Blog #126 Healthful Sleep
Years ago, I learned about a sleep position developed in China centuries ago. One of my teachers showed his class this, and over the years my respect has increased for this sleep position and for the people who developed it. This position, which I will refer to as OQS (Optimal Qi Flow) is simple, yet detailed and its explanation can range from superficial to profound. I will aim for the middle ground. If you are unable to sleep on your right side due to an injury or other health issue, then OQF is not for you. Most people will be able to sleep this way, and over time, they will get used to it and even come to regard it as an excellent way to obtain restful sleep.
The sleeper lies on the right side, with or without a pillow under the head. If they have a pillow, it should be small and fairly flat. The right hand cups the right ear, thumb behind the ear and the rest of the fingers in front. The open palm gently supports the head. This position takes some weight off the right shoulder. The bottom leg is fairly straight, but the knee is slightly bent. The left leg, which is placed on top of the right, is bent considerably more. If possible, the left foot is tucked into the bend of the right knee. The left arm rests on the torso, with two possible positions for the hand. Either the open palm is placed just below the navel – that is, between the navel and the pelvic area – or a very loose fist rests on the outer left thigh. Ideally, breathing is through the nose. The mind can welcome positive, protective thoughts and inspiration, or it can be empty, whatever is most natural and restful for the sleeper. If the person shifts position, that is fine, but because of the beneficial aspects of OQF, they may grow to naturally maintain this position for much or all of the night.
Many Acupuncture meridians run along and through the body. OQF works with two of these channels – the Gall Bladder channel (a Yang channel) and the Conception Vessel (CV) extraordinary channel (Yin channel). The extremely Yang Gall Bladder (GB) channel runs on the right and left sides of the body (it is bilateral) and circles the ear, runs along side of the head and parts of the face, runs to the upper trapezius (uppermost back), moves down the side of the body, travels slightly to the front of the body, including some middle and lower areas on the ribcage, then on to the anterior pelvic bone, that is, the iliac bone. Then the GB channel continues downward, to the hip and gluteal area, the lateral thigh, down the lateral leg to the ankle and foot, ending at the lateral aspect of the fourth toe, at the toenail. Gall Bladder (Yang) and Liver (Yin) channels are paired, with each performing many functions, including the GB’s receiving and removing stress (and bile) away from the liver (LV). An over-active, fatty or toxic liver is notorious for interfering with sleep. Among the LV’s many functions are helping feel and release the emotions and their related hormones and other chemicals, especially from the emotions of anger and frustration. Keeping energy (Qi) flow smooth and regular helps relieve digestive, musculoskeletal and emotional stress and induces physical relaxation. This is especially true for GB Qi flow. The CV channel can help move Yang Qi down from the top of the head, where energy is most Yang and active and stress-inducing into the lower body, which is more Yin. It also can help move Yin energy from the lower body into the upper body, especially the head, the most Yang area, and this action is not always helpful. The Conception Vessel begins in the perineum and travels upward, past the pelvic area and stays in the body’s midline. It ends just below the lower lip. There is only one CV, located on the body’s frontal midline. The CV is paired with the Governing Vessel (GV), which starts at the tip of the tailbone (coccyx), runs up the spine, traverses the scalp, and ends at the gum just below the upper lip. This channel is very Yang. A healthy Qi flow through these two channels helps contribute to fertility, calmness, vitality and overall good health. One of the possible OQF left hand positions is located on the CV, just below the navel. The other option is on the lateral thigh, where the GB meridian travels. The front of the body, including the palms is Yin and the back of the body, including the back of the hands is Yang in nature.
Now for a little more explanation. Cupping the hand around the ear helps stabilize Qi flow in the head, thus minimizing stuck Qi and consequently also reducing the likelihood of headaches, insomnia and nightmares. An added benefit is less crow’s feet. Lying on the right side versus the left helps take pressure off the heart, stomach and pancreas, allowing them to function more optimally. The liver is the largest and most vascular internal organ in the body, containing the most blood; therefore it is warmer than the rest of the body. Lying on the left side positions the liver on top, where it presses on and warms/inflames the smaller stomach, pancreas and heart, all located to the left of the liver. While using OQS, positioning the palm of the left hand below the umbilicus will tend to be more centering, calming and soothing, connecting Yin to Yin (front of the body). When the hand held in a loose fist is placed on the lateral thigh, where the GB channel runs, this will tend to disperse tension in the digestive system, musculoskeletal system, and even the emotions. When the hand is in a loose fist, the Yang aspect (back) of the hand connects to the extremely Yang Gall Bladder channel. Regarding the legs – when the left foot is tucked behind the right knee, this helps stimulate Qi flow in the right leg, and especially helps prevent congestion of energy and blood at the right knee, which is lower and therefore more likely to experience pressure congestion than are the left leg and knee. Sleeping with the left knee bent reduces tension in the left leg, as well as in the pelvis and spine. Much more could be written about this sleep position, but I hope this small amount of information helps you begin to understand how complex the body’s energy system is and how much we can influence our quality of sleep in this way.
People with heart problems, such as pericarditis and congestive heart failure, and people with gastric ulcers, gastric reflux, pancreatitis and diabetes often benefit from this sleeping position. Of course, this is not recommended for people with injuries to the right shoulder and hip, and sometimes injuries to the right knee. I suggest you try OQS and draw your own conclusions. I noticed a difference after the first night. My chest felt cooler and my sleep was sounder. I often, but not always, choose to sleep this way.
This blog’s offer: feel free to call me free of charge with questions about this OQS sleep position, Yin and Yang, and other related topics. I also often help people with sleep problems, and there will be a charge for help in these cases, which may require several treatments, dietary guidance, or other suggestions and therapies.