8 Yogic Techniques to Enhance Your Sleep Ritual
By Nora Benian (Sundari)
Why is it so hard to fall asleep — and stay asleep?
I’ve experienced several phases of my life when falling asleep and staying asleep was a challenge. These difficulties usually came along with growth spurts (physical, emotional, or spiritual) — which makes sense since psychologists say that waking up in the middle of the night often happens because of the processing of thoughts and emotions. And if spiritual developments can keep you up, yogis need to be especially aware.
Creating My Bedtime Rituals
Regardless of the events happening in my life, I’ve found that keeping a regular routine before bedtime has been the most helpful in getting quality sleep more regularly. Take parts of my ritual for yourself, or mix and match your favorite elements.
I start my rituals about 90 minutes before my bedtime. I light a few candles and a stick of incense ... or drop a few drops of lavender essential oil in my diffuser to infuse the space with a calming scent.
Turn off bright lights and switch to dimmer lighting. Bright lights after dark trick your brain into thinking it is still daytime and delays the production of the hormone melatonin in the pineal gland. That’s the hormone responsible for making you feel well-rested and happy, so you need it! Lack of melatonin leads to insomnia.
Shut down my computer, put the phone away, and eliminate unnecessary distractions of machines that doesn’t need to be on. EMFs (electromagnetic fields) coming from your electronics and wifi signal can disturb your sleep. Studies show that exposures to EMFs impede the production of melatonin and negatively affect the body’s circadian rhythm. Because EMF exposures in the bedroom can undermine sleep cycles and cause many ailments (including allergies, tiredness, heart palpitations, and muscle pain) it’s your safest bet to turn the distractions off.
Chamomile and Cuteness
I usually make a chamomile or rooibos tea and simply sit, petting my dog for a while. While I sit with her, I watch the tea steam’s patterns rising into the air.
Release the Day
At first, I allow my mind to take stock of the activities of the day. I make notes about what needs to be done tomorrow. Then I close the journal.
I then spend a few moments reflecting on the experiences of the day and let those thoughts move out of my awareness. Eventually stillness of mind occurs and I bask in it as long as possible.
Meditation before bed calms the nervous system and allows the body to begin relaxing too. I meditate for 20 minutes per night.
Breathe and Say Thank You
I open the window a crack to let fresh oxygen circulate in the room. I sit for a moment to thank my lucky stars and the source of life for all the goodness, lessons, and joy. Gratitude can do wonders and produces happy hormones. Finally I lie down, do a simple body scan and focus on my breath. I relax my body, relax my face, and it’s not long before I’m off in dreamland.
For a treat, I run hot water for my bath, add 1 cup of epsom or sea salts and a few drops of lavender to help my nervous system to further relax. Soaking in a warm or hot salted bath helps me to relax my muscles and connective tissue un-doing the tension that gathered throughout the day. Once out of the tub, I use an Ayurvedic oil for my dosha and massage it into my skin with long strokes to further release tension and move the lymph.
I brush my teeth using charcoal, fluoride-free toothpaste. Fluoride is a poison known for calcifying the pineal gland, which also decreases the production of melatonin. A healthy, active pineal gland helps you access your visions, dreams, insights and intuition.
Sleep is too important not to take steps to make it the most restful experience possible.
Nora Benian (Sundari) is a Sivananda Yoga teacher, yoga therapist, registered professional counselor, and Thai Yoga Massage practitioner with a diploma of homeopathy from the British Institute of Homeopathy in Toronto, Canada. As a yoga therapist, she prescribes yogic practices along with counseling techniques to bring clients into alignment, build strength, and open energy channels to increase the life force.