A few days ago, a student asked me how she could improve her sleep.

I get this all the time.

Lots of folks are dogged by difficult sleep patterns—and yogis are no exception.

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

But I think if he’d reflected a sec, sleep would’ve jumped in front of food.

We can abstain from food longer, and a deluge of new research tells us proper sleep is key to avoiding many common health problems.

(Accomplished yogi that K was, he probably slept well.  He may not have thought of sleep as a big problem!)

Getting good rest, like doing yoga, eating right, and cardiovascular exercise, ain’t rocket science.

We all know the right path–choosing it is the chief challenge.

If you want to sleep well, here’s the good and bad news: you just gotta vary your everyday habits.

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Yoga and and the Indian medical science of Ayurveda give straightforward advice on how to support sleep patterns, and the greater your dozing difficulties, the more of these strategies you’ll want to apply. 

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

The myth suggests that effort, creativity and focus come from yielding to deep sleep.

Sleep gives us the peace of mind from which inspiration springs.  It accelerates our reinvention of the world in which we live.

Sleep and meditation both strengthen our nervous system.

Ayurveda gets specific, telling us these activities produce a nerve-stabilizing substance called ojas. Ojas has been identified with the myelin found in our nerve-casings, spinal cord, and brain.

Steady nerves and strong ojas are a prerequisite for effective mental and physical activity.

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Here are 19 ways to cultivate the good rest we all crave.  Practicing them, you’ll expand your health, stamina, and mental action.

For maximum effectiveness, use as many of these strategies–as often as you can.

1.Take a warm bath before bedtime.

2.Crease the sheets before 10:20. Most people’s biorthythms reset to the waking state after this time (this is the “second-wind” we feel near to this hour).

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

4. Do a standing forward folds bend before bedtime (the yoga pose called Uttanansana).

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

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

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

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

9. Put uncooked sesame oil on your feet and/or head before going to bed. (Note: this is VERY powerful.)

10. Do Savasana or Yoga Nidra as you lay in bed before sleeping. Relax the body intentionally, limb by limb.  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 unsettled 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.

18. Say a mantra.

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

If the thought of doing any, or all, of these things feels “dreadful” to you, it’s probably a sign that your ever-chattering ego (the master that keeps you awake at night) is resisting surrendering control.  The simplicity of this list is deceptive–the acts might seem minor or meaningless.  But the test is in their application.  Experiment.  Notice if they work. Then keep on doing them if they do!!!!

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Do as many as these strategies as possible.  Repeat them nightly to establish a functional pattern.

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.

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Best of luck!

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

 

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