Ten Kundalini Yoga Tips for Great Sleep!
If you have been practicing Kundalini yoga for very long, you know that it helps you sleep better at night. There are dozens of scientific research papers published on the effectiveness of yoga in reducing insomnia and aiding in other sleep disorders.
The preparation for sleeping begins before sunset for the yogi. Ideally, all large meals are consumed before the sun sets and at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. Eating late at night disturbs the deep rest of sleep and also makes it more difficult to wake up early in the morning (the best time of day for a yoga practice!).
Another benefit of eating before sunset is that the body’s metabolism is more effective while digesting and using food so less gets stored as fat reserves. So a simple yogic way to normalize your weight is to just not eat after dark – you will often lose unneeded weight by just this simple practice!
In the hours immediately before bedtime, yoga practices will tend toward the relaxing and soothing postures of forward bends or inversions and less on the energizing standing and back bending postures. Breathing exercises that emphasize long exhales, or alternate nostril breathing, will also tend to help produce a restful sleep. A before bedtime meditation practice is very effective in clearing the subconscious so less energy (yes, energy!) is expended on dreaming.
Cleaning the body of the day’s energies with a shower or bath and maybe the application of naturally scented oil helps prepare the body for sleep. Yogis often favor Sandalwood Oil for its fragrant abilities to soothe and elevate the mind.
If a shower or bath is not possible, then at least washing the feet is essential for clearing the nervous system. Combing or brushing the hair out also rebalances the body’s electromagnetic field before bedtime.
Typically, yoga practitioners go to bed as much as possible before midnight (and ideally before 10 PM) as this is the natural time for the body to shift into relaxation. Staying up after 10 or 11 PM tends to give the body its “second wind” and the mind becomes overly active. Sleeping before midnight is more restorative than the hours slept after midnight.
Resting on the right side of the body before going to sleep will create a natural stage of relaxation as the left nostril will open and become dominant in that position. Scientists discovered what the yogis already knew: When you breathe predominantly through the left nostril, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system for deep relaxation.
The other way to use yoga to trigger your natural sleep cycle is to consciously lengthen your exhalations while resting in bed. If you listen to a sleeping person, you will hear a longer exhale than inhale as this sends a signal to the body to relax.
The body also has a natural awakening cycle, ideally sometime before sunrise when it shifts from a relaxation to an elimination phase. Sleeping much after sunrise makes the mind less alert and the body more toxic.
Interestingly enough, the pituitary gland is instrumental in the awakening process and it becomes active as your meditation practice deepens. Long time mediators naturally awaken between 3:30 to 4:30 AM for meditation as the activated pituitary gland releases its secretions into the bloodstream.
So sleeping like a yogi is actually pretty simple – it’s just like your momma said: Eat your dinner (early), take your bath, and get your asana in bed.
Yogi Bhajan’s Ten Suggestions for Better Sleep
(Taken from lectures by the Master of Kundalini Yoga)
- The most important times for sleep are between 10PM and 2AM. Make an effort to go to sleep before 10PM.
- Eat lighter meals at dinner time and at least 2 1/2 hours before bedtime.
- Ideally the last meal is before sunset. If you do eat at night, it is best to to talk a walk afterwards.
- Ideally sleep with the head pointing East. (Ayurveda also indicates North is the second best direction.)
- Empty the bladder before going to sleep and drink 8 ounces of water before retiring.
- Brushing the hair and teeth before bedtime aids in sleeping.
- Wash the feet with cold water and massage with a coarse towel. A foot massage before bedtime is recommended.
- Golden Milk or celery juice is a helpful evening drink for sleep.
- When going to sleep, lie on the stomach with the right cheek down. Make fists of the hands and place them under the crease of the legs by the groin. Begin long deep breathing. When you feel drowsy, turn over on the right side and go to sleep.
- Sleeping on natural fibers or a wool pad is best. (He said a bearskin was best for sleep – and especially if you are a bear!)