I woke up even earlier than usual this morning. I didn’t look at the clock, but it was just before first light when I stepped out onto the porch to practice Qigong. The dogs looked at me like I was crazy, and promptly went back to sleep.
Maybe you agree with the dogs.
The classics say that dawn is the best time to practice qigong. I absolutely agree. And not just because it’s written in the classics, but because I’ve tried it all.
At the turn of the century (I love saying that), I went through a phase where I practiced qigong at midnight every night. The classics say that midnight is the 2nd best time to practice.
I enjoyed it. Midnight was certainly a good time to practice.
But not as good as dawn.
I’ve also experimented with practicing at odd times — early afternoons, evenings, late mornings. All of them were okay.
Not as good as midnight.
And definitely not as good as dawn.
I’ve even experimented with (gasp) practicing at noon even though some teachers think it’s a no no.
Time and again, I kept coming back to dawn. It just feels like the best bang for my qigong buck.
A student recently asked my why it’s so great practicing at down. Here are my reasons.
Why I Practice at Dawn
1. Dawn is a magical time of day. The world is still asleep (including the dogs!). Cars aren’t driving. Humans aren’t bustling. The birds are just waking up. And the light is absolutely incredible.
2. It’s cooler. In Florida, this is a big deal if you’re going to practice outside from May to October. Once the sun comes up, it immediately starts getting hot. I practice outside 365 days a year, so the earlier the better.
3. The energy is awesome. The classics say that the energy is better at dawn. And my experience confirms it. The energy is softer somehow. And purer. And awesomer.
4. The whole day is better. When I practice at dawn, I finish my session as the rest of the world is waking up. I can think of no better way to start my day. As I finish, I can feel the full potential of the day ahead of me. And I’ve got the energy and the motivation to fully embrace it.
5. I can practice again later. This applies to a morning practice in general, but I feel that it works even better if I practice at dawn. Because I’ve started my day right, because I’ve got plenty of energy, I’m more likely to practice again in the afternoon or evening. I have that option. If I only practice in the evenings, I don’t get that option. So if you’re looking to increase your dosage of qigong, practicing at dawn is a good way to do it.
But I’m a Night Owl!
I understand that it’s not easy for some people to practice at dawn. “I’m a night owl,” or “I’m not a morning person,” are common excuses. But they are just that — excuses. I know because I’ve used them myself.
Once upon a time, I was anything but a morning person. I was a night owl. I felt most productive and alive at night.
By contrast, I felt sluggish and dull in the morning, even with lots of coffee.
Now it’s the opposite. I feel more alive in the morning, even without coffee.
This morning, I drank water before practicing. Nothing else. When you sleep well and wake up early, you don’t need coffee to feel alive.
And that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? You’re just not sleeping particularly well. So it’s no wonder that you’re not a morning person.
Night owls are out of rhythm with the cosmos. Our bodies were designed to be awake at dawn. For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors got up at or before dawn. When we stay up late and wake up late, we go against the natural rhythms of the cosmos.
If you stay up late, especially if you use electronics, then your body gets confusing signals. It doesn’t get a chance to unwind properly. The light stimulates the eyes, which stimulates the deeper parts of the brain, and your internal clock gets thrown off. So when you finally go to sleep, you don’t sleep deeply.
And this happens to many people every night, for years.
They say that one hour before midnight is worth two after. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Honestly, I don’t concern myself with what time I go to bed. I only concern myself with what time I get up. And if I constantly get up early, then my body tells me to go to bed earlier. Simple.
For some of you, this challenge will be easy. But for some of you, it will be a big deal. Here’s the challenge: Practice at dawn for 30 days in a row. (If you’re new to Qigong, then start here.)
If you can manage it, then I think you’ll see why I practice at dawn. Or, if after 30 days you’re still miserable, then at least you’ll have bragging rights. “Sifu, I tried your stupid dawn challenge, and it was awful!”
What say ye? Are you going to try practicing at dawn? Or do you already do it? Keep the discussion going in the comments section below! Mindfully yours, Sifu Anthony I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world how to use qigong for their own stubborn health challenges. As the director of Flowing Zen and a board member for the National Qigong Association, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog, I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.