by Brittany Anas: Having trouble getting eight hours of shut-eye? Steal these secrets from some of the country’s top teachers…
Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Aim to go to sleep at the same time every night. Don’t sleep with a TV playing in the background. While these tips are great, you’ve likely heard ‘em a million times before and have tried all of them—and you’re still not getting the shut-eye you need.
Setting up a well-planned nighttime ritual to prepare your mind and body for sleep can help you get high-quality rest, which is important for everything from weight control to controlling blood sugar to keeping you in a good mood. So, who better to ask about bedtime routines than yoga teachers? Calming and centering techniques are their areas of expertise, plus many of them teach early-morning classes, which makes regular sleep schedules extra-important.
Here, 10 yoga teachers share with us their exact night-time routine that helps them get high-quality sleep.
1. Wind down with lavender, an immunity shot, and Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose
Brittanee Greenhaw, yoga instructor at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego, California, takes self-care seriously at night. Her multi-sensory wind-down rituals start with an immunity shot. She uses fresh-pressed ginger root, 10 drops of grapefruit seed extract, 3 drops of oregano, and dilutes the mixture with coconut water. She also likes to have Yo-Yo Ma Cello music playing in the background, but switches to classical music closer to bedtime. Some of her other go-to rituals: Showering using a lavender body scrub, using a jade roller to reduce inflammation of the face and lymph nodes, applying a magnesium body cream, and massaging lavender oil into the arches of her feet and then putting on cozy socks to increase the absorption and keep her feet warm. Right before bed, she stays in Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose for 11 minutes (it’s a balancing number, she says!), turns off the lights, puts an eye mask on, and drifts off to sleep.
2. Calming yoga flow, a bedtime tonic and journaling gratitude
Prior to bed, CorePower Yoga’s Master Trainer Emily Schmookler moves through a calming yoga flow. Here’s her sequence: Standing forward fold, squat and curl, toe stretch, crescent moon into half splits, table top with a couple cat-cows, child’s pose, and seated forward fold. Then, she rolls onto her back and does some gentle twists and movements to stretch her hips. She also drinks a night-time tonic to unwind. It includes Life Spa’s Ojas Milk, 1/4 teaspoon of ghee, 1/2 teaspoon of honey, and Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir. “This tonic is an Ayurvedic rejuvenate and aids in nourishing your depleted energy, calms your nervous system and helps to rebuild your immune system,” Schmookler says. Her night-time routine also includes writing down three things she was grateful for during the day.
3. Soak in an Epsom salt bath
Teri Wilkinson, yoga instructor, Ko’a Kea Resort & Spa in Kauai, Hawaii says she takes a 10 to 15 minute hot bath before bed. “I put in 1 cup of Epsom salt and 1 cup of baking soda to allow my muscles to relax and loosen up, my body to detox, and to clear my mind from my day.” She then drinks a cup of Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime extra. The valerian root in the tea, she says, helps her sleep deeply for about seven hours.
4. Do restorative yoga stretches and listen to melodic tunes from around the world
Each night before bed, Kirkland Shave, program director at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa, and a certified yoga instructor, does 15 minutes of restorative yoga stretches. He finishes his stretching session with a short Chi Kung energy circulation practice, and makes some prayers of gratitude. “After, I turn my phone onto airplane mode, put in my noise-cancelling earbuds, tune into some melodic East Indian ragas, or Japanese Koto and Shakuhachi music, and lay atop a few spikey balls in bed, placing them along my neck and back,” he says. The balls place isolated pressure on imbalanced connective tissues to increase circulation, and also reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, he says.
5. Use an old-school alarm clock
Since Lauren Larry, a yoga teacher in Manhattan, Kansas, teaches 5 a.m. classes, she makes sure she’s in bed early and doesn’t get disrupted. “I banish tech from my sleeping space,” she says. In fact, she even relies on an old-school alarm clock. Without tech in the bedroom, Larry says, she doesn’t get caught up in the news or a tweet storm.
6. Stone diffusers, tea, and p.m. poses
Carolena Coley makes Bedtime Tea by Yogi and sets up her Vitruvi stone diffusers with a lavender and sandalwood essential oil blend before bed. “As I am drinking my tea, I practice mindfulness with my senses for grounding; what I can feel, hear, see, smell and taste,” says Coley, Yoga in the Vineyard instructor at Spa Terra at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, California. “Then, I take a few minutes to acknowledge my day with my gratitude practice.” In addition to Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose, she also does a Reclining Bound Angle Pose, and stays in this pose for five minutes, placing one hand on her heart and one hand on her belly. “I connect with my heartbeat and my breath, breathing in and out for a count of eight,” Coley says.
7. Have a go-to song for bedtime
Remember nursery rhymes? It’s good, too, to have some soothing melodies that signal bedtime when you’re an adult. Kelly Clifton Turner, yoga instructor and Director of Education for YogaSix, often does 5 to 10 minutes of Legs-Up-The-Wallbefore bed. She also listens to a favorite song. (“Soul Lotion,” by Cadet de’l’espace, and “Cease To Know,” by Eluvium are currently in rotation). “There is an almost Pavlovian response when I hear those songs,” she says.”I settle right down.” If thoughts enter her mind while she’s relaxing (i.e. “What time is my first meeting?”) she thinks to herself: “This isn’t the time to spend on that.”
8. Mediate and make a to-do list
“I set a meditation cushion on my practice mat, close my eyes and face east in my studio and take the time to meditate, reflecting and reviewing my day,” says Karen Newton, a yoga teacher at Sage Yoga Studio, which is the on-site studio of Prairie Guest House in Fishers, Indiana. During her meditation, she plays relaxing music. “After my 30-minute meditation, I will write out my to-do list for the following day,” Newton says. Knowing she has an agenda for the next day brings about calmness.
9. Count your breath
Some nights, no matter what you try, it’s hard to fall asleep. When that happens, try this technique, courtesy of Jennifer Reis, a teacher at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
● Lie down, get comfortable, and close your eyes.
● Become aware of your breathing.
● Slowly count the exhalations backward, starting with 10. Keep your focus solely on the breath.
If you lose track while counting, begin again with 10.
10. Enjoy a sound bath and a book
Love relaxing with music at night? Spotify has a “sound bath” playlist, points out Erin Motz, the co-founder of Bad Yogi, which offers online yoga classes. In addition to listening to the calming sounds, Motz also likes to read before bed, but she makes sure it’s light reading and not too riveting. She also practices 8-4-8 breathing to calm down the central nervous system and prep the body for sleep. Some of her go-to p.m. poses: Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose, Supine Twists, and Pigeon Pose.
So, will you be incorporating any of these techniques into your own sleep routine?