Welcome to this eight-week video series brought to you exclusively by Whole Life Challenge in partnership with MobilityWOD. Each week, physical therapist Dr. Kelly Starrett will present you with a simple concept regarding anatomy and movement — as well as some techniques you can incorporate into your daily mobility practice. Note: These techniques are optional and are simply one of the many ways you can accomplish your ten daily minutes of mobility.
Many of us experience long and intense days, and we often couple them with hard and intense workouts. While this may be great for our productivity and exercise, turning off at night and getting decent sleep can become a problem. So this week, we’re going to work on a technique to “downregulate” our system. It will improve our breathing and also our sleep.
The reason this technique works is because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is often called the “fight or flight” system, while the parasympathetic system is known as the “rest and digest” system. This is the system that engages during a massage and why you feel so sleepy and relaxed afterward. An activity like getting a massage convinces your body that all is good and it can relax.
We can switch on our parasympathetic nervous system ourselves by stimulating the vagus nerve through using a soft ball or foam roller on our abdominal area. Most of us don’t spend time working on releasing the tissue and tension in our abdominal region and, therefore, we have a lot of untapped potential when it comes to improving our breathing efficiency. This practice can also unload tension in other parts of our body.
So, this week, you’re going to spend ten minute before bed lying on the ball and focusing on breathing. If you’ve never done this before, you may experience some unexpected feelings — like wanting to cry. This is completely natural and an indicator of how our breathing is connected to our nervous system. So be gentle and work on taking full, deep breaths.
Do this before bed each night this week and see how it impacts your sleep!