I recently completed a Kundalini yoga teacher training course, and it's been a transformative experience on so many levels. For the first time, I fully dedicated my life to my yoga practice—and it's astounding how much I evolved as a person.
I started doing yoga in high school, but it wasn't until I was regularly practicing in my 20s in San Francisco that I fully understood just how trippy a seat on the meditation cushion could be. Needless to say, I was well-versed in both the physical and esoteric benefits of yoga before embarking upon an eight-month journey of submerging my life in it.
Since graduation, my practice has continued, as have my studies. I still devour the philosophies of Kundalini yoga as taught by Yogi Bhaja and travel across the country for immersive workshops. But for every student, co-worker, or family friend I encounter whose curiosity is piqued by my unorthodox trainings, there is one question that inevitably comes up: How can this practice help a person to sleep at night?
Falling asleep and staying asleep is a huge problem in this day and age. For some people there are greater medical issues at play, of course, but as someone who is not unfamiliar with overactive mind or problems falling asleep at night, here's what I have to say.
Practice every single day.
There is a reason why 40-day practices are highly recommended. It takes 40 days to break a habit. By committing to an initial offering of sorts, you are telling your body and mind, "I honor you, I love you, I nourish you." You can prove a lot to yourself in this time, even if your commitment is only to breathe deeply three times per day.
This programs your body and mind to know that thinking, feeling, typing, and texting are not the only things you do in a day. It lets your system know that there is an alternative; there is a time that is set aside for a special treat, for time spent in the state of a neutral mind.
Practicing daily will make you feel good not just in that moment but in that day. More importantly, you are rebuilding your brain. It is as if you are lifting weights with parts of your mind that never get to come out and play. The more you show up and do the work, the more developed and available those muscles become.
Regularity teaches your mind and body how to access those beautiful, blissful, thoughtless places, and it is from there than you can learn how to take them with you—and use them to get in a relaxed enough state to fall asleep!
Move your body.
One of the best ways to clear the mind is to move the body. Whether you are stuck in a mental funk, stumped by writer’s block, or riddled with anxiety, moving your body will give your energy somewhere to go. Once you get the energy going, the body’s systems—brain included—will start flowing. I can pretty much guarantee you that if your mind is overactive come bedtime, it means you are underusing the physical body throughout the day.
Bodies are vessels, brushes for our souls to paint with. They are here for us just as our minds are. It all connects. And just as you feed and nourish your body with food, it requires motion as well. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with Kundalini yoga—the lengthy postures tend to move the body in ways it rarely does otherwise. I imagine that moving the body in new and exciting ways keeps the energy from stagnating and over-accumulating in one particular area.
Find access to the infinite.
Anyone who has ever gotten a runner’s high, had effective acupuncture, or made a regular practice of yoga and meditation has at some point found that special connection point. It is the place where you remember that happiness, peace, and bliss is never any more accessible in the future than it is in this very moment.
Think of that deep relaxation of a great savasana, that floaty feeling when deep in meditation, that moment of remembrance that everything is OK right now in this very instant. That is your access to your higher or infinite self. That is your neutral mind at play.
The more familiar you are with that place, the more able you will be to channel and access it at any moment.
You have to do the things that take you to a place of peace. Find the hobbies, careers, or workouts that remind your brain of how to get there, and make movement a big part of the everyday.
Then, when you go to bed at night, remember that place. Remember that nothing but right now matters. Just exist and breathe deeply, filling your diaphragm, rib cage, and clavicle. Exhale fully and slowly. After a few minutes, turn to your right side to open up the left, calming nostril, and allow your mind to float off to dreamland.