Sleep like a baby

by John and Jeanne Adams, Owners of Inner Connections Yoga

 

The United States is a sleep deprived nation.  Sixty three percent of American adults do not get eight hours of sleep at night, about 70 million suffer from insomnia, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly seven out of every ten report frequent sleeping problems – although most remain undiagnosed.  A pioneering United States sleep researcher, William Dement, MD, PhD, warns: “Lost sleep accumulates as a debt that must be repaid or health eventually deteriorates.”  A few years ago, the Institute of Medicine released a report linking sleep disorders and sleep deprivation to a host of ills, including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

In this article, learn ways to beat insomnia by utilizing these simple and effective practices from yoga and ayurveda to help you relax, sleep  better and ultimately, live better.

The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient yogic text, offers the following advice:

Yoga is a harmony.  Not for him who eats too much, or for him who eats too little; not for him who sleeps too little, or for him who sleeps too much.
A harmony in eating and resting, in sleeping and keeping awake: a perfection in whatever one does.  This is the Yoga that gives peace from all pain.
When the mind of the Yogi is in harmony and finds rest in the Spirit within, all restless desires gone, then he is a Yukta, one in God.

This message of moderation translates even into modern times.  Yoga challenges us to become the master of our mind, not a slave to it.  When our thoughts keep us awake at night, we address it, not suppress it.

Begin by following a few basic guidelines:
•Limit intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
•Avoid eating for two to three hours before bedtime
•Create a relaxing nighttime routine
•Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
If sleep still eludes you, try some of the following time-tested remedies.

Make time for yoga
Yoga can help with sleep   problems by loosening tight   muscles, releasing tension, and putting you into a deep state of relaxation. The breathing and postures are designed to slow down your racing thoughts and pull you into the present moment. The practice of yoga helps reduce the flow of stress hormones that your body produces when you are under stress.  Indeed, when your body, mind, and spirit are connected and relaxed, you are more resilient to stress. You will also undoubtedly sleep better.
A regular, balanced yoga   practice circulates the lymph and blood, tones the channels of  elimination, and balances both endocrine and nervous systems, calming the body/mind and   helping the body/mind digest the events of the day.

Whether you practice in the morning, afternoon, or at bedtime, yoga paves the way to a good night sleep.

Try Herbs
According to The Yoga of Herbs by Vasant Lad and David Frawley, nutmeg is “one of the best medicines for calming the mind.”  This common kitchen spice helps promote sound sleep.  Try it in one of the following ways:
•Warm spiced milk: add up to 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg to a cup of warm milk and enjoy the soothing drink.
•Nutmeg facial mask: mix equal parts of ghee (clarified butter) and nutmeg powder into a paste and smear it around your eyes and across your forehead at bedtime.  Leave it on for 5-10 minutes.  Wash off and go to bed.

You can also make an herbal sedative by mixing equal parts of powdered tagara, valerian, and chamomile.  Put 1/4 teaspoon of the mixture into a little warm water and drink just before bed.  Tagara and valerian help relax the body and mind and chamomile balances the emotions.

Enjoy Self-Massage
Try a self scalp and foot massage for a shortcut to a full-body relaxation.  This works because all nadis, or energy channels begin in the scalp and end in the soles of the felt according to Vasant Lad.  Many neural endings, receptors, and pressure points are clustered in the head and feet.  By treating yourself to the following mini-massage, you receive the benefits of a full body massage.

Sitting on a chair or a bed, rub your hands together with warmed sesame, brahmi or jatamansi oil.
•Alternately using the flat of your hand and your fingertips, make small, circular motions along the surface of your scalp for two minutes.  Then switch to your feet.
•Put more oil on your hands and in small, circular motions, rub the top of your right foot from the ankle to the toes; from the ankle to the heel; and on the soles.
•Press your thumb on the top of the foot at the base of the shin.  Gently and slowly drag your thumb toward the big toe.
•Return to the base of the shin and drag your thumb toward the second toe.  Repeat this motion to the third, fourth, and fifth toes.
•Cross your right ankle over your left knee, place your right hand on the top of the right foot, lace your fingers between your toes, and push the foot inward, outward and in a circular motion.
•Unlace your fingers and, using your right thumb, apply pressure along the inner border of the sole from the big toe to the heel.
•Drag your thumb along the outer border of the sole, from the root of the fifth toe to the heel.
•Make a fist and massage the sole of the foot in little circles.  Slowly pull each toe away from the foot as though you are “popping” the joint.
•Repeat the entire process on your left foot.

When you have massaged both feet, soak them for five minutes in a bucket of warm saltwater to draw out the dislodged stress and toxins.  Put on cotton socks, place a towel on your pillow, and settle into sleep.  (In the morning leave time for a longer shower; it will take a few shampoos to remove the oil from your hair.)

Practice Relaxation
Yogic relaxation techniques train the body and mind to relax completely while remaining awake.  They also help you let go of sleep-disturbing stress, thoughts and emotions.

Try this exercise:

•Lie in savasana (corpse pose) with a folded blanket under your neck and head and let it rest at the top of your shoulders.  Invite your legs to fall about mat-distance apart (3 feet).  As you inhale, scrunch the muscles in your face and pull them toward your nose.  Hold for a few seconds, then exhale and completely relax.  Next, clench your right shoulder, arm, and hand on an inhale. Hold for a few seconds, then exhale and let your muscles melt into the floor.  Repeat on the left arm.

•Now tense your right leg from the buttocks to the toes; hold for a few seconds; exhale and release.  Repeat on the left side.
•Next, inhale and tense your entire body.  Hold for a few seconds, deepen the contraction, then exhale and surrender into the floor.  Repeat this contraction two more times.
•Now, release into savasana and rest.
•Breathe as if your whole body breathes.  As you exhale, let the breath release tension and wastes from the entire body.  As you inhale, let the breath nourish every cell and tissue.  Continue to relax.  Let go.

Our mission at Inner Connections Yoga, Spa & Wellness Center is to provide a place of peace, tranquility, and relaxation conducive to reducing stress and creating balance in life by focusing on the mind-body-spirit connection.
We are the only Yoga, Spa & Wellness Center in Castle Rock, Colorado and the only studio in Douglas County qualified to certify instructors for over 8 years. We combine a peaceful and beautiful environment with a highly trained, friendly staff of  experts in their respective fields, to ensure you a wonderful and relaxing wellness experience.

For more information, visit InnerConnectionsYoga.com.