This in-bed sequence articulates every joint and muscle in the body. Even small, seemingly insignificant movements are necessary for the general health of the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems—especially for people who are immobile. Helping patients do exercises like these can help them turn the corner toward recovery. From Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom.
You can practice this sequence yourself. If you are leading someone else through this series, make sure the person is able to see you and ask them to do each movement several times. Try to coordinate their movements with their breath as much as possible.
1. Open your eyes wide and squeeze them closed; repeat 3 times.
2. Turn your head side to side as if you were gesturing no; repeat 3 times.
3. Slowly nod your head yes; repeat 3 times.
4. Stick out your tongue; repeat 3 times.
5. Open and close your mouth; repeat 3 times.
6. Press your head back into the pillow and release; repeat 3 times.
7. Touch your thumb to each finger, one at a time, in order; repeat twice on one hand, then do the other hand.
8. Close your hands into fists, then open them; repeat 3 times.
9. Make circles with your wrists 3 times in each direction.
10. Bend and straighten your arms 3 times.
11. Take your arms alongside your ears, then back alongside your torso 3 times.
12. Reach your right arm across your body and turn your torso and head to the left into a gentle twist. Repeat 3 times on each side.
13. Bend both knees, then drop them to one side. Take 5 breaths, return knees to center, then drop
them to the other side and take 5 breaths. Straighten your legs.
14. Press your arms into the bed with elbows bent to get a slight lift to your chest. Repeat 3 times.
15. Bend your knees and step your feet on the bed. Lift your pelvis up about an inch, then lower it down. Repeat 3 times.
16. If possible, roll onto your belly and lie facedown with your forehead on a pillow so you can breathe. Then lift your head 3 times.
17. Take your hands onto the bed and slowly peel your chest up into a baby Cobra 3 times.
18. Lying facedown, lift and lower one leg, then the other. Do 3 times per side and roll over onto your back.
19. Point and flex your feet 5 times.
20. Crunch your toes and spread them 5 times.
21. Make circles with your ankles; repeat 5 times in both directions.
22. “Windshield wipe” your feet to the right and to the left 5 times.
23. Bend one knee and straighten the other at the same time to simulate walking. Repeat 10 times.
24. Bend one knee any amount toward your chest, then straighten it; repeat 5 times per side.
25. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet together; then lift your knees to step your feet on the bed. The action should look like butterfly wings opening and closing; repeat 5 times.
26. Keeping your knees bent, take your hands behind your head and pull yourself into a small sit-up; repeat 5 times.
27. Roll onto your side with one pillow between your lower legs, one pillow to hug, and one pillow under your head. Rest quietly for 5 minutes.
Rodney and I have seen the value of in-bed and chair sequences thousands of times. On one occasion, Donna Karan, Rodney, and I were visiting the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, which participates in the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program. A young girl was in the hospital with leukemia. We did a short in-bed sequence with her, then set her up in a side-lying restorative pose and gave her Reiki with lavender oil on our hands. Then we led her in a short body scan meditation. Afterward, she slept soundly for the first time in six months. We turned to her mother, who hadn’t left her daughter’s side during her illness. We did a chair sequence with her; after which she lay down on the couch, where we administered Reiki. As we tiptoed out of the room, both mother and daughter were sleeping peacefully. In this work, the practitioner benefits along with the patient or loved one. Service leads to peace, whether it is picking lice from a child’s head, feeding the hungry, or giving someone human attention and touch.