Insomnia can wreak havoc on your life. And that’s just what this Axis Yoga Teacher Training student was starting to experience. The Axis YTT program provided the platform for this student to experiment with Ayurvedic treatment of insomnia. Ayurveda, the sister-science to Yoga, has helped many students deal with their own health conditions. Experimenting with the Ayurvedic principles they learn in class allows students to have a greater understanding of the benefits of this ancient system of medicine. Here we see yet another story of success.
Tag Archive for: insomnia
In the most recent past I was experiencing vata imbalances. As a result, I wasn’t sleeping as well as I should have been; close to 3 hours a night at the most. According to the Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad, vata induced insomnia is caused by stressors and sometimes depression. Furthermore, my insomnia was becoming a problem. I was falling behind in my classes and not healing from strep a few weeks prior. Thus, I decided that my Ayurveda experiment was going to be designed to overcome my sleeping issues.
To begin, I basically followed a regiment recommended by Lad. This includes dietary remedies, oil massages, and meditation practices.
As Lad suggested, I decided to practice a So-Hum meditation at night. In addition, I would focus on my third eye. It didn’t take long after beginning meditation for me to fall asleep. In fact, I find myself drifting off in class during this meditation practice.
It is difficult to pin point one specific remedy that worked the most. Unless I did them separately, I believe I would never truly know which practice was the most useful. Perhaps it was a combination of all of them. Therefore, I will continue them for the time being. Drinking warm milk before bed I believe is a great alternative for tea. It not only appeals to the warm side that vata enjoys; it calms my stomach as well. As for massaging with oil, it definitely relieves the tension on my muscles. Also, my skin looks and feels amazing. Lastly, mediation helps deepen my yoga practice as well as reaching a short-term goal. Concluding, the end result was accomplished and very successful. I am now able to sleep soundly for six to eight hours a night, while additionally discovering some other beneficial variables as well.
During the course of our studying Ayurveda I found I had an overwhelming identification with Kapha. I came to find that what I had been told before, that my Dosha was primarily Kapha, turned out to be true. I have made many changes to my lifestyle in the past that have addressed these Kapha tendencies unbeknownst to myself as measures of self discovery in my yoga journey thus far, and now here I was presented with the opportunity to address another layer in my experiment! I found that some little habits I held near and dear after giving up so many other things on my journey thus far fell squarely into the category of creature comforts in my mind, even though they did not benefit me. Things like cheese before bed for example (oh and did I mention late at night?). Since I was experiencing a bit of self-improvement fatigue at the time of devising our experiment, I was very reluctant to rock the boat too much. Therefore I designed an experiment that I thought would “softly” address my Kapha imbalance.
I have historically had a hard time waking up, and am quite frankly a bit of a monster in the morning. There have been short periods of time when this has not been true, but overall it has been a widely known and accepted fact among those nearest and dearest to me. It’s really kind of embarrassing and has caused quite a bit of unnecessary stress in my life for all the obvious reasons. I hypothesized that if I could address my Kapha imbalance in some manner, I would wake up with more ease and experience less stress and shame around my sleeping in tendencies. I thought that a Kapha reducing diet would probably help but I tend to have a real problem with the framing of “I can’t do this” or “I can’t do that” specifically around food and diet. So instead of instituting a Kapha reducing diet and focusing on what I could or could not eat, I decided to institute a mindful eating approach so as to let my body intuitively tell me what it wanted and how much it wanted. I set an intention of not eating late at night and to have my meals in peace and quiet (not in front of the computer or tv) and to slow down while eating. In theory I guessed that this would help address some of my Kapha like cravings and my diet would self correct. I also was interested in trying some self care Ayurveda actions out so I added a few routine items like drinking water first thing in the morning instead of coffee, oil pulling because I was curious about it, and last but not least foot massage with oil at night to help me get to sleep earlier.
My first week with the concentration on eating mindfully was a great success! I put a little more thought and energy into planning my meals so I would want to enjoy them in peace and quiet. I intentionally slowed down while eating which produced the results I thought it would, I ate only as much as I needed and discovered that my body would let me know what it needed. Instead of craving dairy or Kapha increasing foods, I found I instinctively wanted more fresh fruits and vegetables. A couple of mornings I found myself getting up with my alarm the first time it went off, having my water first thing and starting my morning routine with a lot more energy and vigor. I also noticed that I had a more sustained energy throughout the day and didn’t crave as much snack like junk food during working hours.
I noted that when I indulged in my creature comfort of snacking on cheese late at night for example, it did make it harder than normal to get up the next morning, in addition I would have more congestion and allergy symptoms. Also when I checked my tongue the following morning it did have residue indicating it wasn’t digested completely. I took note that when I ate spicy foods, my congestion and allergy symptoms were alleviated, or when I didn’t eat late at night it was easier to get up in the morning and my allergy symptoms would be better. I checked my tongue periodically and noticed that I could indeed see a correlation between Kapha reducing foods and Kapha increasing foods. I tried various times to reframe the food types I should moderate or avoid by looking at the chart in the book and only reading the things that were Kapha reducing and thinking “Okay I can have all this great food!” for future reference to give my brain some good associations with foods that are good for my Dosha. I also determined during this observation time that a Kapha reducing flow in the morning would really serve me well. I tried it at night and found it to be too energizing but it would be a great way to start my day. I have not implemented that yet on a regular basis, but I plan to try.
I really enjoyed the oil pulling, and though I was suspicious of it at first, my curiosity got the better of me. I quickly saw the benefits to my teeth and gums. It was a great success for me in that it was the one consistent part of my experiment and routine that had only positive associations and something I will carry forward. It felt like such a nice intentional form of self-care. I also loved the foot massage at night. I did it probably a couple of times a week and used almond oil, sometimes with a few drops of lavender essential oil. I find my mind is usually racing before bed and keeps me up quite late (which is usually when I want a snack), the foot massage really helped to calm that down and bring me into a sweet relaxation. It is something I will definitely use again in the future. Drinking water first thing in the morning was very helpful and something that started my days off on a better wavelength than having coffee the first thing.
Overall I learned so much from observing my mind’s struggle with the mere idea of implementing more Kapha reducing practices in my diet and lifestyle. I came to appreciate in a whole new way my struggles with body image and how that is connected to feeding myself. I don’t think I have ever given space to that topic to air those complexities and so I am very grateful for the new awareness and for my intuitive wisdom to take it easy and observe. From that departure I learned so much about how judgment, shame and perfectionism are wrapped up in my struggles with food and body image. I truly believe in the beneficial effects of mindful eating and I know that approaching it from a non-judgemental framework would benefit me in the future. In the future I would like to implement a morning routine for myself that includes a Kapha reducing flow, and to try adding some Kapha reducing foods in my diet.
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