Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
"When someone says they need only five hours of sleep, I tell them they're delusional," says Thomas Roth, Ph.D., of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. "It's very important to differentiate between how much people sleep and how much sleep they need."
Because of the invention of electricity, we get on average 90 minutes less sleep per night than our ancestors. Add to that overworking and overplaying, and what we end up with is a sleep restricted and/or sleep deprived modern society. For many, sleep is simply not a priority. Sleep, however, is just as integral to the building and maintaining of health as exercise, diet and stress management. The body rejuvenates itself each night when we sleep and sends its resources to nonessential tasks like cellular repair, antiaging, enhancing the immune system and healing itself. Charles Czeisler, Ph.D., M.D., professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the country's leading sleep experts, calls lack of sleep "a huge, pervasive problem, the elephant in the room."
I teach a Yoga class at 6 am two days a week and need to get up those mornings at 430 am. 10 years ago, this simply would not have been possible. In fact, back then getting somewhere at 9 am seemed arduous. Even 7 or 8 years ago, my preference for Yoga asana practice time was in the afternoon or early evening. Practicing asana first thing in the morning seemed foreign to my body. Over the years, naturally and gradually, my rising time and my choice for asana practice time has grown earlier and earlier. I love getting up early now and my body really enjoys physical activity around the time that the sun rises. This is the traditional time for Yoga practice. That time right before the sun rises is auspicious, it is special, because it is one of the tween times- not quite day but not quite night either. The energy then is quite balanced and perfect for the task of creating balance physically, mentally and energetically. Universally, all of the ancient medical texts from all of the ancient medical systems, teach us that getting to bed early and rising early is what is most healthy for us. The body, mind, energy complex, the living matrix, likes to be in harmony with the sun. The more we can rise when the sun rises and go to bed when the sun goes to bed, the better we feel. Many Yogis traditionally, have risen before the sun rises and the morning practice ends with a puja to greet the morning sun and a prayer of gratitude for one more day with the precious gift of a human body is offered.
"Yogis get up early."
Yogarupa Rod Stryker
The intention of getting up early begins with the necessary intention of also going to bed early. This part of the plan is what requires discipline and regularity. The body begins to know what is expected of it if we go to bed around the same time each night. In the pranic system, there are 5 major currents of energy in the human body- the 5 prana vayus. One of these currents, is called pran vayu- names often overlap and mean different things in Yoga. Pran vayu is located in the head and heart region and its main job is to create vitality in the living matrix. It governs the sense organs in the body and is depleted when we overstimulate the senses. Stimulation of an electronic nature is the most devastating on the senses and watching tv and spending too time on the computer and cell phone are recipes for depletion of energy. Deep sleep is the time when we revitalize the living matrix and counter the damage done from so much time spent exposing the senses to electronics.
The newest sleep studies show a link now with sleep deprivation and health problems as varied as diabetes, heart disease, miscarriage, preterm birth, ADHD in children, clinical depression and obesity. If you chart how sleep has declined over the past 50 years, it exactly parallels the increase in our waistlines. Lack of sleep alters our metabolism so that we crave carbs and eat more. The brain sends us signals when we are tired that make us think we are hungry. Some of the first symptoms from lack of sleep are declining mental moods and a slowing of cognitive functioning (cranky and foggy- sound familiar?). We make 10 times more mistakes when we are tired and 1 in 5 of all workplace accidents are caused by lack of sleep. Patients with clinical depression are 5 times more likely to suffer from a temporary bout of depression when they are tired. There is a 50% increase in irregular insulin production by the pancreas when we are sleep deprived.
Yoga is a science that facilitates change. Physical change, mental/emotional change, energetic change, change in life and ultimately, change in the world. As Yoga teacher, my goal is to create as much change as possible in each student in each class. Modern psychology tells us that if we want to change a person, then we must change that person's awareness of themselves. Yoga wholeheartedly agrees- introspection will create change most effectively. Swami Kripalananda writes, "If a seeker can relax the body and mind at will, then introspection is cultivated." The Yogic Sleep Meditation, Yoga Nidra, is a beautiful way for seekers to learn and practice to relax the body and mind at will. My goal with the practice of an extended Yoga Nidra at the end of each practice is to save Yogis time- to create change as quickly as possible. The scriptures tell us that Yoga Nidra is incredibly nourishing to the living matrix as well. Yogic Sleep is 4 times more revitalizing than regular sleep so at the end of each practice, Yogis catch up on some much needed sleep time too. Yoga Nidra is a window of healing opportunity- your job is to say yes.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
of Cultivation of sensation at the level of the skin is beneficial because:
- The skin is the largest organ of elimination in the body and working with the skin promotes the removal of waste product from the body.
- The skin is a metabolic organ as well- it aids in the metabolism of fat.
- The skin helps to regulate blood pressure: the opening and closing of capillaries helps to promote the healthy flow of blood.
- The skin is an integral part of the immune system by way of the large network of lymph vessels.
- The skin is part of the respiration process- there is some gas exchange at the level of skin.
- There is a strong connection in the way we feel emotionally and what we feel at the level of skin: we blush when we are embarrassed, we get goosebumps when we are scared or excited. When we work with the skin, we affect and benefit the nervous system.
Massaging the skin is an incredibly healing technique, whether we have a therapist massage us or we practice Ayurvedic self massage. Yogis are picky about what we put on the open barrier of the skin- it is best to use culinary grade oils. Working at the level of skin reminds us about appropriate barriers in life- be picky about who you spend time with, which foods and/or drugs you take in and the environments that you choose to spend time in.
In class, we work with the skin practically by stretching and squeezing the skin through muscular contraction and expansion and by promoting the exchange of fluids through perspiration.