People don’t seem to be aware of the importance of doing nothing but lying on their back on the floor to allow their back to relax. That’s right, the floor. Not the mattress. When you are on the mattress, you literally slouch just like when you are sitting on a chair or couch. Even on a new, firm mattress, your hips and shoulders sink in and your lower back collapses, causing your spine to go out of alignment.
You may think that lying on your back on the floor would be a terrible way to relax, because it contradicts all your ideas about relaxation, but when you feel that Earth supporting you underneath, only then will you truly be able to relax because none of your muscles are being used to support yourself.
- Make space; Clear an area in your home large enough that you can lie on your back. Remove the clutter, rearrange furniture if you have to, vacuum the carpet, swiffer/mop the hardwood floor, use a yoga mat, etc. Do whatever you need to do to create a spot where you can lie down comfortably. I’m astonished how much clutter people have sometimes that they don’t even have room to lay down anywhere on the ground in their entire home.
- Lie on your back with your knees up and your feet flat. You may also try putting a pillow or rolled up towel underneath your knees. Put your arms to the side.
- Relax for a few minutes. This is you-time, as in to say, this is time for yourself. How does it feel to be in your body?
Why are we doing this?
This is quite possibly the only time during the day and night where ALL your back and neck muscles can actually relax properly. Right now as you are reading this, ‘erector spinae muscles‘ are contracted that are keeping your back erect and others holding your neck up. When you are slouched with your shoulders forward, the muscles in your upper back overstretch and weaken, while the chest muscles shorten and become tight, which in turn increases the tendency to slump.
When you lie on the floor, those muscles finally get to rest and relax at a proper length. Even when you lay down on a supposedly firm mattress, not every muscle relaxes like it does with the floor. In short, being supported by the Earth underneath you feels really, really good .
Mattress vs Floor
This is similar to how a very hard bicycle seat (such as one made only of leather and no padding) is better for you than a soft/gel one. The soft one will cause your soft tissues to bruise after 10 miles, while the hard one allows the support to remain solely on the pubic bones (seat bone) and not squash the soft tissues around it.
Note: When you are lying down on the floor, is your lower back in the air? What size animal can fit under there? The lower back has a natural inward curve, but fat or pregnant people have a curve that is too inward (lumbar hyperlordosis) and may be associated with pain in that area. If you keep relaxing on the ground like this, your curve will get more aligned than any mattress ever would.
While you’re down there, stretch yourself horizontally as much as you can. When you first get up in the morning, it feels good to get on your tippy-toes and reach for the sky. Try to do the same, but horizontally on the ground. Roll around if you have the room to.
While you’re down there, do the russian twist! Probably the nicest stretches ever. Here’s a video I made from a previous blog post on how to do it.
Once you are down there, why not also do some yoga?! Discover the joy of stretching. There’s a video you could download in that blog post that could get you started. Yoga is not about achieving the perfect pose but about the entire process itself.
Anyway, hope all these things help you feel better.