Given how tired everyone feels these days, it's clear just how precious a good night's sleep has become.
According to the tenets of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a movement-based practice offers a healthy approach. Using qigong, a healing art drawn from TCM, you can correct even occasional sleep problems at their source, allowing you to feel healthy and rested again.
From the TCM perspective, a disruption of the free flow of chi, or energy, through the body affects any number of health issues, including sleep. The problem worsens when the imbalance centers on the liver, spleen, heart, or kidneys -- not just the organs themselves, as we think about them in Western terms, but also the attributes of each. As Claudette Baker, a licensed acupuncturist and president emeritus of American Association of Oriental Medicine, explains, "In TCM, by using the term 'liver,' for instance, we're referring to the energetic function of that organ in addition to the liver itself. In this case, weak liver energy can result in improper blood and chi flow, which interferes with sleep." Both liver and kidney deficiency can also contribute to excess yang, an imbalance that increases body heat and restlessness, further hindering sleep.
Qigong (pronounced "chee-gung"), a major branch of TCM, uses slow, graceful movements to improve circulation and parasympathetic nervous-system function. This, in turn, helps balance yin (the dark, cool, receptive, feminine energy) and yang (the light, hot, active, masculine energy). "By bringing us into a state of homeostasis, qigong can free us from the tension that might otherwise keep us awake," explains qigong expert Shoshanna Katzman, L.Ac., author of "Qigong for Staying Young". While vigorous exercise before bed can interfere with sleep, qigong won't ramp up your heart rate.
Rather, it helps relax and unwind mind and body, preparing you for a restful night. Katzman designed the following qigong sequence for use before bed. Each exercise targets key areas of the body, such as the liver, kidneys, heart, and spleen, believed in TCM to trigger feelings of stress, fear, and worry. By reducing tension, balancing hormone levels, and gently stimulating blood flow, qigong will calm your spirit and prepare your body for a night of deep, restorative sleep.
Text by Terri Trespicio