Maya Fiennes in Grazia Daily

Maya Fiennes in Grazia Daily

How Can I Get A Good Night's Sleep?


With Maya Fiennes

Sleep is one of the most important gifts from nature, and yet so few of us have enough of it. Do you find it hard to have a restful night despite a hectic day? Why is it so hard to unwind at night? And how can we get a good night's sleep?

Here is a tried-and-tested 8-steps yoga and breathing exercise to get you sleeping like a baby in no time.

How Can I Fall Asleep And Stay Asleep?

In order to start getting some well-needed sleep, you need to have a plan. I’ve developed the following system over the years with many students suffering from insomnia, so I know that it is a great way to get you the rest you need and deserve. This plan will help you unwind, relax, release all thoughts, remove obstacles and make you feel ready to go to bed, leaving you feeling calm, peaceful and happy.

Before You Get Into Bed

  1. Here’s a list of things not to do before you go to bed:

(a) Don’t watch any high-action movies (if possible, avoid the TV altogether)

(b) Try not to use the computer for at least one hour before bedtime

(c) Don’t exercise late

(d) Don’t have a big dinner. Eat light or if you can, skip it altogether

Here’s a list of things you can do before bedtime to aid sleep:

  1. Take a nice warm bath. Add in some relaxing bath salts, put on gentle music and light some candles. Make your body aware that this is the time to relax.

  2. Do some yin yoga or any other gentle form of yoga (not power yoga). Try these two Qi Gong exercises that will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, and are aimed to help nervousness, anxiety and fear to calm you down before you go to sleep.

Sleep Exercise 1

This exercise is aimed at directing and redirecting the energy and the magnetic field around you. It has a very calming effect.

(a) Stand up straight, with a nice straight spine, keeping the pelvis straight and tummy tucked in. Close your eyes while keeping the head straight and facing forward.

(b) Move your toes to heels very gently, close your eyes and just feel and enjoy this very comfortable movement.

(c) With the hands at the side nice and loose, and the fingers gently separated, start making outward circles with your hands around the hips six times in a very relaxed motion. In this way you are creating a ball of energy.

(d) Move the hands up to the tummy and keep moving your hands in circular motions around that area six times, continuing to build the energy.

(e) Move the hands behind you to the coccyx and inhale sharply once, while moving the hands up to the kidneys, then again inhale sharply once while moving the hands up to the heart, and then inhale sharply again without exhaling, and then bring the hands to the front and exhale slowly.

(f) With the hands at the heart, move them again in a circular motion around the heart.

Continue for two to three minutes.

via giphy

Sleep Exercise 2

This exercise straightens out your nervous system and will bring healing energy into the whole body.

(a) Stand up straight, with a nice straight spine, keeping the pelvis straight and tummy tucked in. Close your eyes while keeping the head straight and facing forward.

(b) Start swinging your hands forward and back without really controlling the movement. Let gravity do all the work for you. Close your eyes and just let go.

(c) Start making circles with your hands out in front of you in a very relaxed motion for one minute.

(d) Bring the hands behind you and make the same relaxed circles for another minute.

(e) Open your eyes one tenth of the way and draw clouds with your hands in front of your eyes, keeping the gaze at your fingers while twisting left and right.

via giphy

Continue for two minutes.

Some Kundalini yoga moves may seem a bit confusing at first, but don’t worry, you’ll get it in no time. Like anything in life, when you learn something new it’s always challenging but then you go beyond it and you get into the zone where you only feel enjoyment.

Once You Get Into Bed

  1. Make sure your shutters are closed or your curtains drawn. Only complete darkness creates melatonin, the chemical that your body produces to aid sleep. If you don’t have a dark bedroom, wear an eye mask.

  2. The parasympathetic nervous system is the system responsible for getting you to relax as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system which is always in fight or flight mode. If you can’t relax the parasympathetic nervous system, the sympathetic system will work on overdrive pumping cortisol into our bodies, stressing us out even more. Here’s a simple Kundalini yoga breathing exercise for you to try in order to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system:

Keeping the eyes closed, close your right nostril with your right index finger and breathe deep, long breaths only through your left nostril for two minutes.

via giphy

  1. Start thinking about your whole day in reverse. Go through the whole of your day from the moment that you got into bed and work your way backwards all the way until the moment you woke up in the morning. Don’t analyse anything, just go through it like ticking off a checklist. Doing this is like releasing it all so that your subconscious doesn’t need to go through it all while you sleep, perhaps giving you dreams and nightmares. Think of it as filing your day away in the appropriate folder. This might seem daunting at first but it will get faster and faster once you do it every day.

  2. Induce yawning. Start faking it until you make it. Just like with laughter, once you start, you can’t stop. Yawning makes us tired and prepares the body for sleep. Fake a few yawns and before you know it, you’ll be yawning for real.

  3. Waking up in the middle of the night has to do with the adrenals, as does insomnia. The adrenals are two small glands located just above the kidneys which produce the stress-hormone, cortisol. Meditation is a great help for adrenal related issues such as fatigue and insomnia. As well as regulating the adrenal gland, meditation also helps to regulate the pituitary and pineal glands which make serotonin for you to feel relaxed and happy. Here’s a quick tip for if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep:

Open the eyes a tiny bit, look at the tip of the nose and just breathe, slowly and deep for as long as you need to. That will stimulate serotonin and create melatonin which will send you to sleep.

See full video here at Grazia Daily so you can practise along.

Why Can't I Fall Asleep?

Being tired does not guarantee a good night's sleep. With the rise of smartphones, tablets and the world's information at our finger tips, many of us find it impossible to switch off before bedtime. The result is many restless nights and possible insomnia, and we wake up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, unable to fall asleep again.

Nighttime is the time we have to reboot our body and our mind. In the olden days in the tribal communities, people performed whole rituals to welcome the night. It is supposed to be a time of peace and tranquility, and a time to surrender. The rituals were there to remind you to revisit the day and remember all that happened, and once you did so, you would then let it go. You let go of all the stories, of all the possible drama that occupied your mind and body during that day, and only then are you able to have a good night's sleep.

So how do we switch off in the modern world? It is very important that we release all of our daily thoughts and resolve any issues of the day so that they don't manifest themselves into our dreams, which could, with the addition of stress, turn into nightmares. Instead of emptying our minds when we sleep our minds end up working in overdrive all night, leaving us feeling tired the next morning.

When you are clearly tired but can't get to sleep, your body is not working in sync with the mind. The body is tired by the head does not shut up. Yoga means 'union' and when the body and mind work together in union, they will decide to fall asleep.

Lack of sleep can bring us down very easily. It can put us in a bad mood, bring on bad health, and also bring on bouts of self-loathing and the feeling that nothing is going how we want it to. It is a familiar vicious cycle that we should do our best to get out of.

About Maya Fiennes

Maya Fiennes is an internationally renowned Kundalini yoga teacher, guru and classical musician based in LA who has created unique yoga and meditation practices for modern living lifestyle.

For more help on how to get a good night’s sleep, have a look at Maya’s online yoga class on How To Improve Sleep and her new programme: 7 Minutes, 7 Days, 7 Weeks of Mindfulness and Yoga with Maya Fiennes.

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