4 All-Natural, Ayurvedic Insomnia Solutions

(As published as “Featured Story” on MindBodyGreen.com)

It’s easy to think nothing of missing a little sleep here or there, especially to accomplish more work. I used to believe this, and stayed up many a late night to try to take advantage of the quietness that nighttime provides.

The reality of losing sleep, however, is quite grim. Whereas proper sleep gives you the ability to receive knowledge, the ancient Ayurveda texts teach us that lack of proper sleep not only puts us in poor mental states, but also deteriorates our memory, and hampers our focus, creativity and decision-making abilities. In this sense, regular lack of sleep easily gives rise to ignorance, in terms of both thoughts and behavior.

Modern health experts agree. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) even conducted a study that found that poor sleep at night can impair our behavior just as much as being legally drunk does.

As a lifelong student, and now teacher and practitioner of Ayurveda, I am most passionate about promoting the sub-science of Ayurveda called Svasthavritta, which includes many all-natural, dietary and lifestyle-based solutions to a variety of health challenges, including insomnia.

As someone who used to suffer from chronic insomnia, these four all-natural Ayurvedic insomnia solutions have all worked wonders for me, and I’m delighted to share them with you.

1. Sleep by 10pm and arise by 6am.

“Early to bed, early to rise” is not only a popular colloquial expression; it’s also one of Ayurveda’s most important insomnia solutions. By going to sleep no later than 10:00pm each evening, and arising no later than 6am, you benefit from the time frame it’s easiest to fall and remain asleep. You also live in greater overall harmony with the natural cycles of day and night.

The atmosphere during the time period between 8:30pm and 10:00pm is dominant in a quality known in Ayurveda psychology as tamas, which is essentially inertia or dullness. Tamas is a very helpful quality for making it easier to sleep. During the daytime, starting at 6:00am, the atmosphere is charged with the quality of rajas, which is connected with activity and movement.

I now find that waking up early (between 4:00am and 6:00am) gives me even more and higher-quality quiet time than I used to experience by staying awake late at night. Waking up early also helps you sleep more easily at night.

2. Turn off your T.V. and laptop after 8:00pm.

Your mind and psyche is constantly bombarded with inputs from a variety of media sources throughout the day. By turning off the television and computer screens at night, you can do our sleep a big favor by allowing yourself to stay away from mental distractions and start to prepare for the upcoming act of sleep.

3. Create a bedtime ritual.

Speaking of preparing for sleep at night, Harvard Business Review recently published an article about the importance of having a meaningful practice to help wind down your day. The science of Ayurveda has recommended this for thousands of years, via its various dinacharya (daily routine) practices.

According to Ayurveda’s dinacharya protocol, you should spend the hours of 6:00pm and 10:00pm in the company of the people, pets, books and activities that give you a sense of peace, calmness and grounding. Just before bedtime, it’s also recommended to adopt a practice that inspires you, such as reading an uplifting book, writing in your journal, going for an evening walk, listening to soothing music, or practicing meditation.

4. Oil your feet, the top of your head, and the back of your ears.

Another wonderful health ritual Ayurveda recommends for sound, quality sleep is the practice of oiling the soles of your feet, the top of your head, and the back of your ears with warm sesame oil. Doing so not only promotes healthy sleep; it also helps counteract the aging process and combats stress.

Following Ayurveda’s insomnia solutions has greatly transformed the quality of sleep I experience. Try these timeless solution, and you, too, can also start to sleep deeply, thanks to Ayurveda.

5 Ayurveda-Inspired Ways to Truly Love Ourselves

(As published in “Featured Today Highlight” and “Popular Lately” on Elephant Journal)

Too many people these days tell us the importance of “self-love.”

But, what does this really mean, anyway? And how does one really do this, in a practical, day-to-day way?

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of health promotion and disease prevention, has many wonderful insights for the meaning and practice of self-love.

Ayurveda explores three primary relationships in life. One is our relationships with objects, including our car, clothes, computers, phones, televisions and teddy bears. Another primary relationship we all have are those with other people. This is where family members, friends, partners, colleagues and acquaintances come into the picture. Then, there is a third relationship Ayurveda teaches us about the importance of cultivating. This is the relationship we have with our own higher self.

Developing a strong foundation of a relationship with our higher self is critical not only to our spiritual journey, but to the prevention of many diseases, as Ayurveda recognizes the role that adverse relationships play in the creation of health problems of all kinds.

Many of us, sadly, never even become aware of the possibilities associated with nurturing this third relationship. Or, we may hear about how important it is to “love ourselves,” but no one really tells us how to do this.

Like so many of us, from a young age, I, too, was conditioned to believe that everything I sought, everything worth having, exists outside of myself. So I spent exorbitant amounts of time, energy and resources trying to manifest love, safety, health, and happiness from some socially acceptable external source, whether that was my work, achievements, relationships or even through giving and service.

Developing a “designer relationship” with our own Self is really exciting, because, in doing so, we not only prevent all sorts of imbalances; we actually get to learn to fill ourselves up with what really matters.

I have found that, in mindfully cultivating a relationship with my own higher self, I am no longer so hungry for the approval, love and attention of others. My ongoing studies of Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta have revealed to me that my own higher Self is the eternal source of all the love, safety, happiness, health and hope I seek in my life.

Here is my personal list of the top five practices that help me connect to those higher aspects of my own being:  Continue reading

The Power of Resolution: 3 Healthy Habits to Cultivate in the New Year

(As published in “Staff Picks” & “Popular Lately” on Elephant Journal)

The New Year is always an exciting invitation for transformation and new beginnings.

In Sanskrit, the word “Sankalpa” means “resolve or intention,” and “Shakti” is power.” Sankalpa Shakti is, therefore, the power of resolution—which can be utilized at any moment we are seeking a more mindful approach to the unfolding of our lives.

Oftentimes, at the start of a new year, we are full of excitement at the prospect of setting often more generic resolutions, such as exercising more or eating healthier food, only to quickly discard these intentions. I myself have gone through that experience of setting generic resolutions that have soon fallen to the wayside.

I’ve learned that, for a Sankalpa to really have power, it must be thoughtfully contemplated first—as it really must come from that deepest space within ourselves, from the quiet voice of the soul, which often speaks in a whisper, when we are silent enough to listen to and heed its inner knowings.  Continue reading