Hello and welcome to the first in a series of posts designed to assist dancers in maximizing performance while achieving and maintaining wellness. This first installment is about preventing injury. Due to the high impact of an injury to a dancer’s life, a holistic approach to a preventative program is important.
It's 1 a.m. and you are awake. Your mind is racing, your body can't seem to get comfortable and you have to wake up in 5 hours...sound familiar? Don't worry, you're not alone. Instead of staying in bed praying to every possible Hindu god you can recall for sleep to come, roll out your mat and practice these 5 calming yoga poses to help lull you back to sleep.
Come into table top position (hands and knees on the floor). Close your eyes. Inhale, arch your back as your head gently tilts upward towards the ceiling. Exhale, round your back, tucking your chin and pelvis as your spread across your shoulder blades. Repeat for 10 breaths.
Benefits: Gently massages the spine and belly organs.
Child's Pose (Balasana)
From table top, widen the knees and bring the toes together as you slowly lower the hips down towards the heals.* Stretch the arms out in front resting the elbows on the floor. Stay here for 1-3 minutes.
* For tight hips or sensitive knees, place a folded blanket behind the knees or a block between the feet.
Benefits: Calms the mind and helps relieve stress and fatigue.
Head to Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
Come to seated with both legs out in front. Draw your right knee in and fold open to the side. Place both hands on either side of the left leg. On your inhale, lift and twist the upper body towards the left foot, on your exhale; slowly fold forward at your hip joints. Stay here for 1-3 minutes and then switch sides.
* For tighter hamstring, come to seated on a blanket for this pose.
Benefits: Calms the mind and helps relieve mild depression, anxiety, fatigue, headache and menstrual discomfort.
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
For this calming pose, you can flip around in bed and extend the legs up the wall, or find some empty wall space in your room. Come to seated on the floor with your knees in and your right side against the wall. On your next exhale, slowly slide the upper body to the floor pivoting the legs so they rest against the wall with the bottoms of the feet facing the ceiling (see image above). Sit bones should be against the wall (if comfortable). For added comfort under the hips, press the heels into the wall to lift the hips and place a blanket underneath. Stay here for 3-5 minutes.
Benefits: Calms the mind and eases anxiety and reduces stress.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
If you're not there already, make your way back to your bed and lay down on your back. Spread your feet a little wider than hip distance apart and slide your arms a few inches from your body, palms facing up. Close your eyes and allow your breath to be soft and natural. Slowly begin to work your attention up your body, relaxing each muscle from the tips of your toes all the way to the top of your head, ultimately allowing your body to slowly melt into the bed. Stay for 5-10 minutes, or until you fall asleep.
Benefits: Calms the mind and relaxes the body. Also helps relieve stress, mild depression, headache, fatigue, and insomnia.
For added relaxation, here is a great Guided Yoga Nidra Audio from Yoga Journal to put on when you are finished with your poses and laying in Savasana.