Sleep is the best meditation
Ayurveda Secrets For Sweetest Sleep
Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of holistic wellbeing in the world, and a sister discipline of yoga.
It's been around for over 5000 years, and features eternal wisdom that can not only help us prevent disease and imbalances, but even reclaim our health when we find ourselves unwell.
The premise of Ayurveda describes the world as well as a human body, through the prism of 5 elements: Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. When there is an imbalance present, Ayurveda seeks to find the cause in the element that is out of balance.
Sleep issues are often caused by too much Air element or too much Fire element present in our lives that are causing us to sleep poorly.
Let me share with you some secrets of Ayurveda for sweetest sleep ever as well as the theory behind them.
What is preventing you from sleeping well?
When there is an excess of Air element present in our systems, our thoughts tend to be all over the place. We have difficulty focusing or slowing our minds down, and there is a tendency to experience fear, worry, anxiety, loneliness, isolation, un-groundedness and overwhelm. It's hard to think clear and to prepare the mind for sleep. The body tends to be fidgety and it's hard to ease into stillness. We often experience excess of Air element as a form of stress.
Another reason for poor sleep in Ayurvedic understanding, is excess of Fire element. This manifests as a feeling of brain being "overheated" as a result of intense mental activity and/or overworking. Similarly to Air element excess, it can feel overwhelming, however there are often intense emotional present as well like anger, irritability, frustration, hatred, resentment, envy, criticism. These powerful emotions can easily keep you up at night, making it close to impossible to let go and drift into peaceful sleep.
So, how can we address these imbalances, and sleep well again?
If your sleep disturbances are caused by excess Air element
- Less is more. Can you attend less events and engage in less projects, and try to focus on just one or two that are really important to you? Can you eliminate from your to-do list some of the commitments that are not critical right now, and deal with what you actually have to deal with? Can you clean up and organise your desk and papers and get rid of clutter in your closet and in your life? You will feel clearer, lighter and less messy in your head when all the external factors creating this mess, are in order, and it will occupy less space in your busy mind. Start with one folder or one area of your life as you begin to clean up to avoid a feeling of overwhelm, and take it one step at a time.
- Decrease the amount of stimulation. This includes the amount of information you "consume" online and offline. Decrease the amount of screen time to absolute minimum that is needed for you to do your work. Track how much time you are spending on social media and install and app on your phone that will limit it to 30 minutes per day or less. Don't use your phone or computer before bedtime, and stop working at least 2 hours before you sleep to be able to wind down to switch to a lower "gear". Use yoga nidra meditation in bed just before sleeping with the intention to fall asleep while I'm guiding you.
- Eat warming liquid grounding foods, especially for dinner. For example, a warm pumpkin and ginger soup or root vegetable soup. Drink warm nourishing beverages, for example warm milk (or almond milk if you are not interested in consuming dairy) with a little bit of freshly ground nutmeg. Milk contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid that is needed for the production of serotonin and melatonin, which both induce sleep. Nutmeg gives the comforting drink a sweet taste and acts as another natural sleep aid. There is one more drink you can make yourself that is just as great for balancing excess Air element and to help you sleep better. It is almond "golden milk": blend a glass of warm almond milk with 1-2 dates and a teaspoon of turmeric powder.
- Go to bed before 10pm. Try to stick with the same bedtime every day. From 10pm to 2am is the time of the night associated with Fire element which will make it harder for you to fall asleep, so aim to be asleep before 10pm to ensure an easier transition into sleep. The period of 10pm-2am is also the time of the most restorative sleep that helps your vital organs restore and regenerate, so by respecting this daily rhythm principle from Ayurveda, you will be serving your wellbeing more than you can imagine.
- Oil yourself up! One of Ayurveda's gifts is a practice called Abhyanga - oil massage that calms the mind and assists in restoring healthy sleep. I wrote about it extensively in a Home Retreat Guide that you might already have, or can download on the homepage - just scroll to the bottom of the page.
- Use a heavy blanket when you sleep. Ayurveda explains this suggestion as adding more Earth element that is grounding, to keep excess Air element that is causing sleep issues, under control.
If your sleep disturbances are caused by excess Fire element
- Practice "cooling down". Include in your daily routine activities that you find calming, that are not goal oriented and not competitive, like a long walk in the nature after work, an ocean swim if you live close to an ocean, a restorative yoga practice and yoga nidra meditation. This will help you keep your inner fire under control and help you navigate between the work mode and rest mode more organically.
- Decrease the amount of stimulation. This point is the same as for excess Air element - see above. Additionally, add a regular meditation practice to your daily routine, preferably in the morning or just before bedtime.
- Write down your thoughts. If you are feeling fiery or there are intense emotions present, write down your thoughts on a piece of paper. It will help you pour them out of your head and be less bothered by them, eventually finding more clarity in what you are experiencing and learning to manage your emotions better. This might be one of the best things you ever did to improve the quality of your sleep.
- Eat and drink to calm and cool down your system. Think less hot and spicy foods, and more simple foods that won't overstimulate your digestive tract: salads, steamed or baked vegetables prepared with coconut oil. Cut out or significantly decrease the consumption of stimulating drinks like coffee, sugar-filled soft drinks, black tea and alcohol that de-hydrate you and deplete your adrenal glands. Instead focus on hydrating yourself and keeping your body cool - water, pure mint tea or hibiscus tea, coconut water, rice milk are all great choices of drinks to replace the stimulants.
- Go to bed before 10pm. This point is the same as for excess Air element - see above.
- Massage your feet and scalp. There are over 7,000 nerve endings on each foot, so giving both a massage helps calm the entire body and is a perfect ritual to do right before bed. Massaging the scalp, where the nerves start, has a comparable effect.
Enjoy your sweetest sleep, and let me know how these tips have worked out for you.
And if you are based in Switzerland, join us on the 31st of March 2019 at Cloud Nine Mini City retreat and practice all of the above and much more to ensure your body and mind are getting best quality rest on a regular basis and you are feeling rested, inspired and radiant.
See you on the mat!