Sleep Better Using Medical Therapeutic Yoga and Integrative Lifestyle Medicine Perspective

By Dr. KC Coninx PT, DPT
Certifications: COMT, PYT

Learn how Yoga and Ayurveda can effectively and dramatically improve your sleep!

It is probably safe to assume that you already know how important sleep is if health is a priority for you and your patients. Better sleep leads to less pain, improved blood glucose levels, reduced cardiovascular disease, better productivity and mental clarity, as well as reduced frequency of accidents and injuries.

There is so much wonderful information out there with practical tips for improving your quality and quantity of sleep from a purely allopathic or mainstream medical perspective: 

  • Turn off technology at least 1 hour before bed
  • Warm/hot shower in the evening
  • Room temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Finish eating 3 hours before bedtime
  • Keep the TV out of the bedroom

I don’t intend for this post to simply rinse and repeat those same messages.  

Instead, I want to talk about sleep from a different perspective.  The perspective of Medical Therapeutic Yoga and Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is defined as the study or science of life.  I love the idea of studying life…because when we sit, observe, and watch something unfold, we have the opportunity to know something at a much deeper level.  We develop a natural curiosity which leads to more questions and improved relationship to ourselves and our environment. Over many years, practitioners of this ancient medicine practice noticed patterns of the natural world and how our health was related to these patterns.   

One of the patterns they noticed lead to the emergence of the Dosha Clock.  It relates the changing energy rhythm of a typical 24 hour period (also known as a day.)

Sleep Better with Yoga and Ayurveda

Understand the 3 Doshas (Pitta, Kapha, and Vata) of Ayurveda, and you’ll naturally improve your sleep

Pitta is made of the elements, Fire + Water.

I like to think of Pitta being a very strong, pointed, focused energy.  Like fire it is a hot and upward moving energy.  Pitta can create intensity needed for projects, but can also prevent us from slowing down and enjoying the moment.

Kapha is made of the elements, Earth + Water.

Kapha is a strong energy, but I like to think of this more like inertia.  If you need a brief refresher:  Inertia states that objects in motion will stay in motion, while objects at rest will stay at rest (unless acted upon by another force).  Kapha energy draws us down, it’s heavy, it’s grounding.  

Vata is made of the elements, Air + Ether/Space.

Vata is light, airy, even heady.  This energy and time of day is associated with creativity and flow, but can also create disorganization and anxiety.

Different times of the 24 hour day are associated with different energies.

  • Pitta: 10am-2pm, 10pm-2am
  • Kapha: 6am-10am, 6pm-10pm
  • Vata: 2am-6am, 2pm-6pm

Kapha’s Evening hours are a critical time for setting up a good night’s rest.

What do you find yourself doing typically between the hours of a 6pm-10pm?  

  • Are you working late?
  • Running errands?
  • Watching suspenseful movies or TV shows?
  • Listening to the news in the background of whatever other tasks you might be working on?

Naturally sleep better by honoring the kapha time of Ayurveda

When we begin to live in line with the natural rhythm of the day, it becomes easier to fall and stay asleep.

If we pay special attention to the evening hours of 6-10pm (Kapha time), we help our bodies and minds prepare for better night of sleep. We can tap into the kapha energy by encouraging playfulness, connecting with friends and family, performing gentle exercise, taking a warm bath, performing self-massage, and soaking our feet in warm water.

These are all just examples. Ultimately its up to you! Choose activities that you find to be fun, playful, connective, calming, or grounding.  Look to include movement that isn’t exhausting, opportunities to nurture relationships, or ways to slow down and be more present in your physical body.

What I most love about Ayurveda, is that it often aligns with modern western based scientific research.  This to me just reinforces the benefits of both ancient and modern knowledge and wisdom.

Notice how turning off your phone or other technology in the evening creates more space for spending time with neighbors, friends, or family, going for a walk outside, or playing a game with your kids or partner.

Do you see how enjoying an evening warm shower or bath helps connect with the water element in the kapha dosha?  

The connection between Ayurveda and western science is even present when comparing the advice to keep the bedroom temperature cooler at night.  Remember how kapha energy is downward moving?  Cooler air descends while hotter air rises…setting the evening air temperature lower aligns you with that descending energy.

Want to learn more about Ayurveda??

If you haven’t taken our Integrative Lifestyle Medicine or Medical Therapeutic Yoga Continuing Education Courses yet – check this out!

Or..if you have and want to continue to learn more…join our Catalyst and/or Synergy Group Coaching Programs!

If you aren’t sure what is the right step for you – let’s have a conversation.

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