Whether you are working from home or actually going to the office, unwinding from a stressful day is a must. But that’s often easier said than done. Do you work out, go for a run, pour yourself a drink, or just melt into the couch? Whether you are trying to ease tension and pain in your mind and body, fall asleep easier, or stay asleep longer, these are just a few of the benefits of an Evening Qigong Program.
Just the thought of working out or going for a run after a long day can often be a daunting proposition. It’s why many people give up before even lacing up their shoes. That's where the gentle, healing and meditative movements of Qigong can just be the answer you were looking for.
What are the benefits of an evening qigong program?
The movements of Qigong are specifically designed to gently invigorating the body while calming the central nervous system. It does this by switching off our fight or flight response and engaging our rest, digest and healing state.
This stimulus causes the body to release our relaxing natural opiates like serotonin and dopamine. These are the feel-good hormones that offset your stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is what helps to wake you up in the morning, but unfortunately, also helps to pad your belly when it's left on all the time!
The physical benefits of doing an evening qigong program?
Sadly, most of us can go through our entire day with barely any physical stimulus other than walking or climbing the occasional flight of stairs. Moving through limited ranges of motion on a regular basis causes us to slowly build up added layers of connective tissue throughout the body.
Layer by layer the connective structure of the body, known as fascia becomes not only thicker but rather “stuck” together. These sticking points within the fascia are known as adhesions. It is those adhesions that result in a restriction in mobility as well as decreased efficiency of movement, irritation and of course PAIN.
To remedy this problem, Qigong's dynamic movements challenge the body to gently move through multiple planes of motion using full-body, unified movements. The new and ever-changing stimulus breaks down any restrictive connective tissue build-up while creating strength, stability and fluid movement to the entire structure.
The mental benefits of doing an evening qigong program?
For many people, all that built-up physical tension and stress often lead to the build-up of mental tension and stress. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that mental stress and a great night's sleep are definitely not a marriage made in heaven.
As you connect your mind and breath to the movements of an evening Qigong practice, stresses of the past fall away and anxieties of the future become less of a looming obstacle. Slowly but surely there is only the moment, and in the moment there is only peace and relaxation and in the next moment,…. an awesome night's sleep!
What aspect or elements should you focus on for an evening Qigong program?
There are many possibilities when it comes to how you could structure your even Qigong program. For me, the focus is best suited toward relaxation and blood production. Both aspects will make it easier for you to fall and stay asleep, as well as wake up feeling refreshed.
Built-up physical tension is a major obstacle to us falling asleep easily. Our bodies were just not built to stay in one position all day. That being the case, sitting still in a chair for hours on end is definitely not what our body needs.
Anterior and posterior (forward and backward) flexion of the spine and supporting muscles, as well as gentle lateral flexion, goes a long way to release that build-up of stagnation your workday has caused.
It's important to incorporate movements that move the torso through large ranges of motion in an evening qigong program to enable the body to release the tension from those tight, aching muscles.
With the muscles balanced and supple we are able to relax and settle in for the night. But, to actually fall and stay asleep, we need the nourishment of free-flowing blood to anchor us there. This is why stimulating the organs that not only make blood but also move it around the body is the second important component in your evening Qiong program.
What organ should you focus on in an evening Qigong program?
The Liver is responsible for the smooth and effortless movement of Qi around the body. It is that Qi that moves the blood which nourishes the tissues of the body. Now, I’m sure you know your liver can really take a beating (AKA university frosh week!… or any given day during a pandemic!). But, as resilient as your liver is, it is also quite sensitive.
The liver is very easily injured by strong emotional stimuli. So a stressful and emotional day can wreak havoc on your liver, leaving it in disharmony. When the liver is in disharmony, your Qi stagnates, and when Qi doesn't move the result is aches and pains around the body.
To soothe the Liver, Qigong movements dedicated to tonifying the liver incorporate lateral flexion to stimulate and stretch the inner thigh where the liver meridian travels, as well as the entire lateral side of the body where the liver’s paired channel, the gallbladder travels.
The spleen’s job is to turn the food we eat into Qi and blood as well as move fluids around the body to help moisten and nourish the tissue. Just like all organs, the spleen has a nemesis that tends to be a demon of our own making and that is OVERTHINKING! Feelings of worry, pensiveness or constant thinking injure the spleen which will lead to poor blood production.
So how does this affect our sleep you ask? Think of it this way. If our blood is lacking in nutrient value making it basically… weak. Our heart has to work harder to pump more blood around our body because the blood that is moving isn’t doing the job of nourishing the tissues. That added stimulation and work for the heart means it also doesn’t get to rest… and either do you!
So that, as you may have guessed, leaves us with the heart as our last organ to focus our evening Qigong program on. Of course, you know, your heart’s job is to pump your blood around your body. Now your heart is a very special muscle. It’s designed to flex constantly day in and day out every minute of your life. Talk about an endurance workout! But even it needs a little rest once in a while.
Bedtime is rest and recovery time for the heart. Although it doesn’t actually get to stop working, its contractions do slow down. Giving it a bit of a breather. Rest and relaxation bring a sense of “joy” to the heart and this has the effect of slowing down your Qi just enough to allow you to drift off.
This is why it’s so important to feel calm, relaxed and not have your brain going a mile a minute. When your emotions are peaceful your liver is happy and your Qi flows smoothly.
When your mind is quiet, your spleen is happy and blood is made in abundance.
When everyone else is doing their job… the heart gets the night off,…. Or at least it gets some rest. That means, once again, you do as well!
How long should an evening Qigong program be?
The benefits of an even qigong program are not time-related. Whether you spend a few minutes or an hour, what is most important is your specific and focused intention. That being said, a twenty to thirty-minute program is more than enough to stimulate blood production and movement within the body.
Done on a regular basis, an Evening Qigong program just might be the end of counting sheep.… Give it a try!
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