TRY A SLEEP RE­TREAT Take a restora­tive trip to beau­ti­ful Tus­cany.

With a third of us not get­ting enough sleep, Jane Eg­gin­ton shows us how spe­cialised re­treats can help us to rest easy

In the Moment - - Contents -

Good sleep be­gins from the mo­ment you wake up. Food, yoga and daily rou­tine are all key to cre­at­ing peace­ful nights,” ex­plains Anandi, a renowned Ayurvedic sleep ex­pert. Although I have never had in­som­nia, I chose to go on a sleep re­treat to learn how bet­ter nights mean bet­ter days, and vice versa. “We all need our beauty sleep,” Anandi tells our all-women group at Villa Verde, Mon­te­gonzi, in Italy’s Tus­can hills. “With good rest, nour­ish­ment and a quiet mind we can not only feel bet­ter, but also work and look bet­ter too.”

Bri­tain is one of the most sleep-de­prived na­tions in the world, with one in three of us not get­ting enough. All of us in the group have ex­pe­ri­enced di culty sleep­ing at some time in our lives and our in­ten­tions for the week range from re­duc­ing sleep­ing pill de­pen­dency to in­creas­ing feel­ings of calm and con­cen­tra­tion and look­ing younger. “Top­ping and tail­ing your day with a mind­ful prac­tice is one of the things Anandi has taught me,” says Karen, an in­som­niac, who no spe­cial­ist in the UK has been able to help.

Anandi, who was given her name by her teacher in In­dia, works around the world o er­ing prac­ti­cal and per­sonal sleep pro­grammes that com­bine an­cient In­dian wis­dom with state-of-the-art sci­ence. Us­ing Ayurveda, the sis­ter dis­ci­pline to yoga, she es­tab­lishes which of three body types we are (a sim­ple test is also avail­able for free on her web­site). Then we en­joy dreamy yo­gic sleep and can­dle-lit breath ses­sions as part of a holis­tic ap­proach that ad­vo­cates life­style en­hance­ment as much as stress re­duc­tion. “Breath is ac­tu­ally your sleep guru,” Anandi ex­plains.

We learn that we need to cre­ate a daily prac­tice to sup­port our sys­tem, known as di­nacharya, the Ayurvedic daily rou­tine. This means go­ing to bed and get­ting up at the same time, even at week­ends, and cre­at­ing a rit­ual of reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion and ex­er­cise. Anandi ad­vo­cates re­tir­ing at 10pm, when the sleep hor­mone mela­tonin is pro­duced, and ris­ing at 6am, when our body has the high­est lev­els of mood-boost­ing sero­tonin. There is a clear sci­enti c ba­sis for liv­ing in har­mony with these nat­u­ral rhythms, just as our an­ces­tors did.

Cities, tech­nol­ogy and in­ter­na­tional travel all threaten to in­ter­fere, but cre­at­ing daily sa­cred space can also sup­port us. By co­in­ci­dence, Anandi trained with In­dian yogi and sleep guru Vishva-ji, who

I also trained with in In­dia when I quali ed as

“It is im­por­tant to re­ally dial down stim­u­la­tion sev­eral hours be­fore bed­time and make your bed­room a sanc­tu­ary”

a yoga teacher. Vishva-ji cre­ated a sys­tem of yoga called Akhanda, mean­ing in­di­vis­i­ble, or whole.

Anandi recre­ates many of the rit­u­als and prac­tices of Vishva-ji’s ashram at the re­treat. We chant a mantra to­gether be­fore our meals, just as we did in Rishikesh, the birth­place of yoga – a city that lies be­side the Ganges River in the Hi­malayan foothills. This prac­tice helps us to de­velop mind­ful eat­ing pat­terns, in which we pause and ap­pre­ci­ate our food, as well as cre­at­ing pos­i­tive vi­bra­tions and a sense of shar­ing, all of which set us up for a good night’s sleep at the end of the day.

Cre­at­ing a sense of rit­ual and quiet around the ta­ble can be as im­por­tant as re­duc­ing stim­u­la­tion be­fore bed. Much has been made re­cently of clean sleep­ing, but it seems look­ing at our night-time rou­tine is only giv­ing us a frac­tion of the story. “It is im­por­tant to re­ally dial down stim­u­la­tion sev­eral hours be­fore bed­time and make your bed­room a dark and silent sanc­tu­ary,” says Anandi in a work­shop af­ter a silent al fresco break­fast. She em­pha­sises that in or­der to at­tain deep and sus­tained rest, we need to take a truly holis­tic ap­proach and look at our day­time habits too.

Anandi recre­ates the magic of the In­dian ashram re puja, or wor­ship, in the gar­dens of our beau­ti­ful hotel. Mak­ing o er­ings and in­ten­tions, we chant around the ames cre­ated with sticks col­lected from the boar- lled wood­land. Im­mensely prac­ti­cal, Anandi tells us we can use can­dles or in­cense in­stead of re to recre­ate the sa­cred cer­e­mony and in­voke peace, good sleep and even trans­for­ma­tion at home. It is just one of a raft of ac­ces­si­ble take­aways she pro­vides to sup­port us when we re­turn to our daily lives.

Anandi also shares her knowl­edge at many of the grow­ing num­ber of shows ded­i­cated to sleep health around the world, in­clud­ing Som­nex in Lon­don. Here, all num­ber of high­tech de­vices are on dis­play, in­clud­ing a Philip Stein sleep bracelet. Madonna is ap­par­ently a fan of the face­less watch, which is said to chan­nel the earth’s nat­u­ral fre­quen­cies to in­crease mela­tonin pro­duc­tion.

Anandi o ers a mela­tonin test from her site and pre­scribes the Bhra­mari breath, or

‘bee breath­ing’, tech­nique to stim­u­late the sleep hor­mone: “It’s so easy,” she says.

“Close your mouth, in­hale through your nose

and ex­hale by hum­ming as if you were a bum­ble bee.”

In a one-to-one con­sul­ta­tion, Anandi sug­gests daily med­i­ta­tion, yoga and 15 min­utes of

an­u­loma viloma (al­ter­nate nos­tril breath­ing) to bal­ance my ner­vous sys­tem. “You may be do­ing these things as your reg­u­lar prac­tice, but with what at­ti­tude and com­mit­ment?” she asks. It is rm, lov­ing ad­vice and feels like the wake-up call I need.

Dur­ing the re­treat, we en­joy talks on Ayurveda and nu­tri­tion and are sup­ported in our goals. We have home­work – to go out and put our bare feet on the earth – and we’re in­tro­duced to di­ets and heal­ing herbs speci c to our body types. Anandi gives us an in­spir­ing read­ing and mu­sic list, as well as a recipe for a night-time tonic with al­mond, sa ron and Ash­wa­gandha, an Ayurvedic plant that com­bats stress and boosts cre­ativ­ity.

“Com­mit to do­ing 10 things ev­ery day that are nour­ish­ing and that you en­joy,” Anandi tells us on the last day with a smile. Smil­ing more may be one of them, she sug­gests, along with cre­at­ing sa­cred space, self-care and liv­ing in har­mony with the sea­sons. To keep us on the right track, we each take home Anandi’s book, Breathe Bet­ter, Sleep Bet­ter and a per­son­alised, in­te­grated well­ness pro­gramme that is de­signed to last a life­time.

As for Karen, by the end of the week she has cut out all sleep­ing pills, con­clud­ing of Anandi: “This woman has lit­er­ally saved my life.”

Jane Eg­gin­ton is a quali ed yoga teacher and travel writer. She is the author of over 40 travel and health books pub­lished by The Sun­day Times,Reader’s Di­gest and Miche­lin.JANE EG­GIN­TON

Clock­wise from top:a sooth­ing sanc­tu­aryat the Tus­can sleepre­treat; Anandi, thesleep guru; mind­fuleat­ing is prac­tisedat din­ner­time.

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