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Pilates for Better Sleep

It’s been said that Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time when he created “Contrology” - the original name for what we know today as the Pilates method. In our last post, we discussed the 6 Pilates Principles, and today we are focusing our attention on the arguably most important of the bunch - breathing. Several studies support the idea that breath is a link between the mind and body. Harness the power of your breath with this quick wind down Pilates routine that will send you off to slumber with sweet dreams of Pilates.

How it Works

It all begins with a neural circuit in our brainstem that appears to play a key role in the breathing-brain connection. What makes this circuit so useful is its part in what some refer to as the brain’s “breathing pacemaker.” What earned it this title? It turns out, it can be adjusted by simply altering your breathing rhythm, and this in turn influences your emotional state.


It has been demonstrated that a breathing pattern where the exhale is longer than the inhale sends a signal to the body to relax and slow down.

For example, if you count to 3 when you inhale, count to 6 on your exhale to reap this benefit.


This is especially useful when winding down at the end of the day and getting ready for sleep.


Let’s try it!


Wall Roll Down

  • Stand with your back against the wall

  • Walk feet away from wall, until lower back is touching

  • Let arms dangle at your sides

  • Inhale for a count of 3, start your 6 count exhale as you bring your chin toward your throat so the back of your head leaves the wall

  • Slowly start to bow forward, allowing your back to leave the wall, pelvis remains connected to the wall

  • Feel a gentle stretch in the backs of your legs

  • Allow your head to hang top of your head pointing down toward the floor

  • Take your 3 count inhale, as you exhale for 6 counts, make tiny circles with both arms, almost letting gravity do most of the work

  • Inhale again for a count of 3 and reverse arm circle direction

  • Exhale for a count of 6 to roll up

Repeat as many times as you wish!


Bridge

  • Lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip distance apart

  • Gently press your feet into the floor

  • Inhale as you lift your pelvis one vertebrae at a time

  • Holding your hips in the air, begin your exhale as you clasp your hands underneath you for a chest stretch

  • Hold the position and continue your breathing pattern

  • Take 3 deep breaths here

  • Unclasp hands

  • Slowly lower yourself back to the floor

Now you’re already in a good position to move into the next stretch.


Bent Knee Single Leg Circle

  • Pick up right foot, knee bent, and clasp hands around your shin

  • Use the power of your arms to make 4 circles in each direction, like you’re drawing a circle on the ceiling with your kneecap while continuing your breathing pattern

  • Repeat on opposite side



While you’re here…

Figure 4 Stretch

  • Cross right ankle over left thigh, place right hand on right inner thigh and push your thigh away from you to find a gentle stretch

  • Continue your breathing pattern, holding 3 breaths and repeat on opposite side


From here, roll over onto your belly for Swan.



Swan

  • Rest your forehead on the mat

  • Legs mat width apart

  • Elbows bent, palms and forearms on the floor, hands in line with your ears

  • Inhale and use your exhale to gently press palms and forearms into the floor to lift upper body

Child’s pose

While you’re here, move into a child’s pose

Push hips back and sit on your heels

Reach arms in front of you or at your sides with hands reaching toward your feet

Take a few breaths here using the same calming breathing pattern and you’re ready for a restful night’s sleep!


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