you, drawing a rainbow with your elbow. As you move your elbow, allow your ribcage to roll back towards the floor behind you keeping your knees together. Inhale to hold on the open stretch position, exhale to return to the start. Repeat this three times before swapping to the other side.
Spend 3- 5 minutes lying on your back to finish with your eyes closed and concentrating on you breathing.