By Dominika Borovansky Gaines
Do you wake up in pain? Where you ache in the morning is an indicator of the areas of your body which need more attention. If you consider the combined effects of gravity and our daily activities–driving, computer time, lots of sitting, it would make sense that our alignment is most poor after a long day. (Have you ever noticed that you need to adjust the rear-view mirror in your car to a lower position after a long day?) Take that less-then-ideal alignment to bed with tight muscles and fascia and consider that you likely also spend longish periods of time in sub-optimal positions while you sleep. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you wake up with stiffness, neck aches, shoulder aches and backaches.
One way to mitigate this is to practice Restorative Exercise in the evening, close to bed time– even if you have done an exercise routine earlier in the day. I have created a nightly ritual of releases and stretches which I do while watching TV. As a regular practice these movements have allowed me to go to bed more relaxed and with a clearer mind, to sleep more deeply and to awaken without aches.
This routine takes me about 45 minutes on average:
Bolstered Psoas Release: First and foremost to release the tension in my psoas, which is not only shortened by sub-optimal posture, but also from accumulated “stress”. Additionally the position releases tension in the diaphragm, to which the psoas is connected, and allows my back ribs to open both allowing for deeper breathing. If I did only do ONE exercise every night, this would be it.
Floor Angels: To stretch the muscles of my chest. Not only do I spend time each day typing (on my phone, iPad and or computer), and driving, I also work with my hands assisting clients for several hours each day. Stretching my chest invites my shoulders to broaden and again I am encouraging deeper breathing.
Cobbler Stretch: Another psoas release exercise, this stretches the muscles of the adductors (the inner thighs) and the lower psoas attachment point on the posterior thigh, which become tight from sitting and tucking the pelvis while sitting and/or standing.
Spine Twist: To release tension in the torso, essentially wringing out the abdominal cavity and massaging the organs.
Crescent Stretch: A side-body lengthening exercise, it stretches the abdominal obliques, quadratus lumborum and tensor fascia latae.
The following I don’t do daily but at least several times each week.
Psoas Release on Block: In it’s simplest version, a third release for tight lower back muscles. If I want to advance, I bring one knee to my chest and stretch the other leg long.
Strap Stretch: To lengthen the hamstrings.
If I’ve taken a dance class that day or, worn heels of ANY height (rare), I repeat these stretches which I have done many times throughout the day: Calf Stretch and Hamstring Stretch.