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Three Self-Care Moves for Sleep

After a vigorous class, help participants wind down with this self-myofascial-release sequence.

Self care for sleep

It should be easy: A person works a full day, drops into a vigorous boot camp after work, and then falls into bed exhausted, but satisfied. She’s asleep in minutes, right? That would be nice, but for many people, high-intensity evening classes actually delay the onset of sleep. Researchers think this is because workouts ramp up heart rate so much that the body has trouble recovering before bedtime (Oda & Shirakawa 2014).

The good news is that 10 minutes of self myofascial release (SMR) can soothe the muscular, cardiovascular and nervous systems and prime late-night exercise buffs for bed. Make sure participants get a good cool-down and stretch after your challenging evening classes and then lead them through this routine.

Figure 1

Roll Into Suboccipital Release

  • Sit on floor at end of exercise mat hugging knees, arms wrapped around shins.
  • Round back, tuck chin and gently roll up and down along spine. Mimic pace and motion of rocking chair; avoid straining neck.
  • Continue rolling for about 1 minute and then lie down and place spinal-massage SMR tool or two taped-together tennis balls (or balls placed in sock) underneath base of skull (soma system® Double-Track Roller shown here).
  • Option: Slide towel underneath SMR tool to elevate it and increase pressure.
  • Bend knees or extend legs, whichever is more comfortable.
  • Let head’s weight drop onto tool, gently tractioning skull and neck muscles.
    Focus on rise and fall of breath.
  • Rest comfortably for 3 minutes.

Figure 2

Shoulder Release

  • Lie on back with feet flat, knees bent.
  • Take spinal-massage SMR tool and slide one end under meaty part of right upper-trapezius muscle. Other end will stick out.
  • Repeat on left side.
  • Repeat on left side.
  • Lift hips and rest them on yoga block.
  • Cross arms and rest hands on opposite shoulders; elbows point to ceiling.
  • Tip elbows R, center and L. Move slowly, within comfortable range of sensation.
  • Guide elbows L and R for 3 minutes.

Figure 3

Lower-Torso Release

  • Lie prone, and place grapefruit-sized inflated ball (inflated or deflated to match comfort level) in center of lower abdomen, about 2 inches below navel. (If you don’t have inflated ball, use rolled-up towel. This is also the preferred modification for individuals who have endometriosis and many other lower-abdominal-region issues.)
  • Rest head in hands, or turn head to one side, resting on cheek.
  • Relax every muscle completely.
  • Remain in stillness, and focus on rise and fall of breath for 2 minutes.
  • Remove ball or towel, and let lower abdomen relax toward floor for final minute.


Oda, S., & Shirakawa, K. 2014. Sleep onset is disrupted following pre-sleep exercise that causes large physiological excitement at bedtime. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 114 (9), 1789-99.


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