4 Easy Bedtime Yoga Poses

Bedtime Yoga

A couple weeks ago, I was approached by Casper Sleep to share my favourite bedtime yoga poses. If you aren’t familiar with Casper, it’s an awesome mattress company based in New York City. I personally hadn’t heard of Casper before, but I was hooked as soon as I visited their website. As a company, they’re doing a lot of things right, like offering a great-looking product, free shipping, and awesome branding. They also have a really funny and informative blog that dives into all kinds of different facets of sleep – think eye masks, lucid dreaming, and of course bedtime yoga!

To me, “bedtime yoga” means a few simple, relaxing poses I can do in bed, mostly because a lot of the time I probably forgot to stretch before getting into bed and am now too lazy to get back up. They have to be able to be done comfortably in my (currently) single bed, without any unnecessary equipment, because the equipment would probably be halfway across my apartment, not in the bed where I plan on staying until morning.

All of the following poses can be done while half asleep in your cozy bed, and require only a wall.

Reclining pigeon pose with a wall: Lie on your back with your feet toward the wall. Put your left leg up against the wall, forming a triangle with your leg, the bed and the wall. Place the right foot across your left thigh, with your knee pointing out to the right side. If this is enough of a stretch, stay here and breathe into it. If you’d like more of a stretch, start to slowly bend your left leg with your left foot against the wall. It should look something like this, but with a wall against the left foot. Keep your right foot flexed the whole time to prevent strain on your knee. After a few minutes, switch sides. This is an awesome hip opening pose! Tip: each day, alternate which leg you start with. I always find that after doing the first hip, I have much less patience for the second hip and so I spend less time on it, so alternating helps me stay balanced.

Happy Baby pose: Lie on your back. Grab the outsides of your feet with your hands and spread your knees wider than the width of your torso. Keep your lower back flat on the bed and start to gently pull your feet towards your armpits. Breathe, and hold the pose for a few minutes.

Legs-up-the-wall pose: Sit sideways alongside the wall on your bed, with one of your shoulders touching the wall and your hip as close to the wall as you can manage. Swivel to lie down on your back and stretch your legs up the wall. If you have tight hamstrings, you can start lying down and scoot inwards until you feel a nice stretch in the backs of your legs. Stretch your arms out to the sides or in cactus arms and relax. This pose is very restorative, slows your heart rate and calms your mind. I like to do this one while trying to meditate or practice gratitude. You can watch an awesome video of how to do this pose from yoga guru Kathryn Budig here.

Gentle spinal twist: Lie on your back with both legs stretched out. Bend your left knee into your body, then gently twist so that the left knee goes across your body to the right. Keeping both your shoulders on the mattress, hold your knee in place with your right hand, and turn your head to look over your left shoulder. After a few minutes, switch sides. This pose is very relaxing, and always makes me feel ready to sleep.

I don’t always remember to stretch before bed, or even when I’m in bed, but I love having these poses in my back pocket to stretch out that hip tightness and back pain from sitting all day, and calm and quiet my mind before I doze off.

Please note: this is not a sponsored post and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are, as always, my own. Also, as I’m not a yoga teacher yet all of the above is a distillation of all the yoga classes I’ve taken and what I’ve learned myself in books or online. Be gentle, and make sure to ask your own yoga teacher if you have any trouble or pain! 

30 Days of Handstands

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I’m over on Guinea Pigging Green today sharing my thoughts on our 30 day handstand challenge. About a month ago, Laura and I challenged each other to do a handstand a day, take photos of ourselves (shameless selfies) doing so, and share them with each other. Of course, true to form, we stopped keeping track of the days pretty soon after we started and we didn’t always take a picture. I for one didn’t even do a handstand every day, and I have no idea if I did 30 days worth of handstands, let alone consecutively.

That being said, the experience was a very positive one, and I’m very happy that we decided to take on this challenge. My handstand has come a long way since the beginning of this challenge, and while I’m nowhere near my freestanding handstand goal, I’ve gotten much closer than I was before. I can now hold my handstand – on a good day – for at least 3 seconds, and that’s with good form and no wall. When I started the challenge, I had to use a wall to kick up against, but of course when you do that you get the infamous “banana back” (which just means “bad form”) and it’s not a very sustainable posture.

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I’m happy to report that my form is better than ever, thanks to all the safe falling I’ve been doing. The absolute best thing for my handstand practice has been to do it outside on grass or sand. I’m lucky to live in Busan where there are beaches everywhere, since sand is probably the most forgiving surface you could find for handstand practice. It helps me not be afraid so I can tumble as many times as I need to – nowadays, that means into a wheel pose. It means that I can kick up gently into a handstand and hold it for longer because I’m not using the wall which can throw me off balance.

Another thing that’s really helped me in this journey has been to learn to breathe deeply as much as I can while upside down. I have a tendency to hold my breath as soon as I get my legs in the air, but breathing helps you regulate your balance which is something I didn’t know before I started this journey.

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If you read my blog, you probably know how much I love challenges, especially short ones. This one, all things considered, was really easy but of course there were still days that I didn’t get it done. Happily, I did get it done more days than not, and ended up learning quite a bit along the way even though I still have a long way to go. I don’t know what my next short-term challenge will be, but I love the 30 day format and I’m sure I’ll be using it countless more times in the future.

You can read more of my thoughts on this challenge over at the Guinea Pigging Green blog today right here.

Why I Yoga

Yoga 1That’s the first ever Instagram yoga picture I ever took! Unfortunately/fortunately, it wasn’t the last. I’ve been posting ever since, usually every day. You can see all my yoga pictures, if you’re so inclined, here.  

You might be wondering, why? Why do I practice yoga, and why on earth do I post photos of me doing so? Excellent questions. 

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I practice yoga because it makes me feel strong. It makes me feel relaxed and centered, it makes me feel focused, it makes me feel excited and positively giddy at times. There is something absolutely incredible about discovering that you can do something you never thought would be possible. It’s amazing to see small improvements in your body every day. It’s fascinating to watch yourself get stronger or more flexible, even though you never thought you would. 

I also practice yoga because in many ways, it’s practice for life. I know I haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to the spiritual side of yoga, but I’m getting slightly deeper every time I come to my mat. When I go to classes, I get lots of perspective. I get to see people of all levels and I get to remind myself (over and over, forever, to infinity and beyond) to keep my eyes on my own mat and my awareness in my own body. I am pushed and challenged and I get angry or I get bored, and I try very hard (and never, ever succeed) to keep my focus on my breath throughout the entire class. 

The teachers always tell us not to resist the poses, even though they can be so uncomfortable and frustrating. They tell us that we don’t need to react to our internal complaints or angst. They tell us to just be, without resisting, without reacting. This is, truly, the ultimate challenge, in that hot sweaty room and in real life. 

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I’ve been “doing yoga” for a while – on and off for maybe 5 years. I went to a few classes in high school, and took classes all throughout university. But I only really started to practice in earnest, almost every day, a few months ago, ever since I got back from Europe this past fall. The last few months were hard for me in many ways: I felt lost and sad and confused more often than I expected I would. I would go to hot yoga and put my body through the motions that I could barely do until I was totally spent and too tired to think. I cried in class almost every time, and if you had asked me I wouldn’t have been able to explain why. But it was always, always worth it for that feeling of pure clarity and lightness when I stepped back out into the fresh air at dusk. 

So, in a sentence, I practice yoga because it makes me want to work towards being better, physically & spiritually, on the mat and in my life. 

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And that’s a lot of why I post the photos on Instagram. Sharing my progress in yoga is like the way I share what I’m reading or what lessons I’ve learned in my life like I do on this blog. The only difference (and the part that can feel uncomfortable) is that I’m posting photos of myself. But in taking those photos I push myself to try new things, explore my limits, bring awareness to my form and alignment, and bring some much-needed fun and joy and levity into my practice. :)

As a member of a generation that uses social media to nominate each other for stupid drinking competitions or to boast about how much money we’ve spent, I wish there was more positive, healthy inspiration online. Pictures of yoga, or delicious meals or friends and family or beautiful landscapes – that’s what I want more of in my feed. And I want to be an active participant in creating that kind of content. 

I think yoga practice can be seen as so intimidating for people who haven’t tried it yet. The poses look so complicated and there’s this idea that if you practice yoga, you have to live the whole “yogic” lifestyle, whatever that means. Definitely not the case. Yogis come in all shapes and all sizes and from all backgrounds and personalities. It’s just stretching and body weight exercises! Nothing to be scared of. 

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Who knows, maybe I won’t practice yoga forever. Maybe I’ll get bored when I find another form of exercise that challenges me and makes me feel strong and light. But for now, I’m enjoying my practice. I’m learning new things every day. I have wobbly days (in yoga and in life) and I have strong days. I’ve found some advanced poses but I have an infinite number of advanced poses and transitions to conquer. For now, I yoga. Do you yoga?

Namaste – I bow to (the greatness in) you.