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The purpose of sleep is to allow the body and the mind to rest, recuperate, regenerate – and do some self-healing. You should wake up rested, refreshed, and alert, ready to face the day. Do you?
There are four phases of sleep:
1. Falling asleep
Often this stage is equal to tossing, turning, and worrying. It’s a big waste of time and energy.
2. Light dream or “reverie” stage
3. Dream state
It is said that whatever adventures you experience dreaming take ten times more energy than if they happened while awake.
4. Deep, dreamless sleep, breath is slow and steady
This is the only stage that rejuvenates and recharges. According to the yogis, this stage lasts for two and a half hours.
Many yogis believed that if the three unnecessary (and draining) stages of sleep are reduced or eliminated, then you would need a lot less time in bed. When your breath is not slow and steady, as occurs in the dream stages, sleep can actually tear down your nervous system. Most of us take a little while to get into and out of the deep sleep state. From a yogic perspective, five and a half hours can, in fact, be sufficient in place of the eight or ten hours we often think is needed.
Preparing Your Sleeping Space
Adjusting your bedroom is the perfect place to begin restful sleep.
• Get the firmest mattress that works for you, in order to support your spine and let your nervous system relax.
• Orient your bed east-west to cut across the earth’s north-south magnetic field. Your personal energy can get overpowered if it is in the same orientation as the earth’s magnetic field. You wake up tired and grouchy.
• Consider having inspirational music or affirmations continuously playing in your bedroom, especially while you sleep. You can keep the volume very low (barely audible) and it will still affect your subconscious.
Preparing for Sleep
Follow these suggestions in the hour or so before bedtime.
• Make sure you’ve sweated and laughed already that day. If not, go on a walk before bedtime (and laugh during it!).
• Avoid a heavy meal just before bedtime.
• Brush your teeth (see Brushing Your Teeth).
• Brush your hair down and, if long, braid it so it stays neat and tidy through the night (see Yogic Hair Care).
• Drink a glass or two of water. Dehydration can disturb the sleeping mind. It’s okay if you have to wake up to go to the bathroom.
• Wash your feet in cold water to get your nervous system ready for relaxation (see Hydrotherapy)
• Do a few Kundalini Yoga exercises like Life-nerve stretch, Bridge pose, and Shoulder stand
• Read something inspirational, meditate, and/or say your prayers.
• Brief Foot massage… ahhhhhhh.
Complete these steps as you are lying in bed. As soon as the breath becomes regular and slow, you will have a chance to go quickly through the preliminary stages of sleep and almost immediately reach the deep dreamless sleep state, avoiding the energy-draining dream stage altogether.
• Take all your worries, concerns, ideas, and problems, wrap them up in a package, and put them on a shelf in your mind labeled G.O.D. You’ll be amazed at how many are gone, solved, or improved by the time you wake up.
• Set your mental timer to wake you up in the morning. Yes, your subconscious mind has a great sense of time and will respond to your directive.
• Lie on your stomach, turn your head so your right cheek is on the pillow. This automatically opens your left nostril to bring in the cooling, soothing, calming energy.
• Do long, deep breathing through both nostrils.
• Block your right nostril with your hand and continue long, deep breathing through the left nostril.
• Once you feel drowsy, turn over onto your back, side, or your preferred sleeping position.
• Continue long, deep breathing until asleep.
References: Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power by Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, and The Aquarian Teacher: KRI International Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Textbook Level One