Sleep is medicine

Sleep is the most important thing we can do for our body.

In Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, he writes that he used to think that the trio of health was sleep, exercise and food. But new research has shown that sleep is the single most beneficial thing we can do for ourselves.

The way we live our modern life fights against our natural sleeping pattern.

Blue light from screens disrupts our circadian rhythm (yes, even the TV).

The night time economy means things are open late. It is sociable to eat late (when our digestion is primed to eat our main meal in the day).

Electricity leads us like moths through darkened streets when our brains need to be sleeping.

Apart from arranging more lunches, what can you do?

Yoga.

One of the best ways to relax the brain is through movement. Ideally, we shouldn’t exercise about four hours before bed. So I don’t mean a vigorous, ashtanga based sequence. I mean a gentle, yin sequence, designed to unwind the body.

Poses like legs up the wall and supta baddha konasana. Poses like puppy and supported bridge.

Once we start to respect our natural rhythms, evolved over thousands of years, our body will start to relax. Chronic inflammation, stress, insomnia can all be improved by the healing and restorative quality of sleep.

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Yoga hearts the gym

It’s nearly Valentines Day, and I’ve found the perfect match: yoga and the gym.

In an earlier post, I told you I have a hamstring injury. I think it might be because I supinate, (where the foot rolls out more than it should) but that’s a different post.

It’s not serious but I’ve been dealing with the dreaded ‘sit bone pain’ on and off for a while. To help with recovery, I’ve modified my yoga practice.

And I’ve been going to the gym.

I had always shied away from the gym because I thought: hey, the world is your gym! (a la Jeremy from Peep Show). Who wants to run on a machine?

(I haven’t used the running machine because I still sort of feel like that).

But the weights! Oh boy.

If anyone has overstretched their hamstring and has sit bone pain (a super common yoga injury) – let me introduce you to deadlifting. Or leg curls.

It feels amazing to use gentle weights to strengthen an overworked hamstring. Seriously.

Yes, yoga provides a full body workout – there are plenty of hamstring strengthening exercises (locust, warrior 3).

But if you have hurt yourself and need to build strength in targeted muscle groups, then get thee to a gym.