As a struggling insomniac, I was excited for the launch of ‘Catch Some ZZZ’s,’ a class specifically designed to help you get a decent night's sleep. This new class, part of Gymbox’s debut MIND series, is built around the famous ‘military method,’ as well as muscle relaxation and breathwork.
As anyone else who struggles with sleep will know, trying to get through the working day on little to no rest - let alone a workout - can feel impossible. The toll it takes on your mental and physical health really can’t be understated. So I was keen to take part in a class that would teach me some new methods of switching off and help me prioritise rest.
Upon entering the studio, our teacher (the wonderful Antoinette Gibson) passed us a bolster and some blankets. Sat on a mat under the dimly lit red lights, Antoinette told us not to worry if we did manage to drift off - definitely a first for any class I’ve taken.
Antoinette lowered the lights further and instructed us to lie back and make ourselves comfortable. I propped the bolster under my legs and used a blanket as a pillow for maximum comfort. Antoinette then instructed us to sink into the floor and let our muscles relax completely.
We would begin the class with a conscious breathing technique called ‘breathe light.’ This is a form of nasal breathing designed to reduce oxygen intake and increase carbon dioxide in the body, resetting your body's nervous system and increasing your chances of drifting off to sleep.
I’d never tried this technique before and it took me a moment to grasp it. Instead of taking slow deep breaths - which is what I associate with rest - ‘breathe light’ involves taking short breaths that leave you feeling ‘air hunger.’ During this practice, your chest should be fairly still as you focus on making short (not shallow) breaths.
Antoinette told us to resist the urge to take a deep breath or yawn and keep up the practice for around 30 seconds.
I was pleasantly surprised to note how relaxed I felt after trying this technique. As I let my breathing return to normal, I definitely felt calmer and more at peace. I usually struggle switching my brain off when trying to sleep but because this type of breathing involves a lot of focus, I hadn’t been able to think of anything else.
Having gone through this technique, we sat up to do some stretching. We slowly worked through gentle movements, rolling out our head, neck and shoulders to let go of tension and help us prepare for sleep.
After about 5 minutes of this, we were told to lie back down, this time underneath a blanket for maximum coziness. For this final section of the class, Antoinette would be teaching us the ‘military method’ of falling asleep.
Popularised by - you guessed it - the military, this method aims to help people get to sleep in as little as two minutes. I wasn’t entirely convinced this would work for me but was determined to give it a shot. To start with, Antoinette told us to visualise we were somewhere we felt most at peace. I settled on the beach. We then let our bodies become heavy and sink into the mat, while we repeated an affirmation about allowing ourselves to let go and relax.
After a few minutes of this, we moved into breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation. We were told to inhale for 4 seconds and out for 6.
At this point, the man next to me actually began snoring. Safe to say, this class definitely works.
For the remaining 20ish minutes of this class, Antoinette let us work through the ‘military method’ by ourselves. I never managed to fall asleep, but given I was mentally taking notes to write this review, I wasn’t surprised. I did feel really relaxed though - there’s a lot to be said for dedicating a whole 45 minutes of your day to lying down and being fully present.
As the class came to a close, we were instructed to gently sit up and wake up slowly. I was grateful that there was no other class that evening so we didn’t have to rush out. When I did leave, stepping into the buzzing gym felt slightly jarring, but I did my best to carry my relaxed state all the way home with me. That night, I’m pleased to report I slept like a baby.
If you’re someone who struggles to sleep, or even someone who struggles to find time to relax, ‘Catch Some ZZZ’s’ is a class worth taking. I can honestly say that since taking it, the techniques we went through have helped me get to sleep on some nights when I’ve been really struggling. Given I have chronic sleep issues, this is a major deal for me!
Next time you’re lying in bed at night unable to sleep, do yourself a favour and book into this class. If there’s anything we could all do with more of, it’s rest.
You can follow Kat, our resident blogger here.