Create Your Own Sleep Retreat in 6 Easy Steps

I just completed a ten day sleep retreat. I didn’t plan it, it just happened. I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I was until I started sleeping 10-11 hours at a stretch.

Last month I struggled with insomnia. I’d wake up at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning and my busy mind would not let me fall back asleep. It was a rough couple of weeks, but it gave me a firsthand experience of what many people struggle with on a daily basis.

To share some stats about sleep disorders… according to the American Sleep Association:

  • 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder.
  • Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder.
  • 30% of adults suffer from short term insomnia.
  • 10% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.

The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep. Approximately one third of Americans report that they get less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24 hour period. Sleep disorders have been linked to drowsy driving, obesity, and death (due to medical errors).

People are taking steps to address sleeping disorders. Many luxury hotels and resorts have started offering Sleep Vacation packages. In an effort to combat stress, many couples are choosing to sleep alone.

[Recommended Reading: British couples too stressed to sleep in same bed.]

The practice of Sleep Yoga also encourages practitioners to sleep separately. Sleeping alone increases relaxation and allows for a more individualized dreaming experience.

Sleeping alone is one of 6 recommended steps for creating your own Personal Yoga Sleep Retreat. If spending a couple thousand dollars on a weekend getaway doesn’t fit your budget, a DIY home sleep retreat is an affordable and effective alternative.

Step 1: Take a Stay-cation. Give yourself the gift of some quiet time at home. Clear your schedule, and resist the impulse to fill it back up again.

Step 2: Clean your bedroom. Wipe down surfaces, vacuum, wash your sheets. Sort through clutter and donate items you aren’t using anymore.

Step 3: Avoid caffeine. People have different sensitivity levels to caffeine. As a general rule, if your goal is to fall asleep by 10pm reduce your caffeine intake after 5pm.

Step 4: Minimize exposure to artificial lights (this includes screen time). Candlelight or low lights will help you wind down.

Step 5: Bathe before bed. Take a shower or (even better) a bath. Adding a cup of Epsom salts to your bath will relax your muscles and increase your ability to sleep. Put on clean sleeping clothes and relax in bed with the lights off.

Step 6: Sleep alone (if you have the option to do so). It makes a huge difference in the quality of your sleep.

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Personal Retreat Reflections

Retreat Musings

Body as Clay

Body as Clay

Imagine holding a ball of clay. It’s damp to the touch, cool, heavy for its size. Press your fingers into the surface. They leave a slight indentation. Press again and again. The outer layer begins to soften from the warmth of your palms. The surface glides with the motion of your fingers. Your hands grow tired but you keep working. The middle layer softens but the inner core remains solid. You dig in to reach the center, pulling the ball into new shapes. The clay is pliable, ready to be molded.

It’s the same with warming up our bodies in yoga, where we start with gentle poses before diving into more dynamic ones. With class sequencing the basic rule is to warm up for five minutes in an hour-long class. A personal practice allows for much more flexibility and the freedom to decide how long you want to warm up on any given day. Which is, in my humble opinion, absolutely essential.

A proper warm up is a very personal process. 

Most adults have developed some level of compression in their bodies, either from an active or an inactive lifestyle, or simply from the continuous gravitational pull of the planet. Yoga helps to realign our bodies into a state of balanced, expanded strength.

Think about your normal routine: which “postures” do you spend most of your time in? Sitting, standing, sleeping, and any number of repetitive movements all create imprints on your body-memory. Stress patterns (physical and emotional) are another factor, as well the effects of diet and lifestyle. Sam the carpenter would do well to warm up in a way that is very different than Susie the weekend-warrior-waterskiier. While Sam might need to warm up for forty five minutes, Susie’s ready to dive in at the ten minute mark. No matter what our level of experience may be we all have our own unique learning curve.

One other thing about the importance of warming up – consistency is KEY. Even five minutes a day is going to make a huge difference. What doesn’t amount to much is dabbling here and there. It’s like the clay ball analogy; if you stop working the ball loses its malleability. Starting over is okay, but when you decide to gain some traction you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like: The Bowl of Light

A Taste of Divinity – Raw Cacao

Practice Create Repeat

For just a moment ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the BEST that you’ve ever felt?
  • Where were you at the time?
  • How old were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • Were you alone or with someone?
  • Did this happen more than once?

Just sit with these questions for a minute and see what comes up. Now ask yourself:

  • Could you create this state again?
  • What would it take to replicate it?
  • What (if anything) is keeping you from feeling this way now?
  • How might you take this experience to the next level?

I’m asking these questions because they relate to my mission as a yoga teacher. For the past thirteen years I’ve been focusing on my personal evolution. My body is the healthiest it’s ever been. I’m committed to eating the most beautiful food, moving in ways that I enjoy and living a low-stress lifestyle. I am free from scoliosis-related back pain. My mind is calmer, clearer and more creative than ever before. I am learning so much and I am more in love every day.

My goal is to help people learn how to do this for themselves.

Life is not easy. We face countless challenges and seemingly endless distractions. Thankfully there are some simple ways to create heightened experiences on a regular basis. One way to do this is by cultivating a personal practice. In my humble opinion this is the BEST thing that we can do for ourselves. A personal practice is an amazing tool that helps us connect with our highest Selves – our creativity, divinity, sovereignty – call it what you will.

When you treat your body like the temple that it is you elevate your life.

If a daily yoga practice seems overwhelming to you, not to worry. There are plenty of ways to administer self-care. I suggest that you start small by picking ONE healthy habit that you can do on a daily basis, such as drinking lemon water or eating one superfood every day. A superfood is a food that is extraordinarily good for your health.

One of my favorite superfoods is raw cacao. The botanical name Theobroma cacao means “Food of the Gods.” Raw cacao is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet. It contains three natural mood enhancers which make you feel like you’re in love. The health benefits of raw cacao are far more powerful than conventional chocolate.

Raw Cacao:

  • Aids in weight loss
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Is high in antioxidants
  • Enhances mood
  • Contains essential minerals and vitamins
  • Improves brain function
  • Promotes heart health
  • Is an aphrodisiac

I have a little side project called Amaroons. I make handcrafted macaroons with raw cacao powder, coconut, almonds, maple syrup, vanilla and Himalayan sea salt.

Amaroons make a wonderful gift!

I’m happy to announce that my Etsy shop is open for the holidays.

Your purchase supports my independent small-business and will help to expand my operation. Thank you for your support.

Amaroons Raw Cacao Superfood Macaroons
Amaroons – Raw Chocolate Macaroons

More Taoist Travel Tips

More Taoist Travel Tips

I’ve just had one of those full-tilt travel days – the kind of day when there’s no time to eat and lollygaggers seem to be EVERYWHERE. The sounds, smells and sensations of the city have been noticeably intense. It wasn’t possible to do my home practice but I did have an opportunity to practice off the mat. Here are a few more of my Taoist Travel tips.

Internal Arts

At times like these it’s easy to get stressed out but frustration would only add to the challenge. So I try to view days like today like they’re a game. Shifting my perspective helps to streamline things and makes these challenging experiences more enjoyable.

Next time you’re in a situation where you can’t do your daily asana practice you might try visualizing yourself going through your sequence. You could also try listening to a recording of a guided meditation. Some people find that having something tangible helps them stay focused and will use a mala to practice mantras in silence.

Foot Washing

Another Taoist Travel Tip is to clean your feet after you arrive at your destination. Washing off the dust of the road and putting on a clean pair of socks is a simple yet effective way to renew yourself after a long day. Physically, the act of cleaning your feet relaxes your whole body. Foot washing also helps to clear out any energetic “muck” that you might have picked up along the way.

Last but not least, it’s always good to keep a sense of humor. Keep an eye out for something that makes you laugh. Even if it means that you’re the only one laughing at your jokes – just keep going with it. When the going gets tough a good laugh will lift your spirits and fill your sails.

Do you meditate when you’re on the road? What techniques do you use? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Personal Retreat Reflections

Personal Retreat ReflectionsI’m on a personal retreat right now and have been diving into my practice. I’ve wanted to take an inner-teacher sabbatical during the holidays for years. I feel blessed to have an abundance of uninterrupted practice time. It puts me back into alignment with my own rhythms. And my inclination is to find ways to share this bounty with others. So here goes…

Winter is a time for hibernation.

The life-giving source of energy that comes from the sun is in short supply. Winter is also the season when apana, the downward current of energy is most prevalent. Apana is the force of energy that governs elimination in the body (excretion, urination, menstruation). Psychologically, it’s best described as a state of introversion. In nature it’s the force that draws sap down into the tree’s roots.

The holiday season presents an interesting counterbalance, which typically requires a great deal of output – emotionally, socially, financially, and physically. These cultural pressures don’t necessarily align with the laws of nature. Being extroverted can be very challenging when we’re disconnected from our natural rhythms. And with so much emphasis on externalization it’s easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking that we are not enough.

We might try to power through the season like a marathon runner but that’s a great way to make ourselves sick. Eating foods that we don’t typically eat, drinking excess amounts of alcohol and running around in the cold can take a significant toll on our physical health. Over stimulation and stress can make us feel like we’re wearing an invisible suit of armor.

While it is possible to cultivate energy through the holidays, it’s very important that we have enough gas in our tanks. So how to do this? Here are some simple suggestions of ways to practice “refilling your cup.”

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of room temperature, filtered water.  Add a little fresh lemon or lime juice if you have them on hand.
  • Eat the most beautiful food.
  • Be mindful of CATS (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, sugar).
  • Turn off your television.
  • Avoid violent movies and fear-induced media hype.
  • Go outside and spend time in nature.
  • Don’t read the news when you’re eating.
  • Go to bed when you’re tired or take a nap.
  • Slow down.
  • Meditate. Light a candle or sit by a fireplace (the ultimate television).
  • Exercise. Move in ways that your body enjoys.
  • Breathe. A lot.
  • Relax in the sunshine.
  • Play, laugh, love.
  • Drink tea.
  • Sing your songs.

What are some other ways to nourish your spirit during this time of year? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.