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Does your back feel sore as you lie down in bed, or do your hips feel tight as you turn onto your side before falling asleep? Or perhaps aches and pains in your lower body wake you up in the middle of the night?
With the weather turning cooler and the pandemic still a part of our lives, ensuring that we feel comfortable lying down to get enough quality sleep can help keep us healthy.
Sleep is especially important for a strong immune system and fighting off infection, according to research.
If you typically sit all day long, chances are your hips and back feel stiff or tight. Maybe you promised yourself that you were going to stand up every hour, or try out a yoga workout, but you just haven’t gotten around to it. Having a nighttime stretch routine can help loosen up your body without requiring a yoga mat or even workout clothes.
As a yoga instructor and personal trainer, I’ve created this stretch routine you can perform in bed to specifically target a sore low back and tight hips. You won’t break a sweat, so feel free to do these stretches in your pajamas.
Each stretch in bed will be performed with deep breathing. Breathwork and mindfulness are part of this routine, as studies have shown that mindful attention to your body and your breath helps improve sleep.
Breathe in deeply through your nose. Then slowly breathe out through your nose. Breathing in through the nose and out through the nose helps calm the nervous system before bed. As you hold each stretch, think of filling your body up with air as you breathe in, and think about releasing deeper into the stretch when you breathe out. Repeat this breath pattern for a count of five breaths per stretch, aiming for five seconds per inhale and five seconds per exhale to start.
1. Modified low lunge
Loosen up tight hip flexors as you melt into this hip stretch.
On your hands and knees, gently step your right foot forward so that your right knee is over your right ankle. Place your hands on either side of the right foot, and feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Hold for five breaths, and then switch sides.
2. Knees to chest
Release tension with this stretch that helps loosen up the lower back.
Lying on your back, hug both knees in gently toward your chest. Place your hands on your shins, relax your shoulders, and reach the tailbone toward the bed. Feel a stretch in the low back.
3. Single knee to chest
This stretch loosens up the lower back, the hip flexors and the hip joints.
Lying on your back, straighten both legs on the bed. Then hug your right knee in toward your chest as you flex your left foot, keeping the left leg straight. Pull the right knee in to feel a sensation in your right hip crease. Hold for five breaths and then switch sides.
4. Open-knee child’s pose
This pose helps loosen the outer hips, groin, hip flexors and low back.
On your hands and knees, bring your knees open wider than your hips, and bring your toes to touch. Slowly shift back so that your glutes are reaching toward your heels. Reach your arms forward and allow your head to rest on the bed.
5. Reclining bound-angle pose
Loosen the inside of your hips and reduce soreness in the low back with this stretch.
Lying on your back, open your knees to the sides and bring your feet to touch, forming a triangle position with your legs. Relax your arms by your sides. Feel your hips and groin release, and open more with each breath.
With these five simple stretches, loosen up your lower body to decrease aches and pains before drifting into a peaceful night’s sleep.
Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.