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Sleep through Fertility, the Yogi Way
a blog by Tami Quinn, Pulling Down the Moon, August 20, 2010
Last time we wrote a blog on how proper nutrition and some healthy lifestyle changes can assist with insomnia or other sleep disorders. This week we thought we’d share with you a yogi’s perspective on how to get a good night’s rest.
As you probably know by now, an increasing amount of evidence points to the importance of a good night’s sleep in the treatment of infertility. Poor sleep can lead to the disruption of hormones, a weakened immunity, a lower tolerance for stress and even depression. While some folks can pinpoint the reason for their sleeplessness, many of us cannot.
Since sleep is an important part of a holistic fertility program at Pulling Down the Moon, we thought we’d share additional tips, this time from a yoga perspective on how to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Drink Cherry Juice
Mom used to tell us that a glass of warm milk before bedtime would put us out like a light. Now, new research out of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that a glass of tart cherry juice in the morning and one at night can have modest but beneficial effects on sleep. It is believed that the naturally occurring melatonin in cherries might be the reason. Additionally, natural cherries are high in antioxidants, which make them a fertility friendly food. Just remember, if you plan to partake of this nectar, try to find one that does not have added sugar. Also, don’t drink too close to bedtime lest your bladder demand a wake-up call.
Yogi’s are big on cherries. In fact, some gurus suggest a periodic cleansing fast by decreasing food intake and increasing the consumption of natural cherries as a way to get the bowels moving and increase the intake of antioxidants into the system. Remember, anything relating to diet while TTC should be discussed with your doctor and supervised by a nutritionist.
Ritual to the Moon
Many of us have sleep onset issues due to the tossing and turning that comes with a full brain. This yoga technique can be used as part of your nightly ritual as a way to help clear the mind and bring about a sense of peace.
Get started by doing your usual nightly routine: put on your nightclothes, brush your teeth and do any other rituals you ordinarily do in preparation for sleep. Now, dim the lights, and put on some soft classical music. Climb into bed and prop yourself up with pillows so that you are sitting straight up in bed or leaning against your headboard. Begin dumping the contents of your brain onto an imaginary dry-erase board. Start by asking yourself what you did right today, then ask what you accomplished or what made you feel proud. Next think about those things that you could have done better or what you need to work on.
Remember, we are isolating our thoughts to those of the day. Forget about what happened last week or what might happen tomorrow. Let the thoughts flow onto your imaginary board. It is believed that emptying the contents of your mind before your sleep will help you stay asleep and be less affected by those middle of the night obsessions that can keep us all awake. Once you have spent five to 10 minutes data dumping, visualize erasing all those thoughts from your cosmic dry-erase board and go to sleep.
While breathing may sound like an obvious necessity, certain yoga breathing techniques are specifically meant to calm the central nervous system and induce the relaxation response.
After performing Ritual to the Moon, lay down flat on your back, shut off all remaining lights and music and place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. Now inhale long, slow breaths to the count of five, then exhale slowly to the count of five. All breathing should be done through the nose and not through the mouth. Count to yourself as you inhale to the count of five, then count as you exhale. This rhythmic, equal part breathing should have you feeling relaxed and drowsy in no time at all.
Yogis believe mantra is a powerful form of transformation. Try chanting either aloud or softly to yourself the mantra OM Shanti Shanti Shanti. Shanti is a Sanskrit word for “peace.”
Start by inhaling through your nose. As you exhale, say OM and allow the M to linger for a bit. Next, say Shanti by dragging out the “a” sound each time the word is repeated. You can say your mantra over and over or until you feel at peace enough to fall asleep.
Sleep on Your Right Side
It is interesting to know that at any given time during the day, either our left or our right nostril becomes the dominant nostril for breathing. How do you know which one is dominant for you? Simply close off one nostril at a time and see which one is easiest to breathe through. One will feel very open, while the other feels blocked.
Dominant nostrils change approximately every two hours. The right nostril breathes in more of an active, hot energy, while the left nostril brings in more cooling and passive energy. To induce sleep, left nostril breathing is recommended. You can do this by closing off the right nostril and only breathing through the left, or you can lay on your right side, which helps open up the left channel automatically.
Yoga Nidra literally translates into “sleep of the Yogi.” This practice is believed to bring peace and relaxation to the entire body while programming the mind to let go and allow the gift of natural healing to occur within.
A big part of Yoga Nidra is setting an intention or San Culpa that we wish to bring from our consciousness into the physical world. This can be especially empowering for a woman trying to conceive as she looks to bring into her life the child she is meant to have. Pulling Down the Moon recommends the CD “Relax Into Greatness” by Rod Stryker as a wonderful Yoga Nidra bedtime tool.
While we do not suggest you perform all of these things every night, it is our recommendation that you try them all and see which ones work best for you. Once you have settled in with your own bedtime yogic routine, stick with it. In essence, you are reprogramming your mind and body and teaching it how to relax and sleep. This process takes time and a whole lot of self love. Let us know how you do and which techniques work best for you.