Creating a Healthy Sleep Ritual

Let’s talk sleep. Having a healthy relationship with sleep is one of the most important things you can do in your life. Lack of sleep not only leaves you fatigued but can result in an onslaught of other health issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, memory loss, weight gain, low libido, depression, and impaired judgement.

With so much stimulation within reach at all times (think your phone, TV, computer, music) it can be difficult to create a healthy night time routine. Here are our three tips for creating a nightly ritual that aids in soothing the nervous system, calming the mind, and relaxing the body:

Early Afternoon – Pre-sleep Tips:

  • Avoid caffeine or naps after 3 PM
  • Avoid exercise 2-3 hours before your bedtime

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Early Evening – Step 1: Slow Your Digestion

Try to avoid drinking or eating within four hours of bed time. Your body needs to wind down around 7 PM and eating a large dinner may inhibit your body’s ability to rest. You don’t want your stomach to be working on digesting food when it should be resting. Rather, try to have your biggest meals of the day in the morning and tier off to have a small, light entree for dinner.

Same goes for drinks. Drinking that extra glass of wine at dinner will only keep you up later in the night. Alcohol is proven to cause sleeping issues so you are better off switching to a soothing, herbal tea after dinner. Make sure not to try to catch up on your water intake before bed either. This way your body can focus on relaxation rather than waking up throughout the night to use the restroom.

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Late Evening – Step 2: Unplug Your Brain

Around 9 or 10 PM, unplug your electronics. Exposure to light from your computer , TV, or phone screen is a big no-no when it comes to sleep health. One thing your body needs is for there to be reduced light in order for your pineal gland to work its magic making melatonin. If you continue to sit in from of the television your brain will not have the opportunity to unwind making it much more difficult to not just fall asleep but also stay asleep.

Trade scrolling your newsfeed for reading a good book, some restorative yoga, a candle light meditation, painting, or journaling. Anything that will help you unwind your mind without causing you additional stress or mental fatigue. Take this last hour or two before bedtime to sweeten your day with some loving self-care practices. These activities can help you feel grounded, relaxed, and ready to let go of what this day so you can welcome tomorrow with open arms.

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Bed Time – Step 3: Relax Into Sleep

Brush your teeth, take a few deep slow breaths, maybe incorporate an evening self-massage with lavender infused body oil, and crawl into bed. Make sure that your room is completely dark and cool, around 60-70 degrees, and that you have bedding that makes you feel comfortable and supported. Being in a completely dark environment is important for your body’s sleep cycles and will allow the most natural, healthy sleep possible.


Having difficulty sleeping?

Namaste offers a variety of relaxation workshops and classes year round that aid in insomnia and stress. Try one of weekly Restorative Yoga classes or check out our upcoming workshop calendar for workshops like Yoga Nidra with Ashley Sharp or Restorative Yoga with Vickie Russell Bell.

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Ken Breniman

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Ken Breniman

How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste since May 2014. I am six months old!

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
My first yoga teacher was a 15 year old psychotherapy client that overcame his anxiety with yoga. He taught me so much and inspired me to get trained as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist.

What is your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. While not a book on yoga, it does have a talking gorilla and asks us humans to live more mindfully on Mother Earth. To me, that’s as yogic as it gets.

1904122_915337828481727_8095162272778721847_nBest advice you have ever received relating to your practice?
“Stop taking it so seriously!”

Your favorite self-care practices?
Daily yoga nidra.

What is your morning routine?
Set an intention, a brief yoga nidra and asana practice and (weather permitting) a bike ride around Lake Merritt.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I am a yoga therapist and LCSW with a private practice. I volunteer with the Living/Dying project. And I am aiming to be on my HOA Board (and I am certain yoga will help me there for sure!)

How often do you practice?
3-5x/week

Absolute favorite asana?
Handstand

Do you have a favorite yoga story?
It’s more a Buddhist story but I am moved by “the mustard seed” story where a bereaved mother learns how to accept loss as a sacred part of life.

What is your favorite thing about yoga?
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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What is something you wish all of our students understood better?
To quote TS Eliot:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

What is your favorite part of the Namaste community?
How warm and friendly everyone is!

Thoughts on where the yoga industry is headed?
Yikes. That’s a loooong story that I am happy to share but in a nutshell I will paraphrase the wisdom of Daniel Quinn and say either we will figure out a way to deepen our yogic traditions within a capitalist system or we won’t. I am cheering on and believe that we will!

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
That I can use the words shaman, energy, breath, and journey in one sentence and not be considered too “new agey.”


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In his classes, Ken provides eclectic non-denominational Hatha yoga guidance, honoring a variety of traditions, such as Iyengar alignment principles, invigorating Kudalini Kriya, and playful Acroyoga-inspired partner work.  He invites you to embrace SIMPLICITY, PATIENCE and COMPASSION as you deepen your practice and your connection with your true Self. Ken offers Yoga Therapy workshops on a variety of topics such as restorative yoga, grief, relationships, stress management and coping with chronic illness.  In addition to yoga, Ken also serves as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, clinical supervisor and a private practice yoga therapist in the Bay Area. Daniel Quinn and Paulo Coelho are among his favorite authors.

His life work of service is inspired by Ram Dass’ words:  “We are all just walking each other hOMe.”

Please visit Ken’s website at www.kenbreniman.com  or email him at kjbreniman@gmail.

View Ken’s Weekly Schedule

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Unlocking the Creative Process Through Yoga

by Jillian Schaivi

Yoga and creativity, for me, are indisputably linked. To flow from posture to posture, using the breath as a guiding force, and allowing the mind to clear itself from thought, is exactly how the creative process works. I start with the urge to move, to create something, anything. And then once that initial gesture is expressed, I’m able to take a step back, reflect, take a walk, look away, and then in coming back, color it in even more vibrantly. I’m able to see the piece as it really is – whether that’s something to continue pursuing, or to move on from.

In yoga, we’re encouraged to move energetically, to feel the body out, to test the waters and our limits within the postures. And then to reflect, to experience our experience, see things – ourselves – for how they truly are, and then to use that knowledge in an empowering way. Either to resist certain postures, or, for the time being, going into a deeper expression of them – or to continue down the path we’d started, accumulating sensation, walking our edge.

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Throughout all of this, both the creative and yogic journeys, the breath is the guiding force. The breath in yoga carries us safely within a physical sequence, it steadies the heart rate, slows the nervous system, it keeps us present. Not only that, but it allows for clarity, for one-pointedness, it takes us towards Dharana – the 6th limb of the Yoga Sutras.

In the creative process, the breath becomes an indicator of whether we’re on to something. Excitement and nervousness may show up through the breath in the same heightened way, but if we can begin to really listen to ourselves, there’s a difference between the forward-propelling breath of excitement, and the knotted-stomach breath of nervousness and hesitation.

Jillian

In creativity, flow is recognized as being in a place that’s beyond thought. The external world disappears, and all that’s prevalent, all that exists is the work before us – whether that be writing, drawing, painting, sculpture, music, etc. Our body takes over, the mind no longer holds the reign. And throughout the process, the breath holds the rhythm, steady, meditative, repetitive. In my own work, hand lettering and illustration, I use the breath to steady my hand, to prepare my body for the work, to ease into that flow.

Having a yogic background makes this a much easier transition, and one that I’m ultimately aware of. I know that when things in my creative work don’t flow quite as easily, or ideas, inspiration, motivation aren’t as flush, there must be a missing link in my yogic practice. That is often the case. On the flip side, I feel most creative and engaged and able to give in to flow in my yoga practice when I’m feeling more creative in my life outside the studio, or off the mat. The two inform each other, they relate to each other, and they create a beautiful sense of balance between the mental and emotional efforts that both yoga and art aim to overcome.


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Check out Jillian’s Unlocking the Creative Process workshop this weekend at Namaste Rockridge! 

Jillian Schiavi took her first yoga class seven years ago, and has been continuously inspired ever since. After receiving her BA in English from New York University, she completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training at Yoga to the People (rys) in 2010. After a brief stint in Chicago, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she recently relocated to the Bay Area to further explore her yogic journey as both a teacher and student. Alongside yoga, she runs a calligraphy and illustration design studio, jilly ink, and shares vegan skincare and nutrition as an Independent Consultant with Arbonne International. In her teaching, as in her life, she exudes positive energy with a passion for sharing the physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga, art, and personal health.

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Namaste Teachers: Meet Timothy Lynch

Our Namaste Tribe is a powerhouse of wise, talented, and experienced teachers who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others. We are constantly in awe of the incredible offerings our teachers bring to this community. We are excited to share a new blog series focused on celebrating our teachers and hopefully giving you all a glimpse into the talented team that makes up Namaste Yoga + Wellness.

Meet Timothy Lynch

How long have you been at Namaste?
I have been at Namaste for 2 months.

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
Teaching found me, and seeing how transformational practice has been and continues to be in my own life, I began to share.

What is your favorite literature on yoga or meditation?
The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, Guruji by Eddie Stern and Guy Donahaye, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, and Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.

Best advice you have ever received relating to your practice?
Practice every day.

Your favorite self-care practices?
Listen to reggae, eat donuts sometimes, get plenty of rest, and don’t take oneself to seriously!

What is your morning routine?
Wake up, take a few sips of coffee and a shower, and get to practice.

What are you involved with outside the studio?
Right now, simply trying to acclimate to having moved across the country.

Timothy Lynch

How often do you practice?
Six days a week.

Absolute favorite asana?
The same one as my least favorite, Kapostasana…it teaches me the most about myself!

What is your favorite part of the Namaste community?
That I’ve recently been welcomed into it.

What is your favorite thing about yoga?
Unlike external things, it cannot be taken from you, it’s always there. Also, I really enjoy the idea that it takes so much effort, but it’s mostly about letting go…that relationship I find so interesting and forever complex.

What is something you wish all of our students understood better?
How to show up for themselves more, and to understand that they are their best teacher if they could only learn to listen closely.

Thoughts on where the yoga industry is headed?
Well, in all honesty… ok… I think the “yoga industry” has become very much reliant upon codependent relationships between student/teacher. For example: the student comes to class to see what the teacher has to offer them. Often, the teacher becomes a performer of sorts. This is sadly (in my opinion) moving away from allowing the student to research and develop self trust. Instead, students are sometimes left with some thoughts about their likes and dislikes of the teachers playlist that night, some criticisms or praise for the order of poses, etc. What’s left after class at times revolves around the teacher… this is not my understanding of yoga. Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. When you blast music, pump loads of heat into the room, move students quickly in and out of crazy difficult poses, how can a students mind be at ease? It’s impossible. BUT, at the end of class they are completely exhausted from overstimulation, and feel like the teacher has accomplished something on their behalf. This creates a codependency between the student, who needs their “drugs” and a teacher who needs the students to validate the quality of their playlist, or whatever they need the student for. I’m not sure anymore.

The greatest gift a student has ever given me is to say goodbye and go in search of her/his own self practice. As I see it, a teacher climbs a mountain, stands at the top and looks into the distance. They stand strong so that their students can climb up onto their shoulders and look further still.

Mountain Top

I’m not against a feel good practice, I’m just asking, how much do we really need to feel good? Do we really NEED that much stimulation to be at ease within ourselves? Can the feeling of the sun on your face be enough? Can the vibrant color of a leaf be enough? Can dancing to our own breath be enough? Can seeing the sight of your mothers’ face after not seeing her for a year be enough? And most importantly, can what we already have, right here, right now be enough???

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
Burritos.


TimothyWe arrive to our mat daily reminding ourselves that profound change is possible within a single breath. making effort and softening, extending and flexing simultaneously, we meditate on the relationships of what seem to be opposites. in this way, we make an offering of our attention towards unity and the interdependence of, well, pretty much everything.

Timothy offers gratitude to all of his teachers including Eddie Stern, Rolf and marci Naujokat, Sharath Jois, Surinder Singh, Alison West, and to Barbara Verrochi and Kristin Leigh who through there dedication and humility have been a great inspiration for him to continue along on this path towards self trust.  Most recently timothy received the blessings of Sharath Jois at the Sri k. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India, to teach Ashtanga Yoga.

View Timothy’s Weekly Schedule. 

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