By Stéphanie Mansour, CNN
Is your back painful when you lie down in bed or are your hips tight when you turn on your side before falling asleep? Or maybe lower body aches wake you up in the middle of the night?
With the weather getting colder and the pandemic still a part of our lives, making sure we feel comfortable lying down to get quality sleep can help us stay healthy.
Sleep is especially important for a strong immune system and for fighting infections, research shows.
If you typically sit all day, your hips and back are likely to be stiff or tense. You might have promised yourself to get up every hour or try a yoga session, but you just didn’t. Having a nighttime stretching routine can help relax your body without the need for a yoga mat or even workout clothes.
As a yoga instructor and personal trainer, I created this stretching routine that you can do in bed to specifically target your lower back and tight hips. You don’t sweat, so feel free to do these stretches in your pajamas.
Each stretch in bed will be done with a deep breath. Breathing and mindfulness are part of this routine, as studies have shown that paying close attention to your body and breathing helps improve sleep.
Breathe in deeply through your nose. Then breathe out slowly through your nose. Breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your nose helps calm the nervous system before going to bed. As you hold each stretch, remember to fill your body with air as you breathe in, and consider releasing deeper into the stretch as you breathe out. Repeat this breathing pattern for a count of five breaths per stretch, aiming for five seconds per inhale and five seconds per exhale to begin.
1. Modified low lunge
Loosen the tight hip flexors as you blend into this hip stretch.
On your hands and knees, gently step your right foot forward so that your right knee is above 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, then switch sides.
2. Knees to chest
Release tension with this stretch that helps relax your lower back.
Lying on your back, gently squeeze both knees towards your chest. Place your hands on your shins, relax your shoulders, and reach for the tailbone towards the bed. Feel a stretch in the lower back.
3. One knee to the chest
This stretch relaxes the lower back, hip flexors, and hip joints.
Lying on your back, straighten both legs on the bed. Next, squeeze your right knee towards your chest as you flex your left foot, keeping your left leg straight. Pull the right knee inward to feel a sensation in the crease of your right hip. Hold for five breaths, then switch sides.
4. Laying the child on his knees
This pose helps loosen the outer hips, groin, hip flexors, and lower back.
On your hands and knees, open your knees wider than your hips and bring your toes to touch. Slowly step back so that your glutes reach your heels. Stretch your arms forward and let your head rest on the bed.
5. Tilted installation at a related angle
Loosen the inside of your hips and reduce lower back pain with this stretch.
Lying on your back, open your knees to the sides and bring your feet to the touch, forming a triangular position with your legs. Relax your arms by your sides. Feel your hips and groin relax and open up more with each breath.
With these five simple stretches, relax your lower body to reduce pain before falling into a peaceful night’s sleep.
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Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist, consultant and weight loss coach for women.