It should be easy: A person works a full day, drops into a vigorous boot camp after work, and then falls into bed exhausted, but satisfied. She’s asleep in minutes, right? That would be nice, but for many people, high-intensity evening classes actually delay the onset of sleep. Researchers think this is because workouts ramp up heart rate so much that the body has trouble recovering before bedtime (Oda & Shirakawa 2014).
The good news is that 10 minutes of self myofascial release (SMR) can soothe the muscular, cardiovascular and nervous systems and prime late-night exercise buffs for bed. Make sure participants get a good cool-down and stretch after your challenging evening classes and then lead them through this routine.
Roll Into Suboccipital Release
- Sit on floor at end of exercise mat hugging knees, arms wrapped around shins.
- Round back, tuck chin and gently roll up and down along spine. Mimic pace and motion of rocking chair; avoid straining neck.
- Continue rolling for about 1 minute and then lie down and place spinal-massage SMR tool or two taped-together tennis balls (or balls placed in sock) underneath base of skull (soma system® Double-Track Roller shown here).
- Option: Slide towel underneath SMR tool to elevate it and increase pressure.
- Bend knees or extend legs, whichever is more comfortable.
- Let head’s weight drop onto tool, gently tractioning skull and neck muscles. Focus on rise and fall of breath.
- Rest comfortably for 3 minutes.
- Lie on back with feet flat, knees bent.
- Take spinal-massage SMR tool and slide one end under meaty part of right upper-trapezius muscle. Other end will stick out.
- Repeat on left side.
- Repeat on left side.
- Lift hips and rest them on yoga block.
- Cross arms and rest hands on opposite shoulders; elbows point to ceiling.
- Tip elbows R, center and L. Move slowly, within comfortable range of sensation.
- Guide elbows L and R for 3 minutes.
- Lie prone, and place grapefruit-sized inflated ball (inflated or deflated to match comfort level) in center of lower abdomen, about 2 inches below navel. (If you don’t have inflated ball, use rolled-up towel. This is also the preferred modification for individuals who have endometriosis and many other lower-abdominal-region issues.)
- Rest head in hands, or turn head to one side, resting on cheek.
- Relax every muscle completely.
- Remain in stillness, and focus on rise and fall of breath for 2 minutes.
- Remove ball or towel, and let lower abdomen relax toward floor for final minute.