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Sleep Better Tonight! 6 Bedtime Rituals

6 rituals for better sleep

Article by Shannon Sexton, Courtesy of Yoga International, USA

Yoga and Ayurveda offer surprising insights into the sources of insomnia. Read on to learn more—and then try 6 simple practices that can help you sleep better tonight.

We are a sleep-starved nation. Sixty-three percent of American adults do not get eight hours of sleep at night, about 70 million suffer from insomnia, and according to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly seven out of ten report frequent sleeping problems—although most remain undiagnosed. Alarmed? You should be. As Stanford University “sleepdebt” expert William C. Dement, MD, PhD, warns: “Lost sleep accumulates as a debt that must be repaid or health eventually deteriorates.” This year, the Institute of Medicine released a report linking sleep disorders and sleep deprivation to a host of ills, including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.

Our daily dose of shut-eye regulates our weight, strengthens our immunity, protects our cardiovascular health, repairs our tissues and cells, and restores our energy.

Scientists are confirming what yogis and ayurvedic physicians have reported for centuries: deep sleep rests the body and the mind. Our daily dose of shut-eye regulates our weight, strengthens our immunity, protects our cardiovascular health, repairs our tissues and cells, and restores our energy. Sleep also allows us to process, consolidate, and retain new memories; it balances our emotions, makes us better problem solvers, and feeds our creativity.

But according to yoga, deep, refreshing sleep has an even more important function: it helps us stay spiritually balanced. The ancient rishis (seers) classified sleep as one of the four fountains, or primitive urges (along with food, sex, and self-preservation), that operate at an instinctual level to maintain our survival. When one of these fountains is out of balance, it can imbalance the others, creating obstacles to spiritual growth. For example, when we skimp on sleep, we tend to overeat and imbalance the “food” fountain. Scientific research confirms this: A recent Stanford University study found that the less sleep people got, the heavier they were. Shorter sleep duration boosts our level of ghrelin, a hormone that makes us feel hungry, and suppresses another hormone called leptin, which makes us feel full. And at Case Western Reserve University, researchers who conducted a long-term study with 68,000 women over 16 years found that women who got fewer than five hours of sleep each night were much more likely to gain 33 pounds or more—despite the fact that they ate less than the seven-hour sleepers.

When we fail to get enough sleep, our anxiety level rises, too, disturbing the “self-preservation” fountain. Plus, it’s difficult to maintain a yoga practice when you’re overtired. Who wants to get up early to meditate after tossing and turning all night? Missing our practice can throw our whole day off balance and, worse, feed the cycle of insomnia.

The Bhagavad Gita (6:16-18) offers a message of moderation for practitioners:

  • Yoga is a harmony. Not for him who eats too much, or for him who eats too little; not for him who sleeps too little, or for him who sleeps too much.
  • A harmony in eating and resting, in sleeping and keeping awake: a perfection in whatever one does. This is the Yoga that gives peace from all pain.
  • When the mind of the Yogi is in harmony and finds rest in the Spirit within, all restless desires gone, then he is a Yukta, one in God.

The Bhagavad Gita is ancient, of course, and so doesn’t address our society’s skyrocketing use of sleeping pills, but it’s easy to guess what this sacred text would say: When we depend on pills to put us to sleep, we’re only masking our problems. Yoga challenges us to become the master of our mind, not a slave to it. When our thoughts begin to keep us awake at night, our mental gymnastics need to be addressed, not suppressed.

But the media tempt us with quick-fix promises that can be hard to resist. One Lunesta commercial asks, “Are you at home, trying to sleep, but your mind is still at the office, reviewing tomorrow’s agenda, charting out the future? Maybe it’s time for you to be the boss. Ask your doctor about Lunesta.” The not-so-subliminal message? You don’t have to master your mind—you can gain control simply by taking a pill.

Unfortunately, this message has hit home with Americans. Last year, the pharmaceutical industry poured approximately $300 million into advertising marketed directly to the sleepless consumer—over four times such ad spending for 2004. Sleeping pill sales have surged by 60 percent since 2000, with 42 million prescriptions filled last year alone. More than 26 million of these prescriptions were for Ambien, the 12th best-selling pill in the nation.

But depending on pills is no honeymoon. Last summer, the New York Times reported on some of Ambien’s eerie side effects: the woman in a body cast who miraculously arose every night to devour the contents of her fridge, then in the morning wondered who had stolen her food; the man who tore down the towel racks in his bathroom but had no memory of doing so the next day; people caught driving half-asleep who claimed to be under the influence of Ambien. Sleep experts warn that insomniacs should beware of becoming dependent on a pill and instead make lifestyle changes and rule out underlying conditions such as depression, which can be the culprit of their sleepless nights. Plus, sleep aids can be expensive. The new pill on the block, Lunesta, costs an average of $3.70 per tablet.

Side effects and cost aside, if we need drugs to put us to sleep, we’re in trouble. Ceding control to the pharmaceutical industry makes it impossible for us to explore, and eventually master, our own body and mind. There are better ways to get a good night’s sleep. Through herbs, massage, and relaxing rituals, yoga and ayurveda can show you how.

The Theory Behind the Practice

Ayurveda says that all illnesses are caused by some form of indigestion. In the case of insomnia, Carrie Demers, MD, who uses ayurveda in her medical practice, explains: “At some level—whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional—we haven’t finished extracting what is helpful to us and eliminating what is indigestible. On the physical level, indigestion is caused by bad food or by weak digestion and leads to conditions like heartburn (a contributor to insomnia), flatulence, and diarrhea. Mental indigestion is the inability to let go of a certain incident or thought—usually an unpleasant experience. Emotional indigestion is the recurrence of a feeling, often sadness or anger, long after the precipitating event. The emotion has not been sufficiently digested and remains just under the surface, springing up for no apparent reason”—and keeping us awake at night.

Mental and emotional indigestion are the most common causes of insomnia, Demers says. People who grind their teeth in their sleep are attempting to chew and digest recurring thoughts and emotions. And dreams are another way the mind attempts to digest the day’s experiences.

Vasant Lad, an ayurvedic physician and the director of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, offers another perspective on insomnia: excess vata in the mind or nervous system. In the ayurvedic tradition, vata is one of the three doshas, or humors, governing the biological and psychological processes of our body, mind, and consciousness. Literally translated as “wind,” vata is “dry, light, mobile, and cold,” says Lad. “As the principle of mobility, it regulates all activity in the body and mind.” When vata is in balance, it promotes creativity, flexibility, and lightheartedness. But when it’s out of balance, it causes fear, anxiety, restlessness, and a number of sleep disorders.

Yoga and ayurveda offer a variety of methods that get to the root cause of insomnia, whether it’s a vata imbalance or a form of indigestion. These methods work on a deeper, more subtle level than sleeping pills and have only positive side effects. Whichever method you choose, begin by following a few basic guidelines: limit your intake of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol; avoid eating for two to three hours before bedtime; create a relaxing nighttime routine; and go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. But if you’re doing all that and sleep still eludes you, try a few of these time-tested remedies.

6 Bedtime Rituals for Better Sleep

1. Try nutmeg

According to The Yoga of Herbs by Vasant Lad and David Frawley, nutmeg is “one of the best medicines for calming the mind.” This common kitchen spice helps reduce high vata in the colon and nervous system and promotes sound sleep. Here are two treatments—one internal, and one external.

Warm, spiced milk. Add up to 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg to a cup of warm milk (which contains a sleep-inducing amino acid called tryptophan).

Nutmeg facial mask. Mix equal parts of ghee (clarified butter) and nutmeg powder into a paste and smear it around your eyes and across your forehead at bedtime.

2. Take a hot bath.

A hot bath removes the day’s residue, relaxes the muscles, soothes vata, and induces sleep.

3. Take an herbal sedative.

Mix equal parts of powdered tagara, valerian, and chamomile. Put 1/4 teaspoon of the mixture into a little warm water and drink just before bed. Tagara (valeriana wallichi) and valerian (valeriana officinalis) are vata-pacifying sedatives, and chamomile balances the emotions.

4. Give yourself a 5-minute massage.

According to Lad, a scalp and foot massage is a shortcut to full-body relaxation. Why? Because all meridians, or nadis, begin in the scalp and end in the soles of the feet. Plus, many neural endings, receptors, and marmas (pressure points) are clustered in the head and feet. By giving yourself the following mini-massage, Lad says, “You will get the benefits of an entire body massage.” Here’s how:

  • Sitting on a chair or bed, rub your hands with comfortably warm sesame, brahmi, or jatamansi oil. Alternately using the flat of your hand and your fingertips, make small, circular motions along the surface of your scalp for two minutes. Then switch to your feet.
  • Put more oil on your hands and in small, circular motions, rub the top of your right foot from the ankle to the toes; from the ankle to the heel; and on the soles.
  • Press your thumb on the top of the foot at the base of the shin. Gently and slowly drag your thumb toward the big toe.
  • Return to the base of the shin and drag your thumb toward the second toe. Repeat this motion to the third, fourth, and fifth toes.
  • Cross your right ankle over your left knee, place your right hand on the top of the right foot, lace your fingers between your toes, and push the foot inward, outward, and in a circular motion.
  • Unlace your fingers and, using your right thumb, apply pressure along the inner border of the sole from the big toe to the heel.
  • Drag your thumb along the outer border of the sole, from the root of the fifth toe to the heel.
  • Make a fist and massage the sole of the foot in little circles. Slowly pull each toe away from the foot as though you are “popping” the joint.
  • Repeat the entire process on your left foot.

When you’ve massaged both feet, soak them for five minutes in a bucket of warm saltwater to draw out the dislodged stress and toxins. Put on cotton socks, place a towel on your pillow, and settle into sleep. (In the morning, leave time for a longer shower; it will take a few shampoos to remove the oil from your hair.)

5. Make time for yoga.

A regular, balanced hatha yoga practice circulates the lymph and blood, tones the channels of elimination, and balances both the endocrine and nervous systems, calming vata and helping the body and mind digest the events of the day. Whether you practice in the morning, afternoon, or at bedtime, yoga paves the way to a good night’s sleep.

6. Do a relaxation practice.

Yogic relaxation techniques train the body and mind to relax completely while remaining in a waking state. They also help you let go of sleep-disturbing stress and emotions. If you’re new to relaxation practices, try this tension-relaxation exercise:

Lie in shavasana (corpse pose) with a cushion under your neck and your legs spread three feet apart. As you inhale, scrunch up the muscles in your face and pull them toward the nose. Hold for two seconds, then exhale and completely relax. Next, clench your right shoulder, arm, and hand on an inhale. Hold for two seconds, then exhale and let your muscles melt into the floor. Repeat on the left side. Now tense your right leg from the buttock to the toes; hold briefly; exhale and release. Repeat on the left side.

Next, inhale and tense your entire body. Hold for two seconds, deepen the contraction, then exhale and surrender into the floor. Repeat this contraction two more times. Then surrender into shavasana. You can follow this practice with a systematic relaxation or simply lie resting, breathing as if the whole body breathes. As you exhale, let the breath release tension and wastes from the entire body. As you inhale, let the breath nourish every cell and tissue. Continue for five to ten breaths.

As you become more advanced, there are a number of other systematic relaxation practices that train the mind to focus on and relax different parts of the physical body and, later, the more subtle energetic body. You can find some of these exercises outlined in yoga manuals. You can also try guided relaxation CDs.

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The 6 Phase Meditation

6 phase meditation

This infographic is based on the core meditation from The Envisioning Method, a daily practice designed by Mindvalley Founder, Vishen Lakhiani.

The 6 Phase Meditation is a distillation of hundreds of books on personal growth and is designed to create the most remarkable transformation in your state of being — in the shortest amount of time.

The 6 Phase Meditation (Infographic)

Designed by Vishen Lakhiani based on his own daily practice, the Envisioning Method is a distillation of hundreds of books on personal growth and designed to create the most remarkable transformation in your state of being — in the shortest amount of time.

 

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Chocolate Love Meditation

Choc Meditation

A fun and simple meditation to develop mindfulness and awareness.

Have a small piece of chocolate handy for this meditation. Use good quality chocolate if possible as the meditation makes you more aware of your senses and experiences. This will add to the positive experience of the meditation.

Written and recorded by Julie Bladon copyright 2013. Produced by Ricardo Wolkers, perceptionaudio.co.uk. Music by Christopher Lloyd Clarke; Licensed by RoyaltyFreeMeditationMusic.com.

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Mastering the Menopause – Natural Wellness Tips To Assist This Powerful Transition

Menopause - Natural Wellness Tips

Menopause is a powerful transition in a woman’s life and a lot of women are seeking natural support as they undergo this physical and spiritual transformation.

The average age of menopause – defined as not having a period for at least 12 months – is 51.  Perimenopausal symptoms often begin in the 40s or even earlier.  It is a personal journey so experiences and timings may differ and it is for each woman to explore in their own way.

Menopause is a natural shift in hormonal status.  The symptoms are seen when there is a drop in oestrogen production in the ovaries, the adrenal glands will compensate for this drop in oestrogen and any adrenal exhaustion is best addressed to ease this transition.  Oestrogen contributes to the female menstrual cycle by building endometrial tissue, sustaining bone density and the nervous system, maintaining the quality of the skin, sustaining libido and for the regulation of the female reproductive system.

This is a time of deep questioning about your life, relationships, job, home, what you are doing with your life and the calling you receive in terms of what you wish to accomplish as you move into the next phase of your life.  This is a time of death and rebirth.  You are releasing what no longer serves you and birthing the new YOU.  You may be called to spend time alone, you may sense your power rising and no longer wish to accept what others say, you may experience heightened sensitivity.

This is a time of deep healing, healing your body and past traumas.  You will be called to develop self acceptance, to de-clutter your life and to develop strong self care practices.

There is no right or wrong way to transition through your menopause.  Here are a few holistic tools that may support your journey.

Nutrition

Simply eating more plant foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can offer some relief, as they contain hormone-balancing plant chemicals known as phytoestrogens. Ground flaxseeds also contain phytoestrogens and have been shown in studies to reduce hot flashes. In one study, women had hot flash relief when they consumed 40 grams of ground flaxseeds daily. Fermented soy foods such as tofu, miso, and tempeh can also help reduce hot flashes.

Increasing your antioxidant intake greatly helps the entire body and brain.  Unprocessed brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, high quality proteins, grains and oils help to maintain healthy levels of antioxidants.  The benefits are wide spread and positively impact on memory, mood, heart health, blood pressure, detoxification, sleep, stress tolerance, thyroid, cancer risk, osteoporosis and more.

Studies have shown that menopausal women were found lacking in Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). Healthy choice PUFAs are found in fatty fish like salmon, herring, trout, mackerel and tuna.  It is also found in walnuts, flax, chia and sunflower seeds.

Take time to review your mineral intake and possible deficiencies.  Deficient nutrients may be iron, copper, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, D, and K.  Magnesium is critical for energy production, bone structure, sleep, mood, and brain health.  Review your sodium and phosphorus intake which may be too high particularly if consumed via processed foods.

Ensure proper hydration as there is a chance of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration when experiencing heat symptoms.  You may wish to review, reduce or stop your caffeine and alcohol intake.

Tissue Salts

Dr Wilhelm Schuessler, a great nineteenth-century German physician, concluded that there are 12 minerals that must be present in the body to maintain perfect health.  Through his research Schuessler developed tissue salts which offer a natural system of nutritional medicine.  Tissue salts enable the cells of the body to both eliminate toxins and assimilate nutrition.  Tissue salts are completely safe and can be used safely with other forms of medicine and treatments.

Tissue salts help with the physical, emotional and mental journey through the menopausal years.  Calc Phos, Kali Phos and Nat Mur smooth the emotional path, balance the hormones and strengthen the heart muscle.  Calc Phos and Kali Phos will also minimise the discomfort of hot flushes and night sweats.  Silica is a general tonic with Calc Fluor rejuvenating the skin and helping to prevent prolapsed and excessive relaxation of blood vessels that can lead to varicose veins and haemorrhoids.  Tissue salts to clear stagnation and cool the body are Silica and Nat Phos.

Purchase Tissue Salts for Menopause or consult with a homeopathic doctor for suitable Tissue Salt remedies.

Herbs

Herbs can also alleviate menopausal symptoms. Black cohosh has been shown in numerous studies to relieve a multitude of menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, and depression.

Maca root has a rich history of use in Peru to help women through the menopausal transition. Several double blind, placebo controlled studies show that it can indeed help hot flashes and a variety of other menopausal symptoms.

Another unique herbal extract is red clover. According to research, this effective alternative treatment for menopause works to relieve hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and anxiety.

Sage is a traditional remedy to cool the blood and reduce heat in the body.  Try sage tea.  Chamomile tea also has a cooling effect on the body.

Hormone modulating herbs to address the decline in estrogen are Ashwaganda, Black Cohosh, Kudzu, Anemarrhena, Horny Goat Weed, Morinda, Dong Quai, Chaste Tree, Paeonia and Curculigo.

It is recommended to find a naturopath or herbalist to advise on herbs for your particular symptoms and situation.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a useful remedy to reduce menopausal symptoms and consulting a homeopathic practitioner is highly recommended.

One of the most common remedies is Sepia. Symptoms that suggest this remedy include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, irritability, low libido, and exhaustion. Another common remedy to consider is Pulsatilla. Women who may benefit from this homeopathic medicine feel worse in warm weather and desire fresh air. They may have mood swings and weepiness and feel better with company.

Time Alone

Answer the call to spend more time alone in a process of withdrawal.  This is a time to deeply listen to your inner knowing.  Solitude allows you to truly listen to your inner wisdom.  In this process you may wish to spend more time in nature, journal writing, meditating or doing whatever feeds your soul.  This is a time to say NO and to put your needs first.

Exercise

Review and implement an exercise plan to support your self-care programme.  Do the things that you enjoy and that you are encouraged to make exercise a central part of your life perhaps even revisiting things that you enjoyed as a child such as swimming, cycling, walking, dancing, yoga, pilates.  Yoga & meditation helps to reduce nervous system stimulations which can aggravate hot flushes.  Select whatever exercise brings you joy.

Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)

Breath work is an effective way to cool, calm or invigorate during the experience of hot flashes or anxiety. Yogic breathing is a way to bring extra energy into the body or bring in a sense of relaxation.  Breathing exercises help to de-stress the body and mind acting to soothe the whole system.

Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing) helps to calm the body & mind, soothes the system and assists if you are suffering from disturbed sleep.  Try 10-15 minutes per day.

This breathing technique consists of breathing through alternate nostrils and retaining the breath.  Anuloma Viloma harmonises the nervous system and balances both hemispheres of the brain.  Every two hours the activity of the brain shifts from one hemisphere to the other.  The same occurs with the lungs and this technique helps to balance the lungs.  This practice stimulates the nadis or energy channels that run throughout the body like electrical wires.  It is performed with a breathing sequence of 1:4:2.

The breath retention gives more time for the exchange of gases which means you will get more oxygen in the blood and increased expulsion of carbon dioxide.

At different times of the day and also dependant on our health, we will breathe more effectively through one nostril versus the other.  Observations during this practice help us to tune into our body and mind with greater awareness.

Anuloma Viloma is a more advanced breathing technique and controls your prana (energy) through the control of the breath.  This technique can be practiced every day.

This technique is for 4:16:8.  Always start and end on the left side.

Come into an easy, comfortable seated position.  You may wish to sit on a cushion or yoga block.  With your spine tall and your shoulders relaxed, begin by focusing on your breath.  Taking full deep breaths in and out of your nose.

Place your left hand in chin mudra (thumb and index finger touching) and rest on your left knee.  Bring your right hand into Vishnu mudra (curl your index and middle finger into the palm and leave your thumb, third and fourth fingers free).

Close your eyes.  Take 3 deep breaths in and out.  Place your right thumb up to right nostril and close this nostril.  Breathe in through the left nostril for the count of 4.  Close both nostrils using the thumb on the right nostril and third/fourth fingers on left nostril.  Maintain a constant pressure on the nostrils and hold the breath for the count of 16.

Release the thumb to open your right nostril and exhale slowly until the lungs are empty to a count of 8.  Inhale on the right (same side) for the count of 4.  Close both nostrils and hold for the count of 16.

Open the left nostril by releasing the fingers and exhale for a slow count of 8 until you have completely emptied the lungs.

Repeat for up to 8 rounds remembering that a round always starts and end on the left.  Keep the practice smooth and effortless.

Precautions: The retentions should not be performed by those with high blood pressure, cardiac patients or pregnant women.

Tips:

If the 4:16:8 count is too much to start with, try 3:12:6.

 As you develop this practice you can increase the counts from 4 to 5, 5 to 6.  Remember to take time to develop your practice and make sure that you feel comfortable at all times. 

You may wish to make this into a mantra meditation by mentally saying Om with each count.  Silently repeating “Om one, Om two, Om three, Om four.  Hold one, Om two, Om three…..”

Sithali Breath is a useful technique to manage hot flushes and rebalance the body.  Also supportive when you are feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.

To practice Sithali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw.  The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait so an alternative is given below.

Sit in a comfortable position, either on the floor or in a chair, with your shoulders relaxed and the spine tall.  Stick the tongue out, curl the edges of the tongue inward to make a straw-like shape.  Inhale through the tongue, close the mouth and retain the breath for as long as feels comfortable.  Exhale through the nose.  Repeat for a minimum of 10 breaths.  Make sure you feel fully comfortable at all times and your breath flows easily.

Another technique if you cannot curl your tongue, extend your tongue out flat and sip the air across the upper surface of your tongue.

Bhramari Breath (Honey Bee Breath) is a simple technique to instantly calm the mind and help with concentration.  It is one of the best ways to free the mind of agitation, frustration, anger and anxiety.  The exhalation of this technique resembles the humming sound of a bee.  Bhramari breath is very healing and relaxing and is a useful tool to relieve sleep issues, headaches, migraines and stress.  The sound vibrations calm your nerves and have a particular soothing effect on the brain and forehead.  Use Bhramari breath if you are feeling a little hot or experiencing a hot flush.

This technique can be used at any time.  Use as an instant way to de-stress yourself.  You can practice 3-4 times a day and also you can include it in your asana practice or as you prepare to settle the mind for meditation.  If you are having trouble sleeping, practice this technique a few times in bed as you settle.

Come into a comfortable seated position or lie on your back, close your eyes.  Connect in with your breath, notice the sensations in your body and check in with your mind.  Take a deep inhalation and as you exhale make a loud humming sound like a bee.  You can vary the pitch of your humming sound and when you do connect in with the body to sense the vibration within the body.  Inhale again and repeat this 3-4 times.

Meditation

Menopause is a physical, spiritual and emotional transformation.  Meditation can be a source of relief and a supportive tool during this time of great change.  Meditation calms the mind, brings clarity and focus, restores inner peace and balances mental focus.  Irritability and depression can be greatly eased by a regular meditation practice.

Guided chakra meditations can support shifts experienced within the energy body during the menopause.  Meditation can be used as a way to explore your inner depths, find greater meaning and process the changes occurring during the menopausal years.  You will emerge wiser, more intuitive and in your full power.

Naps

Regular short naps can help you reduce stress, boost your alertness and energise you.  There are a few tips to successful napping to ensure that you do not wake up in a groggy state.  A 20 minute snooze is a great way to power nap and enhances your motor skills and attention.  A 60-90 minute nap brings Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which helps make new connections in the brain and boosts creative problem solving.

Regular short naps help to lower tension which decreases your risk of heart disease.  Stick to a regular napping schedule, set your alarm so that you do not over-nap and optimal times are between 1-3pm, nap is a dark room to make sleeping easier.   Napping is a natural way to revive your energy and may prevent you using caffeine in the afternoon or evening which can affect your night-time sleep patterns.

Naps can help avoid burnout and reverses information overload.  Snoozing during the day helps to make up for any lack of sleep experienced at night.

Sleep and Yoga Nidra (Yoga Sleep)

Sleep is the most effective approach to high adrenaline levels. Many women require eight to ten hours of sleep to function optimally. Try getting to sleep on the earlier side of midnight as it is much more restorative to your adrenals than sleep that begins later in the night.

Try Yoga Nidra to support your sleeping needs.  Yoga Nidra is an ancient tantric method where the mind and body is in deep relaxation. A single hour of Yoga Nidra is as restful as four hours of conventional sleep. This practice is fully guided so perfect for complete beginners or more experienced practitioners.

The practice of Yoga Nidra releases all types of muscular, emotional and mental tension. You not only enjoy complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation, but also get to explore the tremendous powers hidden in the deeper layers of subconscious mind.

On a physical level Yoga Nidra improves the quality and the amount of sleep and soothes the nervous system.  This is beneficial if you are experiencing exhaustion, night sweats, disturbed sleep, insomnia or are generally feeling tired.

For details of my Yoga Sleep, Yoga Sleep for Children and Meditation Mix CDs and downloads please visit my online shop.  Downloads also available via iTunes, Amazon and on streaming sites such as Spotify.  Weekly guided meditations are now uploaded to my YouTube Channel.

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Subscribe to my YouTube Channel

Jayadevi YouTube Channel

Each week I will be posting meditation videos to my YouTube channel so please subscribe to my channel to get notifications of new uploads.  I will be posting my popular meditations along with new meditations.

Each month I will be in the recording studio to create a new range of guided meditations for you.

 

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Yoga Retreat at Suryalila, nr Seville in May 2017 – Early Bird Offer!

Yoga Retreat at Suryalila May 2017

Yoga Retreat – Suryalila Yoga Retreat Centre, nr Seville, Southern Spain

Prices from £800 pp shared room

* EARLY BIRD OFFER:  Book by 31 December 2016 and receive £50 discount on the listed prices.

Due to requests, we have now opened up a Non-Yoga participant option (shared room).  Non-yoga participating guests can still enjoy the great food, stunning location and ambience of our yoga retreat.  There is plenty to do for those not attending classes such as hiking in local area, taking day trips, horse riding, spending time by the pool, visiting the sauna, booking a massage and of course taking time to rest.

Join Julie Bladon (Jayadevi) and Jackie Dorrian (Jagdambe Ma) for this blissful 7 night yoga retreat.  We will explore our yoga practice, meditate, activate & deepen our connection to our inner self.  This is the perfect time to switch off, detox and take time for you.

Our mixed programme is perfect if you are starting your yogic journey and wish to explore different styles or if you are more experienced and wish to immerse yourself in your practice. 

Join us in stunning Southern Spain!

~Immerse Yourself in Daily Yoga and Meditation

~Reclaim your inner soul spark

~ Reconnect with others and the environment

~Take time for you – Rest & Restore

Our Yoga Retreat will take place at Suryalila Yoga Retreat in the heart of the Spanish Andalucian Hills, Southern Spain, close to the charming villages of Arcos de la Frontera and Prado del Rey.

Suryalila Yoga Retreat is a world class yoga venue with fabulous yoga shalas, cosy designer accommodation, outstanding organic cuisine, salt water swimming pool and sauna set in 45 acres of land.  A striking part of the natural beauty of this retreat centre is the breathtaking vista extending in all directions: rolling hills, fields of sunflowers, and lakes. The sense of vastness and expansiveness is very uplifting!

Click here to find out >>

Picturesque Suryalila has a very special energy. It is run with complete love and respect. The staff, the views, the food, the accommodation and much more are why I keep coming back. It is completely magical!”—Emma Henry, Senior Jivamukti Teacher, London, UK

We understand that life can be busy and stressful so this yoga retreat is a perfect opportunity to take care of self, replenish, rejuvenate, relax and to have time to “just be”.  Take the time to honour your body mind and soul.

You may travel as a group or solo but it is guaranteed that you will meet like minded people on retreat.  Retreats are perfect if you are travelling alone, you have the choice to spend time with others or enjoy your own space if you wish.  This retreat is led by two experienced yoga teachers: Julie Bladon (Jayadevi) and Jackie Dorrian (Jagdambe Ma), who will teach yoga classes in a variety of styles including Akhanda Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Sivananda Yoga and Yoga Nidra.

During the 7 night retreat, each day will consist of two yoga classes, meditation plus additional workshops.

Due to requests, we have now opened up a Non-Yoga participant option (shared room).  Non-yoga participating guests can still enjoy the great food, stunning location and ambience of our yoga retreat.  There is plenty to do for those not attending classes such as hiking in local area, taking day trips, horse riding, spending time by the pool, visiting the sauna, booking a massage and of course taking time to rest.

To book please complete the booking form below and a deposit of £200 is payable.  An early bird discount of £50 off the listed prices is available for all bookings made by 31 December 2016.  Full balance due by 31 March 2017.  Monthly payment plans are available, please ask for details.

Programme

Day of arrival (Saturday 20 May)

Saturday Schedule

17.30 Opening Circle & Yoga

19.00 Dinner

For full travel information click here >> 

Normal day schedule

07.00 – 09.00 Yoga & Meditation

09.30 Breakfast

11.30 – 16.00 Free time

13.30 Lunch

16.00 – 18.00 Yoga

19.00 Dinner

Full Board Price per Person:

  • Dormitory: £800 per person shared (shared with three others)
  • Glamping Tent (twin): £800 per person shared 
  • Twin: £920 per person shared | £1,115 single
  • Superior Double (shared bathroom): £920 per person shared | £820 non-yoga participant shared |£1,115 single
  • Deluxe Double (private bathroom): £940 per person shared | £840 non-yoga participant shared | £1,135 single

EARLY BIRD OFFER:  Book by 31 December 2016 and receive £50 discount on the above listed prices.

* The cost includes yoga activities, three delicious gourmet vegetarian meals a day and the use of the retreat centre facilities.  Non-yoga participant price excludes all yoga activities. 

Spaces are limited so please book early to guarantee your spot!

Snacks, Treats & Beverages

In the dining room, you can also find healthy snacks, ice cream and a selection of beverages including organic wine and beer. Suryalila has an honesty list to sign when taking these items and you pay for everything at the end of your stay.

Package includes:

– 7 nights accommodation

– 3 gourmet vegetarian buffet style meals per day

– free tea, coffee, fruit and drinking water

– welcome pack to help you unwind

– twice daily (morning and afternoon) yoga & meditation classes

– one rest day when you may wish to rest at Suryalila or explore the local area.  Trips and excursions can be arranged.

– a blissful Yoga Nidra session where you will enjoy complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation

– free use of internet

– free use of salt water swimming pool and sauna

– time to explore local hikes

– the yoga studio is fully equipped with yoga mats, blocks and bolsters

Optional activities include: Deep Tissue or Thai massage, horse-riding, optional excursions and hiking trips in the stunning nearby Natural parks and the White Towns of Andalusia and much more…

Not included:

– Flight to Spain

– Travel Insurance

– Airport Transfers

– Snacks / Treats / Beverages / Shopping

– Day trips & excursions

– Massages & treatments

For bookings and queries please contact info@juliebladon.com or refer to the following links.

Yoga-retreat-spain-2017-booking-form (Word Doc)

Yoga-retreat-spain-2017-booking-form (pdf)

Suryalila Retreat Centre >>

Co-hosted by Julie Bladon / Jackie Dorrian

Any changes to reservations must be made in writing.

Retreat Testimonials

Thank you for the laughter, thank you for being you!” ~ Greece guest 2016

Inspirational!  We so appreciate the love and support, helping us on the start of our yoga journey.  We go home inspired to continue the journey with our home practice.  Thank you.” ~ Greece guests 2016

Really loved the space created.  Particularly appreciated the suggestions for daily practice which I will take away.  Enjoyed the discussion in the studio in some sessions and Friday morning interactive session excellent, liked having time to ask about postures and learning from other people’s questions in the group.  Thank you Thank you Thank you

The place & people were very enjoyable & a good mix of personalities.  You two have been very accessible and welcoming.”

Thank you Julie and Jackie for a wonderful week, full of joy and fun.  It has been very interesting to experience different types of yoga practice and different teaching styles.  I feel I have learned a lot and have been convinced that I can include daily yoga practice into my usual routine.  You are both excellent inspirational teachers and I appreciate your hard work planning the sessions and all the smooth organisation.  Thank you again for your patience and kindness.”

Good caring and friendly group – I felt very comfortable being part of it.  Thank you Julie and Jackie for making the retreat such a pleasurable experience.  What a fantastic experience thank to you two. Thank you thank you! Yoga will never be the same again.”

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7 Yoga Book Recommendations for Beginners

7 yoga books

I was recently asked at the end of class if I could recommend any yoga books for beginners.

Books are an excellent way to learn and to develop your knowledge so here are 7 recommended books for you.

When I first started yoga I remember supplementing my yoga classes with reading by following advice and following the sequences within a yoga book.  It is highly recommended to study with a teacher in person when possible but reading is a great way to explore and develop your practice.

1. The Complete Guide to Yoga by Judy Smith, Doriel Hall, Bel Gibbs

This was one of the very first yoga books that I owned, given to me as a gift by a friend.  This step-by-step guide is a practical, easy to follow book with sequences for everyone.  I liked to dive into this book each morning and get inspiration for my practice particularly as it was all so new to me.   The philosophy and benefits of Iyengar yoga are clearly explained and there is advice on how to begin and what equipment is needed.  There is a chapter on making yoga enjoyable and fun for children.  The guide to meditation is useful giving techniques and tips.

2. The Sivananda Companion to Yoga by Swami Vishnu Devananda

This essential companion for beginners and experienced yoga remains a classic guide to yoga.  The book is an engaging and comprehensive guide to asana, pranayama, meditation, nutrition, relaxation and every aspect of the yogic lifestyle.

Swami Vishnu Devananda trained under Swami Sivananda for many years and one day Swami Sivananda gave him a 10 Rupee Note, and his blessings, to travel to the West and spread the teachings of Yoga.

Living with mind and body relaxed is our natural state, our birthright—it is only the pace of our lives that has made us forget. Those who retain the art possess the key to good health, vitality and peace of mind, for relaxation is a tonic for the whole being, liberating vast resources of energy.” ~ Swami Vishnu Devananda

3. Light On Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

B.K.S. Iyengar devoted his life to the practice and study of yoga.  ‘Light on Yoga’ is widely called ‘the bible of yoga’ and has served as the source book for generations of yoga students around the world. It is the classic text for all serious students of yoga.

This classic yoga book gives emphasis on precision and alignment which is important for developing a safe foundation for your practice.  The book includes step-by-step yoga asana guides; a guide to Pranayama, breathing techniques; and an introduction to the spiritual side of yoga practice.

4. Yogasana – Encyclopedia of Yoga Poses by Yogirishi Vishvketu, PhD

This fantastic book presents 850 yoga asanas in a logical sequence enabling the reader to understand the variations for each posture.  The Sanskrit translations allow you to understand the relationship between the name and the spiritual significance of each pose.  Detail regarding the energetic essence of each asana is included through the use of a chakra chart and graphic icons for each pose.

Presented in a clear way which allows you to creatively explore your practice whilst maintaining a safe home practice.

5. Awakening the Spine by Vanda Scaravelli

For more than twenty-five years, until her death at the age of 91, Vanda Scaravelli was transforming bodies and lives with her innovative approach to yoga through the proper alignment of the spine. She listened to the body and worked with instead of against it. She used gravity, grounding, and breath to achieve dramatic improvements in health and wellbeing.  Scaravelli was an early student of Iyengar.

This is not a step-by-step yoga instruction book but a classic inspiring yoga book.  The book features three parts – Part One “The Story of Stories” the philosophy of yoga; Part Two “The Asanas” short exploration of yoga asana and Part Three “Breathing”.

It is inspiring to see the photos of Scaravelli in the Asana section, showing that yoga is for everyone.  She didn’t start yoga until her 40s and the photos in the book are taken in her 80s.  This book is an inspirational reminder as to why you are doing yoga.

Scaravelli reminds readers that: “if you are kind to your body, it will respond in an incredible way.” “Awakening the Spine” offers a gentle way to achieve and maintain overall health and a naturally supple spine at any age.

6. Living Your Yoga: finding the spiritual in everyday life by Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD

I’ve included this book as it examines ways to stretch the meaning of yoga beyond the familiar poses and breathing techniques.  This book explores yoga philosophy and ways to incorporate it into our everyday life.  Judith explains off-the-mat practices to guide you in deepening your relationship with yourself, your family and the world around you.

This inspirational and practical book will guide you in a warm and personal way. Covering topics such as Courage, Relaxation, Compassion, Fear, Empathy, Greed, Truth and many more.  The book includes practice suggestions and daily mantras for each topic.

7. The Breathing Book by Donna Farhi

Breathwork is an important part of Yoga and our overall wellbeing.  This is an easy to read book with step-by-step guides for remembering and re-learning our breath.  The book includes concise information and diagrams relating to the anatomy of breathing and suggested practices for various health issues such as back pain, tiredness, asthma and help to build stamina.

Easy to understand and beneficial for all yogis and non-yogis alike!

This list gives you a taster of yoga books available for beginners.  I hope that it gives you some inspiration.  Why not explore further the wealth of yoga books available to us.  Happy reading!

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Bala Brook Yoga Retreat in Photos

blog-Balabrook

This year we are celebrating our 5th year of hosting retreats at Bala Brook.  Our summer retreat on Dartmoor has become a very special event in our annual calendar.  It is such an honour to host yoga retreats in such a magical and inspiring location.  It is always fun to be working as part our Bala Brook team and of course we always look forward to Christine’s delicious food which is always made with such love and care.

Our weekend programme included Yoga, Meditation, Chanting, Yoga Nidra and there was plenty of time to rest, explore the local area, see old friends and make new friends.

Our Saturday morning workshop “Art in the Landscape – Enshrining Space” was be led by Nicci Wonnacott, Artist/ Educationalist/ Activist – BA (Hons) Fine Art/Contextual Practice, PGCE.   In this workshop we gathered natural resources, reconnected with the land, celebrated the land and our ancestors and created a beautiful shrine.

‘I have been has been exploring Goddess archetypes through creative practice for over 25 years in my land work I consider art in the environment through site, ritual, intuition and meditation. As a gatherer I reconnect with the land and the goddess archetypes, ancient women who have walked the path. As I gather, walk and breath form which I create shrines as an act of celebration and respect for the land and the mothers who came before. Enshrining Space’ – Nicci Wonnacott

Nicci has worked as a site specific artist and lecturer for many years. Her interests in gathering help her produce shrines to honour nature as well as jams, wines, cordials, tinctures and natural dying. Nicci was commissioned illustrated The Seasonal Goddess Group with paintings inspired from Devon landscapes.

Our June retreat fell just after the Summer Solstice.  The Summer Solstice is a time to celebrate the fullness of life, to step further into our power, to embody this power and to bring it into the physical form as a new habit such as a new way of being in your body or as a new manifestation.

Bala Brook workshop

BB Jun 2016

Tree Dartmoor

Co-hosted by Julie Bladon / Jackie Dorrian

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NEW Release: Meditation Mix – Guided Meditation Download

blog-jayadevimix

blog-jayadevimix

Meditation Mix is a curated collection of guided meditations for beginner and experienced practioners alike. Jayadevi brings you seven guided meditation practices that will assist your exploration of meditation. Offering you a mix of transformational practices such as gratitude, mantra, self development and healing meditations. Whether you are starting out or reconnecting with your practice, Jayadevi provides a selection of meditation practices for you to enjoy.

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The Power of the Gayatri Mantra

the-power-of-gayatri-mantra

It is believed that the Gayatri Mantra was written about 2500 to 3500 years ago and featured in the Rig Veda, an ancient collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns.  The mantra may have been chanted for many centuries before that.

It is said that this sacred prayer spirals through the entire universe from the heart of the chanter, appealing for peace and divine wisdom for all.  The Gayatri Mantra inspires wisdom in us.

The Gayatri Mantra will protect you from harm wherever you are traveling, working, or at home.  Chanting acts to raise not only your vibration but also the space in which you chant and will bring peace to your body, mind and soul.  The Gayatri mantra will protect your body and improve your power of speech.

It is believed that reciting the Gayatri mantra at least three times during morning, noon, and evening will help to reduce the effects of the wrong acts one does every day. It is like buying goods for cash, instead of getting them on credit. There is no accumulation of karmic (result of action) debt, since each day’s karma (action) is atoned for that day itself by reciting the Gayatri mantra.

The mantra opens up your heart and when both our minds and our hearts open, we open ourselves up for new possibilities.

The cyclic enunciation of this mantra stimulates the subliminal power centers in the subtle body. The pressure on tongue, lips, vocal cord, palate and the connecting regions in the brain generated by continuous enunciation of the twenty-four special syllables of the Gayatri Mantra creates a resonance (or a vibration) in the nerves and the ‘threads’ of the subtle body.

It is significant that the prolonged repetition of the Gayatri has a cumulative effect on our bodies and our minds.  Our minds are sharper, our immune system is stronger, and our hearts are open.  When our energy centres, including our main Chakras, are activated by the vibrations of the Gayatri mantra, this has a positive and healing effect on our life force energy – on our Prana.

Ten Benefits to Chanting the Gayatri Mantra

  1. Calms the mind: The vibrations help to release relaxing hormones. The syllables are devised to help a person concentrate and thereby calms the mind.
  2. Improves immunity: The pressure on tongue, lips, vocal cord, palate and the connecting regions in the brain generated by the continuous chanting of the Gayatri Mantra creates a resonance in and around your head. These vibrations stimulate the hypothalamus (a gland that is responsible for the release and functioning of a number of bodily functions including immunity) that then functions more efficiently. Experts say that this gland is also responsible for the release of happy hormones and therefore is the key player in the mind body connection — so the happier you are, the stronger your immunity.
  3. Stimulates the chakras: Chanting helps stimulates your chakras or the extrasensory energy centres. The chakras align themselves with certain essential lymph nodes and organs of the body that help in the proper functioning of the entire body. This in turn helps strengthen your immune system as the vibration align all your chakras, maintaining wellbeing.
  4. Increases concentration and learning: When you chant the Gayatri Mantra the vibration first activates the third eye, throat and crown chakras. These three chakras help improve concentration as they directly relate to the brain and pineal gland (crown chakra), eyes, sinuses, lower head, the pituitary gland (third eye chakra) and thyroid gland (throat chakra). When activated the vibrations help stimulate the associated glands improving concentration and focus.
  5. Improves your breathing: While chanting the mantra you are required to take deep controlled breaths that when done regularly, helps improve your lung function and breathing.  Deeper breathing helps oxygenate the entire body keeping you healthy and can help as a therapy for asthma.
  6. Helps keep your heart healthy: Chanting a mantra significantly slows down a person’s breathing, which helps synchronise and regularise the heart beat, helping it stay healthy.
  7. Improves the working of your nerves:As you chant the mantra the pressure that is exerted on your tongue, lips, vocal cord, palate and the connecting regions in and around your brain create a resonance or a vibration that helps strengthen and stimulate the functioning of your nerves. It also stimulates the proper release of neurotransmitters that help in the conduction of impulses.
  8. Helps beat damage caused due to stress: Chanting also helps beat stress-related oxidative damage. Not only does it help your body build a stronger immune response but it also helps reverse the damage done by constant stress on your body.  Regular chanting helps keep stress at bay.
  9. Strengthens the mind and keeps depression at bay: Chanting of this mantra helps stimulate your brain, keeping you calm and more focused. The Gayatri Mantra also gives a person relief from stress making them more resilient.  The chanting of a mantra helps stimulate the functioning of the vagus nerve, which is a common form of treatment for people with depression and epilepsy. Apart from that the vibrations from chanting the mantra stimulate the pineal gland and help in the release of endorphins and other relaxing hormones, that help keep depression at bay.
  10. Gives your skin a glow:The vibrations also stimulate vital points on the face that help increase circulation and get rid of toxins from your skin.  Apart from that the deep breathing also helps oxygenate your skin making it look younger and glowing.

Chanting before meditation can help:

  • To create a shift from sound to silence
  • To resonate with the positive vibrations – chanting charges up the atmosphere with positive vibrations and in such a space, meditation becomes natural and effortless.
  • To bring the mind to the present

The Gayatri can be listened to, chanted, or even thought. There is power and potency in all three approaches.  Choose the approach that you are most comfortable with.