by Michael Ketterhagen
As I have mentioned in my last blog, yoga is skillful living. That living means “doing things in a way that helps us reconnect with our inner self.” This “proper” living, according to yoga, is called “yukta” living.
Last week I talked about eating properly. The second lifestyle “yukta” is sleeping properly. Proper sleeping provides us with the nourishing energy to move through the daily happily so we can fulfill our duties without stress and worry.
According to the medical world 7 ½ to 8 hours of sleep is necessary to allow the body to process the daily demands and bodily and emotional challenges of the day. My yoga teacher, Swami Rama, learned how to control his need for sleep and only needed 2 hours of deep sleep each day. But he was able to shorten his sleep requirements because he lived a very low stress life, and practiced hours of meditation and relaxation each day. Most of us today do not live a yogi’s life, but yoga suggests many practices that will help us get the daily sleep we need.
First, yoga says that we should get to sleep before the fire of the night happens. That means get to bed before 10 pm. When I taught University students, they would always tell me that they went to bed at midnight or later and then couldn’t get to sleep. They also would get hungry around midnight and had a pizza before bed.
They were fighting nature and not acting skillfully. Instead of going to bed when they started to feel tired about 8:30 or 9 pm at night, they would wait until they got their second wind.” That always happened about 10 or 10:30 at night, during the fire time of the night. The time from 10-2 each day, twice a day, is the active fire time of the day. The heavy, drowsy time of the day is from 6 – 10, also twice a day. If they would have gone to bed at 9:30 pm and gotten to sleep during the fire time, they could wake up at 4:30 or 5 am the next morning, fresh and sharp to study for the day. Yoga would say that they have switched their day and night when they went to be at 1 or 2 am and got up at 7 or 8 for class. Those students were always tired in my morning classes, until 10 am came around and they picked up the fire of the day then.
Secondly, giving ourselves at least 30-60 minutes of quiet time or electronic device free time before bed will prepare one’s self for a restful relaxed day. Also, setting the cell phone away from one’s sleeping place allows the electro-magnetic frequencies of the phone to not disturb your sleep. The antenna of the phone is always on and unconsciously our mind, even in sleep, is affected by that wave frequency. We don’t know what that is like unless we do an experiment with the phone. I encourage all of us to leave the phone out of the bedroom at night. That should be easier to do if you shut it off about 30 minutes before you go to bed.
The third yogic lifestyle suggestion is to take a nap or do a relaxation exercise sometime in the middle of the day. Yoga suggests that just before supper, like around 5 pm, is a great time to meditate or practice a deep breathing exercise. We then have an opportunity to refresh ourselves before we eat. It also allows us to release any possible frustrations or problems that may have arisen during the day.
Sleeping properly is a challenge in our culture and much step-by-step work with our sleeping and stress patterns is important for us to bring ourselves closer and closer to our inner life, the spirit within. Whether we know it or not, it is our duty to reunite ourselves with our inner spirit. Sleeping properly will help that reunification.
I pray to the divinity in you!