Energy and vitality is a blessing, and a great night’s sleep is an important part of feeling like your best self. Getting good sleep is essential for maintaining health and repairing the body. Simply put, good sleep is good medicine. However, many have a difficult time getting the rest they need.
Nearly one-third of your life is spent sleeping. We put a lot of focus into cultivating all sorts of skills and abilities, so why not sleep? The modern way of living doesn’t create the best conditions for deep, nourishing sleep. That’s where Qi Gong can help.
In our previous blog post, we discussed the importance of balancing Yin and Yang energies in the body and mind for a good night’s rest. Today, we will apply these lessons into your life with four simple, yet powerful exercises… so you can experience for yourself how Qi Gong can help you prepare for a restorative night’s rest. Don’t worry, we’ve included pictures of Lee so you can easily understand the movements.
We suggest you read through the following routine so you can see how it works before doing it yourself.
Qi Gong Routine for Better Sleep
Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed you take quick, shallow breaths? Breathing and our emotions are directly connected, so the first thing we’re going to do is focus on the breath.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Place one hand on your lower abdomen, and the other on your chest. Now, inhale and let the air come all the way down to your lower abdomen. As your abdomen fills, let your ribs rise, and eventually let the breath come into your chest. When you exhale, first release the air from your chest, then your ribs, and finally let your abdomen fall.
This practice is called “wave breathing” because your abdomen and chest form a slow wave as you inhale and exhale. Do this practice for a few minutes and focus on calm, deep breathing. After even just a couple of breaths, you’ll notice tension and stress being released.
Now, we’re going to start breathing with the whole body.
With your knees still slightly bent, bring your hands close to your shoulders so your elbows are bent. When you inhale, look up and let your spine bend gently so your stomach comes forward while your shoulders roll back. As you exhale, bring your chin towards your chest and let your back round forward. As you breathe in, feel suppleness and flexibility in your spine. As you exhale, feel stress and tension being released.
Here’s Lee when he has fully inhaled:
Here’s Lee when he has fully exhaled:
After a couple of minutes, check in with your body again and notice your deepened relaxation.
Next, we’re going to focus on the neck and shoulders. It’s very common for your neck and shoulders to store stress and tension from the mind’s activities. Therefore, we’re going to work on releasing tightness and restoring flexibility.
With your knees slightly bent, push your hands down and to the side. Let your head lean towards one of your shoulders, and gently let your head roll forward and back so your neck gets a good stretch. This exercise is called Spreading the Feathers. Here’s Lee:
After doing both sides, close your eyes and once again check in with yourself. You may notice some slight tingling as tension is released. Letting go of stress in the neck and shoulders often leads to improved circulation and a deep feeling of calm.
Next, start to shake your body. You can bounce at your knees and let your elbows and wrists shake and move. Shaking is a very intuitive moment and is a great way to further dissipate tension. As you move, breathe slowly and deeply. After a couple of minutes let your movements slow down and check in with your body again. You’ll notice calm, nourishing energy circulating throughout your body.
Our last exercise will be Pulling Down the Sky.
With your knees slightly bent, extend your arms and let them circulate upward so that the movements of your hands form a big upward circle. When your hands are directly above your head, allow your palms to face your body and let them float down through the midline of your body. As you inhale, your hands circle upwards. As you exhale, your hands flow down through the middle of your chest to your lower abdomen.
Here’s Lee when his hands are circling upwards during his inhale
Here’s Lee when is hards are flowing down through his midline during his exhale:
This flow exercise is great for cultivating Yin energy before going to sleep. The downward movement of the hands helps to calm the mind and release tension. Once you’ve done this exercise for a few minutes, close your eyes again and check in with your body.
This is one of Lee’s shorter routines, but it’s an excellent way to bring calm, nourishing Yin energy to the body and mind.
If you can feel this routine helping you to relax and let go of stress, know that this is just the tip of the iceberg for Qi Gong sleep practices. On Sunday, June 24th, Lee will be offering a Qi Gong for Better Sleep workshop to teach students many more practices for improved sleep.
In addition to general Qi Gong sleep routines, Lee will help students learn how to diagnose different kinds of sleep issues. By understanding your own unique relationship with sleep, Lee’s workshop is a great way to develop your own special practice for your bedtime routine.
Feeling energized and full of life is all about getting good sleep, so give yourself the foundation you need to wake up refreshed, and ready for the day!
To learn more about Lee’s workshop, check out our Qi Gong for Better Sleep event page below.
Thanks for reading, we look forward to seeing you there!
By Ian Drogin