Quality sleep is as essential to survival as food and water. Poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.
Just as stress and anxiety trigger insomnia and other sleep problems, lack of sleep increases stress and anxiety. Poor sleep makes us more vulnerable to the symptoms of anxiety, including irritability and short temper, feelings of being overwhelmed, struggles with motivation, increased emotional reactivity etc.
Relaxation exercises have been shown to be highly effective in reducing stress and improving sleep, the key techniques being:
• Breathing – Deep breathing kicks off a series of physiological changes that aid relaxation, including reducing muscle tension, slowing breathing rate and heart rate, and lowering blood pressure and metabolism.
• Cultivating sensations of warmth and heaviness in different regions of the body – using visual and verbal cues to alter the sensations we feel in our bodies we can generate relaxation and quiet one’s thoughts.
• Guided imagery – Guided imagery exercises engage all the senses in a focused period of imagination engaged in a soothing, restful guided image journey.
• Progressive relaxation – Progressive relaxation involves working, one at a time, with different areas and muscle groups of the body, first tensing and relaxing them.
Finding the time and creating the right environment to implement these techniques can be really challenging. That’s why I’ve developed a Zen Pilates class to complement my more Energy/Cardio classes to help people in my local community to experience the benefits of both unfurling the body with Pilates based exercises combined with relaxation techniques to unfurl the mind. My favourite feedback so far has been ‘that’s the best 45minutes I’ve spent in the past 3 years, it was a mini spa experience!’.