There’s a lot of hype around about routines lately. Especially about perfect million-dollar-morning routines that win the coming day magically and evening routines consisting of a few stretches, that once done before going to bed, enhance your recovery by a whooping 186%. Premium-bullshit…
Nonetheless, despite this nonsense, there are benefits in planning a nice evening and morning routines for yourself. They won’t win the day or do something magic – what they can do is help you feel good, make life a bit easier and spend some time on yourself.
There are some stretches that feel awesome and some that are plain suffering. Some are qualified to do before bed, while others are not:
Stretching your neck or your spine does feel great most of the time.
On the contrary, stretch your middle splits and you will suffer.
Therefore, choose some stretches that feel good and cover mostly the big joints of your body. They should mostly be passively1 but not entirely. A few active ones are a great choice too, like slow neck circles or some Cat/Cows.
Focus on your Breathing
Breathing is tightly knot to your body’s arousal circuits and the only way one can influence it willingly.2 By breathing deep and calmly, or even pausing your breath you will influence your body towards the side of relaxation. It can’t get much easier. I always find it extremely fascinating that you can influence your body widely by such simple hacks.
Make sure to breathe through your nose deep down into your belly, and find a natural, chilled rhythm.
Sleep better with this Routine
Neck Circles (5-10r)
Neck Circles are a feel-good exercise par example. They’re also a great thing to throw into desk breaks throughout the day. They look as follows:
Sit down onto the floor.
Tuck your chin towards your chest.
Now rotate your head towards one side.
Next rotate your head until you look straightly upwards and it is slightly tucked backwards.
From there you do the same movement, until you are looking to the other side and then tuck it back to your chest again.
These neck circles or neck CARs, can be done on both sides and should be approached with some caution. They aren’t dangerous, but they should be done controlled, slow, and with intent. Some cracking is fine, but if anything tingles wildly you should stop briefly and listen to your body.
Child to Cobra (5r)
This exercise also feels pretty awesome and takes your spine from flexion into extension.
I bet you’ve seen it before – it is the downscaled version of the yoga’s downward dog to upward facing dog:
Start in a child’s post with your arms overhead – you can stay here and rock from side to side if it feels good.
From there, you push your hands into the floor and transition into the cobra pose.
Squeeze your glutes lightly. I always enjoy doing the cobra pose with straddled legs and rock a bit from side to side, too.
Now reverse this movement back to the child’s pose.
Take a few breaths in both positions and do what feels good to you. Although it is an active stretch, it shouldn’t be challenging for you. If it is slow down or do fewer reps.
Seated Pike Stretch (60s)
The pike stretch is the classic position to stretch your posterior chain and loosen it up. I’ve written extensively about the pike stretch in this post. If you wanna know how to exactly perform it give this guide a read:
The position is fairly simple and I bet everyone has done it quite often.
Sit down with straight legs. From here, the goal is to get your upper body as closer to your legs.
Think about sticking your butt out and avoid excessively rounding your lumbar spine.
If this position is too hard on you, scale it down by slinging a resistance band* around your legs and pull onto that.
9090 Stretch (5r per side)
The 9090 position is a simple position to get your hips into rotation – from internal into external and vice versa:
Sit in a 9090 position on the floor.
From here either lean forwards to stretch your glutes on this side and hang there for a few breaths or rotate your legs from one side to the other.
I like to combine both methods and simply play around with this position. Do what feels right for you that given evening, that’s what these routines are all about!
Straddle Stretch (60s)
This position will get your hips into abduction and can be quite challenging for many folks. If you can’t sit comfortably in a straddle on the floor, sit onto a pillow to elevate your butt. This will make the position gradually easier:
To do so sit on the floor and straddle your legs.
From here either stay here, lean forwards, twist to the sides or bend sideways.
Explore the position, fall into it and remember to breathe calmy.
Scorpions (5r per side)
This exercise feels pretty good on your lumbar spine:
Lay onto your stomach and spread out your arms in a T-Shape.
From here, take on of your legs and rotate it to the opposite hip.
Use your leg like a tail – that’s where the name comes from.
Stay in this twisted open position for a breath and then perform it on the other side.
Neck Circles (5r per side)
Child to Cobra (5r)
Pike Stretch (60s)
9090 (60s or 5r per side)
Straddle Stretch (60s)
Scorpions (5r per side)
Slow and controlled
Don’t go too hard
Stay in a comfortable range
Either lean forwards or rotate from on side to another
Elevate your butt, if this is too difficult
Try to really twist wide open
What could I do else than this Evening Routine?
This is just a sample routine I did for quite some time and found very relaxing. It combines active stretches, with passive holds and exploration and is meant to simply feel good before going to bed.
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There are a myriad of other legit ways to approach this kind of evening routines. But, it is likewise many things – it doesn’t matter that much what you do, as long as you do something. Other stuff I found helpful are:
Reading a book – it’s awesome for lots of reasons
Generally, do something that forces you to turn inwards.
Avoid external stress, heaty discussions, and turn-ups like caffeine, fights with your wife, or the news
Avoid screens, blue-light, and the TV 60min before sleeping
Passive stretches in combination with intently breathing showed benefits in many scientific examinations to improve sleep and help wind down.
These two circuits are called the Parasymaptic and Sympathetic nervous system. Both make up the mostly unconsciously autonomous nervous system, which regulates your body’s base functions. Very generally speaking the sympathetic system turns you up while the other slows your body down.