Most of us spend one-third to one-fourth of our lives sleeping. Adequate sleep is the means to recover from a hectic day and it helps recap and digest what all happened during the day, both physically and mentally.

Siesta refers to a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after midday meal and it can help you feel refreshed too. I suggest that everyone, those who stay at home and those who go to work, should make an effort to take a siesta daily. An afternoon nap is not about sleeping in the true sense: it intends to do what a full night’s sleep does, but on a smaller scale. A 2007 study, Siesta in Healthy Adults and Coronary Mortality in the General Population, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that regular 30-minute afternoon naps reduced deaths due to heart diseases by 37% over a six-year period compared to those who never napped. This study was done on 23,000 Greek adults by Dimitrios Trichopoulos, the senior author of the study and a professor of cancer prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US.

If you want to take a seista break at work, here are a few positions that will not put you to sleep, but by mimicking the sleep postures, they will do what sleep is meant to do: Help you to unwind and release tension in the body.

For this you will need to keep a yoga mat in the office. Take off your shoes and lie down on the mat on the floor near your desk, or wherever space is available. While relaxing don’t hold your breath.

Take the posture:

Lie on your back, with knees bent at a comfortable angle, with your feet flat on the ground. Have your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on your abdomen as shown (on the right), with elbows completely relaxed. Use a few books to support your head. Keep in mind that your head should not be bent forwards or backwards; it should be flat facing upwards. If possible, have your neck supported as well. If you have a small towel, put it under your neck for support. This is meant to support the curve in the neck area. Your posture should be such that you feel comfortable with the thought of elongating the spine and also doesn’t tense your neck, shoulders or upper back. After each step, count backwards from 100 to zero.

Step 2: Relax your neck. Think as if you are losing control of your neck and let go of the tension as your skull and tail bone go their separate ways.

Step 3: Let your shoulders relax and let go from rest of the torso. Let the shoulders fall to the ground. It’s not a forced activity. Just let gravity take over.

Step 4: Let your elbows go in the opposite direction to that of the shoulders, in effect, lengthening your upper arms. Now think of letting your forearms lengthen as well by elbows going in the opposite direction to that of the wrists. Relax your wrists.

Step 5: Focus on your legs. Now think of letting the front and back of your thighs relax. Follow this by doing the same with the calves. Let your feet expand by letting your toes and heel move in opposite directions. Let your feet widen as well.

Step 6 : Imagine your knees are moving up towards the sky. But at all times, your feet and buttocks are being pulled down by gravity.

Releasing the posture:

All the six steps should take about 5-7 minutes. Get up slowly by rolling to your side. Once you have become comfortable with letting go, start to focus on your breathing. Take a long breath in, hold for a second or two and then breathe out.

Rajat Chauhan is an ultra marathon runner and a doctor specializing in sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and founder of Back 2 Fitness. He is also associate editor, British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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