The following is a guest post from Zenergy Yoga Instructor Lauri Bunting.
Pop quiz: Take identical twins and deprive one of food and the other of sleep. Who will die first? If you answered the one deprived of food, you are wrong!
Yet on the quest for optimal health, people tend to focus on diet and exercise. Regardless of how many green smoothies you consume, mountains you climb, or oms you chant, chances are you aren’t functioning at your optimal level if you are shy on sleep.
Exhaustion and pain from yesterday’s workout lingers in your muscles and joints. Starting the day requires a shot of your favorite brew. Your mind is foggy, forgetful, and unfocused. Although others envy your life, you just can’t seem to beat the blues. You crave carbs and lament those few unwanted pounds. Romance? Well, that can wait until tomorrow.
Solution? Get disciplined about sleep.
SLEEP’S MAGIC POTION
Sleep is the potent superfood that delivers a miraculous panacea. It is cheap and readily available. However, for many of us, this potent pill is just beyond our reach. We lie in bed, drenched by a confusing deluge of exhaustion and alertness, dreaming of this elusive thing called sleep.
ANCIENT SLEEP WISDOM
The ancient yogis knew a few things about the body. For instance, they knew that the body likes routine and synchs well with nature. They noticed that certain activities work best at specific times of the day. In the absence of thoughts, they discovered a vast realm of peace, calm and contentment. Most important, ancient yogis did not complain about insomnia. In this fast-paced world with our racing minds, a little yogic wisdom can lead to some blissful ZZZs.
TIPS FOR A GOOD SNOOZE
Be predictable. Our body loves ritual functions best when we wake, eat, work and sleep at the same time each day. This helps to set our internal clocks so that the right amount energy can support corresponding activities.
Digest & then rest. Eat a light meal at dinner and finish at least two hours before bedtime. This insures that energy that would otherwise be used for digestion can be used to heal and restore the body and mind.
Set your alarm for bedtime and wake naturally. Your best sleeping hours are between 10 pm and 6 am.
Create a meaningful bedtime ritual. A bedtime ritual reminds the body that it is time to slow down. This might include a bath, candles, music, gentle stretching, meditation or breathing exercises. Make it enjoyable.
Shut off screens at least two hours before sleep. The blue light emitted TVs, computers, cell phones and other devices, inhibit the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and disrupts our natural circadian rhythms (internal clock).
Write it down. Write down your thoughts before bed or during bouts of mid-night wakefulness and commit to revisit them later. This assures the mind that it is safe to slow down and open to the peaceful realm beyond.
Be a Passive Witness of Thoughts and Space. Close your eyes and imagine your mind as infinite space. Curiously, compassionately and objectively watch as thoughts rise and dissipate. See the thoughts. Be the space.
Use Bee Breaths to clear your mind. Using your index fingers, plug your ears. Close your eyes and take in a relaxing inhalation through your nose and exhale a low-pitched hum that sounds like a buzzing bee. Complete 5 cycles and then return to normal breathing, observing the space created in your mind.
Use Moon Breaths to connect with calm. Breathing through your left nostril activates the subtle energetic channel that creates calm. Close your eyes and as you inhale, imagine drawing in a lazy breath through your left nostril. As you exhale, envision your breath releasing slowly through your right nostril. Continue this cycle, calmly drawing in your breath through your left nostril and out through your right. Complete 10 cycles and return to normal breathing. Repeat as needed.
Cool room and warm bed. The best temperature for a restful sleep is between 62 and 68 degrees. Heavy blankets provide warmth and create a grounding affect for the mind and body.
After-dinner soothing sips. Certain herbs and spices are known for their calming effects. A warm cup of tuisi, chamoile or Bhrami tea can help prepare the mind-body for sleep. Alternative, warm up your favorite milk with some cardamom, ginger and chopped dates. Blend for extra froth and slowly sip.
Lauri Bunting teaches vinyasa yoga at Zenergy and IdaYOGA. In addition to her regular classes, she conducts therapeutically based yoga classes and workshops. Lauri also is a plant-based culinary instructor with a special knack for making nutritious food taste good. She is available for private yoga and culinary classes. For more information, visit her website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.