Not being able to sleep is THE WORST. It’s like time slows and you just lay there, being driven mad by your thoughts and to-do list. But one easy way to calm that brain down is with some movement. Yes, movement! But it’s gotta be gentle and feel-good. And we have the perfect six Pilates moves to do just that from Pilates guru Andrea Speir, owner of Speir Pilates. (All photos by Valorie Darling.)
6 Pilates Move to Help You Sleep
We’ve all been in this scenario — tossing, turning, rearranging the pillows, feeling that rising anxiety that we aren’t asleep. In the case of “you vs. a good night’s sleep,” the verdict is in: Pilates! Pilates is one of the most highly recommended types of movement to help center and calm your mind, lengthen muscles and improve circulation. By incorporating Pilates moves into your nightly routine, you allow yourself a few undisturbed moments to let you go of those thoughts darting around your brain about the day and focus on your mind-body connection.
Additionally, sitting at our desks or in our cars all day tightens our bodies up, making it actually more difficult to physically release the day and get comfortable in bed. The moves listed below will help lengthen out every part of your body, opening up the joints, stretching the muscles and improving circulation. So unroll your mat or simply lie on the carpet, and prepare yourself for a peaceful and undisturbed night of zzz’s.
1. Full Roll Up
Set-up: Lie flat on your back, feet flexed and heels together. Reach arms up toward ceiling.
- Curl body up, reaching for toes.
- Curl body back down, reaching for ceiling.
Purpose: This movement elongates the spine, deepens the abdominals and stretches out the hamstrings, or back of the leg.
2. Spine Stretch Forward
Set-up: Sit up tall, legs open as wide as a mat, arms reach out in front. (Knees can be bent if you tend to be less flexible.)
- Inhale, lift the spine up tall.
- Exhale, round body forward, reaching toward toes.
- Inhale, roll body back up.
- Repeat 5x.
Purpose: Lifts and lengthens spine (counteracting all the sitting we do all do), improves circulation, centers our thoughts with mind-body focused movement.
3. Spinal Twist
Set-up: Stay seated with legs open as wide as mat, open arms out to sides.
- Twist body to one side.
- Dive over, reaching for pinky toe.
- Roll body back up, maintaining twist.
- Untwist body back center.
- Reverse, other direction.
- Repeat 3x/side.
Purpose: Making time to work our bodies and spines in every direction is very much recommended, not only for the health of our spines, but also to improve core strength and flexibility. This exercise has the added bonus of opening and stretching the shoulders, arms and pecs as well.
Set-up: Lie flat on stomach, forehead resting on hands stacked like a pillow.
- Deepen abdominal muscles.
- Lengthen your body up from the top of your head, as if you are growing two inches taller.
- Lower back down.
- Repeat 5x.
Purpose: Elongates every muscle of the body. We spend most of our day scrunched forward over a computer, steering wheel, phone. This brings balance to our bodies and helps prepare our body to find the more comfortable and natural sleeping position (not just the one it’s been frozen in all day).
Set-up: Sit with legs bent in and stacked one on top of the other. The hand closest to the legs holds on to top ankle, the other arm reaches to your ear.
- Inhale, lift spine and reach higher toward ceiling.
- Exhale, reach body up and over body.
- Inhale, lift back up to ceiling.
- Exhale, stay tall and deepen abdominals.
- Repeat 5x.
Purpose: One area of our bodies that is hardly ever stretched out is our obliques, or sides. Lengthening this area of your body will hugely lengthen out your muscles, improve circulation and make you feel much calmer and more comfortable.
6. Shoulder Circles
Set-up: Sit with legs bent in and crossed, arms loose by sides.
- Taking big, slow breathes, circle shoulders forward, up to ears, back toward shoulder blades and back down.
- Repeat 5x slowly.
- Reverse direction of circles.
- Repeat 5x slowly.
Purpose: This final exercise is fantastic for releasing any tension from the day that so often loves to rest in our shoulders and upper traps. This move is the cherry on top for winding down your mind, improving circulation and releasing your day.
Here’s to a restful night of sleep! —Andrea Speir