In his workshops Dr. Yang often highlights the multi-faceted benefits of sleep. Usually his references to sleep occur in introductions to meditation practice -- sitting, standing and lying down. While, initially I didn't question this guidance, now I better appreciate it's significance and have become aware of things I need to change.
Even though I only slept 4 or 5 hours a night, I had considered myself a good sleeper since I generally went right to sleep and woke-up feeling ready to go. Professionally, this rationalization was reinforced as many people in the NY financial community considered this ability to function on little sleep a badge of honor.
This Christmas my wife gave me an Apple watch -- something I would never have gotten for myself. The Apple Health App that links with the iPhone caught my attention right off. Notably, sleep was one of four areas highlighted in the Health App as being important to health, and the iPhone can track sleep.
Before I used the sleep tracker I had rationalized that when I went to sleep I was going into a deep sleep; otherwise, how could I feel so good? Technology clearly indicated something very different.
According to the Apple watch, I was barely getting any deep sleep. The algorithm used to determine overall sleep quality indicated mine was poor. I was undoubtedly missing many sleep benefits outlined by sleep research.
When teaching standing meditation, Dr. Yang emphasizes this meditation’s ability to improve sleep, especially when combined with sitting and lying down meditations. As someone practicing his taiji methods, I started rethinkng the overall balance of my practice.
I realized my meditations had become secondary to the qigong, form and agility components, and frequently had been omitted. I needed to do the meditations more faithfully than I had been. Now, I’ve adjusted my practice to more consistently include the meditations.
Soon after, I started to see improvements across all the sleep dimensions measured by the Apple watch, especially deep sleep and quality of sleep. Seeing such improvement is a powerful motivator.
I still struggle to establish a routine sleeping time but frequently sleep longer and deeper. Importantly, I welcome sleeping longer versus being anxious to get the day started early.
Given my long history of poor sleep, I can see that becoming a good sleeper will take time. Doing the meditations daily, especially the standing meditations, and going to bed regularly can be challenging. It's helpful to have a teacher and research for encouragement.
Advances in health care science and technology continue to reinforce and objectively support the ancient self-realized knowledge passed down over thousands of years. Dr. Yang is a unique representative of this lineage given his focus on western research as an extension of his traditional training.
One of my biggest take-aways from Dr. Yang's workshops comes from noticing the power of my rational mind. I was rationalizing away my poor sleep despite his clear advice and what were obvious red flags.
Given my experiences, I’ve been discussing issues of sleep with family, friends and acquaintances. I have been surprised to learn how many people have problems sleeping.
For all the reasons given above, I think Yang-Laoshi’s July Sleep Camp is quite timely. I’m looking forward to attending the Sleep Camp and further refining what I now suspect may be the most fundamental element of our practice.
About the Author
About himself John writes: My daughter, and I started studying with Dr. Yang in 2013 and we attend his weekly Sunday class in Manhattan. We participated in our first camp (EBQT) in 2014 and we were both certified after attending our second EBQT camp in 2015. In early 2016 we started a weekly Taiji class at the Bayonne, NJ, Senior Center, near where I live. We really enjoy teaching the class and it has helped us with our own practices.
I married my childhood sweetheart and we have three children. I recently retired from the Manhattan financial services industry, where I worked since I graduated high school in ’72. My retirement plans are principally family oriented including woodworking with my two sons. I’m also really looking forward to deepening my taiji studies.