Meditation for Better Sleep
When I was a child, I remember my mother teaching me and my brother a meditation for better sleep. She introduced us to Savasana, the yoga posture known also as ‘dead man’s pose’, along with a simple mindfulness meditation. She would guide us to focus on each part of our body, starting from our toes, all the way up to our heads, instructing us to imagine our breath moving into and out of each part while it became more and more relaxed. I remember always falling asleep before we got anywhere near my head.
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness meditations of various types can improve aspects of sleep because they help to calm down the nervous system and quiet the mind. There are many different classes, tools, and modalities available to investigate and try when it comes to meditation for better sleep. In this post, I’m going to share some things that I have found particularly powerful in my experience.
Qigong for better sleep
About a year ago, I discovered a new Qigong system called Yuan Qigong while searching on YouTube for a practice to help improve my health and cope with the stress I was experiencing in my personal life. My mind seemed to be overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts and worries about my circumstances and it was affecting my appetite and, most of all, my sleep.
It would take me hours to fall asleep after tossing and turning in bed, and I awoke during the night often, my mind ruminating on my situation, always struggling to fall back asleep. Soon every aspect of my life was impacted by a lack of sleep and real rest, and I was desperate for help. I was seeing a therapist and was trying to practice mindfulness meditation and meditation for better sleep with some apps on my phone, and both were helping a little, but not enough to stop the downward spiral.
When I discovered Tian Yuan (the first Yuan Qigong method), I felt peace just watching the beautiful movements. I knew I wanted to give it a try. I found a Yuan Qigong teacher and began practicing Tian Yuan (Gathering Qi), and immediately noticed the physical benefits. It greatly improved my back, neck, and shoulder pain and even helped relieve my vertigo. It also helped to calm my mind and helped with my sleep. But after attending a Ren Xue and Yuan Qigong retreat late last year, I acquired a whole toolbox of practices that have improved my sleep.
Yuan Qigong - a mindful practice for sleep and wellbeing
The nine methods of Yuan Qigong all offer something that can help improve sleep and wellbeing. These are Qigong practices that integrate and unify mind, body, and Qi, and they are presented in an order that helps the practitioner be effective and successful in improving health, happiness, and wellbeing.
The flowing movements of the first method Tian Yuan help to replenish the Qi in the body, improving the state of the energy in the body and information in the mind. After I practice Tian Yuan, I feel completely calm and relaxed, and any tension in my body is completely relieved.
The still practice of the second method Di Yuan helps to quiet the chatter of the mind and relax the whole body. I practice Di Yuan before going to bed each night, and this, more than anything else I’ve tried, has improved my sleep.
Simple Qigong practices for better sleep
In some situations, it isn’t feasible to practice one of the nine Yuan Qigong methods. In my exploration of Ren Xue and Yuan Qigong, I have found some simple practices that help to calm my busy mind or restless body that I can do anywhere and anytime.
Pouring Qi down
In this wonderful Evening Qi flow practice for better sleep, you can learn how to use the mindful practice of pouring Qi down to help get the body and mind ready for sleep. This is a really effective practice that many people report helps them to feel the energy in their body and mind calm down immediately. This is included in the closing part of many Yuan Qigong methods, but you can use it on its own to help you get relaxed and ready for sleep.
Pulling Qi is a simple and powerful healing practice that creates calmness and relaxation by helping you to connect with the natural flow of Qi. In this video on Pulling Qi, Kelly shows us the technique of pulling Qi with two hands, and how we can use the practice to improve our state and to heal pain or problems we feel in the body.
Pulling Qi with one hand or the breath
When I find myself waking up in the middle of the night, and my mind gets busy preventing me from falling back to sleep, I will take some deep breaths, recite the Six Verses Meditation to myself to get myself back into a relaxed, calm, and natural state, and pull Qi with one hand. I just rest my hand by my side, and gently open and close it, visualizing and sensing the natural movement of Qi opening up and closing, gathering and dispersing.
Sometimes I just focus on my breath, using the same visualization to sense my mind, body, and Qi opening up with the in-breath and closing with the out-breath. You can visualize the reverse movement if it’s more natural for you.
In all cases, it is the mindful meditation practice of directing your attention to follow the natural movement and flow of Qi - of energy, material, and information in the universe - integrating and unifying your body and mind with that movement to create a relaxed, calm, and natural state. In my experience, this creates clarity and a sense of spaciousness. I use this to improve my sleep and also to help me cope with any challenging situation or feeling of disturbance. I can pull Qi with one hand or with my breath when I’m taking a walk, standing in line, or sitting in a meeting - and no one even knows I’m doing it!
The Six Verses Meditation
The Six Verses Meditation in Yuan Qigong is a powerful method to go inward and connect with your True Self, nature and the Universe. Try and invite the Six Verses to become your friend or daily companion.
Qigong for Beginners
Whether you are interested in learning the formal Yuan Qigong methods or just want to try some of the supplemental practices mentioned, I hope you give it a try to see if it works for you. The benefits I’ve experienced and described here came quickly, and it’s been easy for me to continue to use these practices over the past year to improve the quality of my health, happiness, and wellbeing. You might find they also work for you. Have a peaceful sleep and enjoy the practice!