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Flow To Sleep Exercises

Body+Soul, July/August 2006

Here are simple soothing exercises inspired by traditional Chinese medicine that can help balance your energy to ensure a good night's sleep.

1. Rag-Doll Twist to Relieve Tension

What It Does

Stimulates chi in the spleen, liver, and kidneys. The twisting movement of the torso helps open the flow of chi, releasing tension and helping the body to relax and unwind.

How to Do It

With your feet parallel and about shoulder-width apart, twist your upper body to the right, letting your arms swing out to the sides and flop loosely against your body. Reverse, swinging in the opposite direction, back and forth. Enjoy the easy rhythm of this movement.

2. Separating Clouds to Balance Your Energy

What It Does

Balances yin energy and releases tightness by opening up the chest and shoulders.

How to Do It

Stand with feet parallel, knees slightly bent, arms down. Cross your wrists and, as you inhale, slowly draw your arms up as you straighten your legs. When your arms reach overhead, open them out and down to the sides, creating a giant circle as you bend your knees and exhale. Repeat three to five times, and then reverse the arms, drawing them up on the sides and down in front of you.

3. Swan Stretches Her Wings to Soothe Your Spirit

What It Does

Helps balance the liver and spleen while stimulating the horizontal and vertical axes of the body.

How to Do It

Start with palms facing each other as if holding an imaginary ball, left hand on top. Inhale and flip the left palm up, stretching one arm up and one down without locking the elbow. Exhale as you return arms to your center, holding the imaginary ball again, now with the right hand on top. Inhale and reverse the stretch. Repeat three times.

4. Fluffing White Clouds to Harmonize Your Hormones

What It Does

This exercise stimulates proper endocrine gland function, which supports all systems of the body, particularly those systems that regulate sleep.

How to Do It

Stand with feet parallel and knees slightly bent. Rest your hands open at your sides with palms facing front. As you inhale, straighten your knees and lift your hands with palms facing up and elbows bent. As you exhale, turn your palms over and let your arms flow down to your sides, bending the knees. Repeat six times.

5. Soothing Massage to Clear the Senses and Calm the Spirit

What It Does

Grounds and settles you while refocusing scattered energy. Sishencong, which soothes a point on the crown of your head, addresses headaches, nervousness, and insomnia; mingmen helps strengthen the kidneys and draw energy into your center of gravity, creating a sense of calm.

Sishencong Chi Massage: How to Do It

Lying on your back in bed, put one hand on top of your head and begin to move it in a circular motion about 2 inches in diameter. As you gently massage this point, visualize all your thoughts transforming into one. Put your other hand on your belly to help ground yourself more in your body. Continue for three to five minutes.

Mingmen Massage: How to Do It

Mingmen is a point on your lower back, between the kidneys and behind your belly button. Turn onto your side, in fetal position. Make a loose fist and massage yourself at this mingmen point with a circular motion, 30 times in one direction and 30 times in the other. Counting can help you relax and fall asleep. If you're still awake after a few minutes, repeat the exercise, and then rest your hand by your side and notice the sense of calm you feel.

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