• Sleep is the First Yoga: 19 Ways to Make it Work

    Posted in Blog by Eric Shaw

    A student of mine recently asked me for sleep remedies.

    I get this all the time.

    People are commonly dogged by poor sleep patterns—yogis not excepted.

    The great teacher, Krishnamacharya said, “Food is the first yoga.”

    But I think if he gave it more thought, he’d say “Sleep is the first yoga,” for we can deny ourselves food longer than we can abstain from sleep–and a deluge of new research reveals that proper sleep is the key to avoiding many modern health problems.

    Getting good rest, like so many basic needs, is a simple process–but approaching it systematically and mindfully can be difficult.

    For those of us who find it challenging to get good rest, lifestyle changes are usually warranted.


    Yoga and Ayurveda supply straightforward advice on how to support sleep patterns, and the greater your sleep challenge, the more of these habits you’ll want to link together. 

    In Indian myth, the sustainer god, Vishnu, brought forth the universe from his sleep.  (Of course, he slept on the cosmic ocean before all time and space boomed forth!)

    This myth suggests that sleep is the foundation for the effort, creativity and focus.  It gives us the wherewithall to to keep remaking the world in which we live.

    Both meditation and sleep strengthen our nervous system.   Ayurveda says these activities engender the nerve health called ojas.  Steady nerves are a prerequiste for effective physical and mental activity in life.



    Here are almost 20 ways to cultivate deep rest–for health, stamina and inspiration.

    For best effect, use as many of the strategies below–as often as you can

    1.Take a warm bath before bedtime.

    2.Go to bed before 10:20. Most people’s “wake” biorthythm resets after this time

    3. Don’t drink coffee or other stimulants—especially late in the day.

    4. Do a forward bend before bedtime

    5. Do a shoulderstand before bedtime–if your body handles this well.

    6. Drink warm cow’s milk or a vegetable-based milk before bedtime

    7. Go to bed at the same hour every night.

    8. Move by degrees toward sleep, doing more and more relaxed, low-energy activities as your bedtime nears.

    9. Put uncooked sesame oil on your feet and/or head before going to bed.

    10. Do Savasana or Yoga Nidra as you lay in bed before sleeping. Relax the body intentionally.  Slow and regularize your breath.

    11. Do something strenuous and purposeful during the day. Do what you know you must do. Do what you love.  Resolve unresolved issues with the people in your life—living or dead.  Neurosis, unfulfilled potential and regret make the mind spin and keep you from good sleep.

    12. Drink chamomile tea before bedtime.

    13. Exercise at some point during the day.

    14. Do self-massage before going to bed.

    15. Take a calm walk before going to bed.

    16. As you sit in bed, review your day and say thanks for all of it. Accept and bless everything that happened in your life that day—all that is bad and all of that is good.

    17. Think of something that gives you pleasure as you fall toward sleep.

    18. Say a mantra as you fall toward sleep.

    19. Play white noise, guided sleep meditation or a binaural beats tape or YouTube recording as you go toward sleep. Ex.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTIzIunvvDo 


    Do as many as these strategies as possible.  Allow them time to work.

    Trust they will be successful.

    Your simple intention to get a good night’s sleep and the fact that you are doing something (anything!) about will be 50% of your success.

    The “placebo” is real.


    Best of luck!

    And please give a report on your progress in the comment boxes below.


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