If you’ve tried all the bedtime rituals and still have trouble winding down, you may want to add another tool to your arsenal: Pilates.
Andrea Speir, Pilates instructor and founder of Speir Pilates, has elongating exercises that release stress, center your mind, and help you drift off to dreamland.
Lie on your back. Curl head and chest up, extend legs out to a 45-degree angle, and reach arms out by sides. Begin pumping arms up and down (range of motion should be around 5 inches). Inhale for 5 counts. Exhale for 5 counts. Bend everything in and rest.
Tips: Gaze at your navel throughout the exercise to keep head and neck in proper position. Actively scoop the abdominals in, as if there’s a bowling ball on your stomach.
Forward Spine Stretch
Sit up tall, legs extended in front of you and open as wide as the mat, feet flexed. Reach arms out in front of you so that they are parallel to the floor. Inhale, lift spine, and grow taller. Exhale, round forward reaching toward toes. Inhale, roll back up. Exhale, sit tall.
Tips: Really focus your mind in on controlling the movement from the core. It’s all about elongation with the spine from a controlled place.
Sit tall, legs extended in front of you and open as wide as the mat, arms reached out to the side. Twist toward one side. Dive over legs, reaching for pinkie toe. Roll up, staying twisted. Untwist center. Reverse, reaching for the other side.
Tips: Keep arms straight out across from shoulders. Think about twisting from the torso and wringing your abdominals out like a towel.
Sit with knees bent and stacked to one side. Place the hand nearest to bent legs around ankles. Extend the other arm up toward the ceiling and glue it to your ear. Lift your body and lengthen over the bent legs, stretching out your side. Draw body back upright. Repeat stretch 3 times, then switch legs and repeat on other side.
Tips: Reach fingertips up as high as you can without letting your shoulder lift. Lengthen your body over, still reaching your fingers out long. Try to anchor both hips down as you reach.
Kneel with hands under shoulders, knees hip-width apart. Reach one hand under body and out to the side. Let head rest on mat and look in the direction the hand is reaching. Hold for 30 seconds, feeling the great twist and stretch in your spine. Repeat on other side.
Tips: Actively draw shoulders down and take deep, full breaths.
Sit with legs crossed and hands resting on legs. Slowly roll shoulders forward, up to ears and back toward shoulders. Repeat 3 times slowly. Change direction.
Tips: Take deep, slow breaths and focus on a full range of motion as you make big, slow circles. Focus your mind on the movement and consciously think about letting go of the day.