No amount of yoga or super foods can make up for lack of sleep!
Along with proper nourishment and proper use of energy, Ayurveda considers sleep one of the three pillars of life; i.e., one of the most important sustainers of wellbeing.
There is no substitute for a restful slumber, and it doesn’t always come easy. Yoga and Ayurveda explain techniques and supportive practices that help bring deep sleep to the otherwise wide-awake.
It may sound a little odd, but massaging your feet with sesame oil promotes a restful sleep. The feet are related to the energy called vata dosha that can cause insomnia when imbalanced.
Massaging the feet with gentle, rhythmic strokes using warm sesame oil pacifies this energy, calming the mind and bringing the feeling of groundedness.
Ayurveda’s go-to nighttime beverage is warm milk with ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. Nutmeg and its sheath (an herb called mace) both induce sleep. Drink this about an hour before bed and feel your body unwind, and if you’re vegan try adding a little almond milk instead.
Ayurveda explains that each day follows a cyclical rhythm in which the three doshas, or energies, take turns exerting their influence on nature and the body.
The heavy, slow energy of kapha is dominant from about 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. If we go to sleep within this window (or as close to 10 as possible), we can take advantage of this energy’s weightiness. Falling asleep during this time can help us fall asleep easier, whereas we’ll catch a second wind if we stay up into the midnight hours.
Ayurveda describes one of the causes of many different diseases as day sleep. Unless you’re elderly, pregnant, emaciated, or ill, day sleep is generally contraindicated. It not only imbalances the body’s energies, but it also makes it more difficult to fall asleep at night.
When it’s an agitated, overactive mind that prevents falling or staying asleep, pranayama can work wonders!
Breathing practices such as sama vritti pranayama (equal breathing), nadi shodhana pranayama (alternate nostril breathing), and bhramari pranayama (humming bee breathing) soothe the mind and take it into a thoughtless state of meditation. And for the sleep deprived, a few minutes of any of these exercises should be given as much importance as brushing one’s teeth before bed.
For the most part, yoga gives a sense of mental tranquility. But a strong yoga flow set to upbeat music can be too invigorating for the sleep impaired, at least after mid-afternoon. This kind of yoga gives an energetic buzz, at a time when you should actually be winding down. Wiser yoga choices would be yin, restorative, or gentle hatha classes.
Used to wind down before bed, yoga nidra releases physical and mental tension. This ‘psychic sleep’ is a guided practice where awareness is directed throughout the body, breath, emotions, and imagery. It brings the mind to the border of conscious and unconscious; a state of deep relaxation. Free guided yoga nidra practices can be found online!
Once you’ve gotten the hang of this technique, you can use this method to help you relax and fall back asleep on those sleepless nights. Mix and match these techniques and practices to create your own sleep routine. Turn off the television at least an hour before bed, give yourself time to wind down, and take advantage of yoga and Ayurveda’s wisdom to bring sweet slumber.