When your body is in a static position for 49 minutes or less, it takes 20 minutes of movement therapy (yoga, bodywork, exercise, etc.) to release that pattern. If it is in a static position for 50 minutes or more, it takes 3-4 hours of opposite action or movement therapy to release that pattern.
The way you sleep effects your patterns, your posture, and your pain. If you could sleep in a way that would allow your body to rest and let go of the stresses of your day in a therapeutic way, would you do it?
This past week it seems like every client is coming in and telling me that they sleep on their belly! This makes me feel pain for them for 2 reasons.
1. The front of the body is yin, where the back is yang. All the sensitive stuff is on the front, as opposed to the back which can support a lot more stress. When we sleep on our belly, we are protecting all the sensitive, yin aspects of what is going on in our life. If we are going through a hard time, the body will instinctually protect itself and find comfort where it needs to. If we expose that and sleep on our back, it can feel uncomfortable if we are not ready. So if you are a habitual belly sleeper, try to remember when it started and what was going on in your life so that you can let it go and sleep in a more supportive way.
2. Sleeping on the belly flattens out the cervical curve (neck) and enhances the lumbar curve (low back). It also lengthens one side of the neck and shortens the other. These curves in the spine need to maintain their shape so that they offer support and buoyancy. If you take them out, everything needs to work that much harder to keep you in balance.
SO HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO SLEEP?
You can sleep on your side with certain bolstering to support your body or on your back with a towel. Sleeping on your back allows for length in your spine and also softens your joints. Tadasana in yoga is the pose we are looking to emulate in sleep with absolutely no effort. When you think about side sleeping, picture a wall at your shoulder and notice that you need more support under your neck than you do under your head so that your spine can stay in alignment.
Back Sleeping Position:
Palms face up at your sides, chest open and shoulders flat on the bed, legs relaxed, and a towel under your neck for support. Take a basic bath towel, fold it in half, and roll it all the way to the end. Place it under your neck and see how it feels. If your towel is extra plushy, try folding half-way with the excess flat under your head and increase or decrease until you find the place where your chin is parallel to the wall in front of you and there is length from your head to your tail.
Side Sleeping Position:
Take a basic bath towel, fold it in half and roll it all the way to the end. Fold the rolled towel in half again and place it diagonally so there is more support under your neck and less under your ear. Place a pillow between your legs so that there is space between hips, knees, and ankles. Either rest your top arm on your body or place another pillow at your chest, making sure that your chest does not collapse.
*Please note that changing your sleep takes time and should be done the night before a day when you can sleep in, in the case that it takes you longer to fall asleep. It took me about 2 weeks on and off to change my sleep pattern, so be understanding of your body and what it needs each day.