Why I Practice at Dawn

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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 over the past 16 years, 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. 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.  I 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.

Sleepy Time

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.

30 Dawns

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 with my free downloads, as well as this page on the best Qigong exercise every, called Lifting The Sky.)

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 to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

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14 Responses to Why I Practice at Dawn

  1. Jen Rodriguez June 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Excellent blog post! Well can’t say that I practice at dawn yet. I wake up and drink 2 glasses of water right away to rehydrate and then it’s off for my morning 15-20 min. qigong. Then I’m ready to get on with my day. I really think it helps with my energy level throughout the day. I try to practice outside as much as I can, as I can feel a difference as to inside. But the Texas heat like Florida can be a persuader to stay indoors.

    My evening practice is not so structured, there is no set time usually anytime from 4-8pm and about 10 mins.(shorter time). Why? All I can say is the day gets busy and I try not to beat myself up about it. When I do practice for the reduced time I am definitely doing qigong and not thinking about anything
    else for that time.


  2. ANNE YOUNG June 9, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Dawn practice…
    I agree with everything you said. I practice at daybreak as often as I can…and I accept your 30 day challenge. Because I missed Friday dawn practice, I will count tomorrow at dawn as day 3 and let you know in 27 days how I’m doing.

    Three levels to earth…
    Had it in a class early on, maybe 3 or so years ago—thought it was ‘beyond me’ and never did it again.
    Had it again fall of 2011, had just gone back to working with children after a 6 year hiatus, “Squatting” to get on eye level with little kids was a part of my daily routine again. I remember telling you at that time I had forgotten all about 3 levels to earth, and was excited to ‘relearn’ it and add it to my practice…which I did for awhile but dropped it after a few weeks. Then a week or 2 ago in a class (Fitness Qigong I think) I really got inspired. I think it might have been a difference in the way you taught it the second time, as you mentioned this past week. Now it’s part of my routine…usually every second day.

    Flowing Zen…
    Gratitude grows daily for the opportunity to learn from you, Sifu, and for all the benefits I’ve received from this practice!

  3. Vicky June 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    Thank you for this challenge, Sifu. I’m going to start tomorrow. I used to practice at dawn regularly, and it really is a magical time. Lately, I’m still in bed until around 8 am, after hitting snooze on my alarm(s). I think part of it has to do with going to bed too late, but this approach should solve that problem, as you mentioned. I’m sure this will also help with my goal of getting back into daily exercise since morning is my favorite time for that, too. Routines are nice.. Another added bonus would be getting in and out of work earlier. 🙂

  4. Devaki June 19, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    i have been practicing my spiritual activiites of chanting, hearing, kirtan studies for 3 hours every morning for over 40 years now and would have it no other way……….Vedic scriptures tell why morning is the time for spiritualists and evening for passionate and demoniac forces contrary to spiritualism.
    Back to Qigong…….so i end all my morning meditations with Qi Gong sometimes that happens at dawn or a little after depending on when i finish my meditations… and I am in TOTAL agreeance this is the BEST time to practice to derive the most benefit

  5. Matt June 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I’m sold.

    When I originally started chi kung I committed to 28 days morning practice (around 6.30am) come rain or shine and it established the habit.

    Then the 100 days Lifting the Sky routine was productive.

    I’m excited by the extra amount of time I would have with these early mornings. Sunrise is currently 4.07am – eek! Even with my 6am start that sounds E.A.R.L.Y!

    I’m going to give it a go, thank you.

    Shaolin Salute /o

    • Matt June 26, 2013 at 5:26 am #

      I’m still in the first week but I’m meeting the challenge!

      The first days were amazing – the extra boost of energy was great, it really is a great time to practice.

      I then had a couple of days when I struggled like mad because I was so tired having gone to bed late (and had alcohol on one evening), but I did get up. I just went back to bed afterwards.

      Today, I got up just before dawn, which is 4.44am here (rather than some time before) and I’m not tired at all.

      Thank you for the challenge. Thoroughly enjoyable and palpably more beneficial.

      Shaolin salute /o

  6. Patrick Mureithi June 19, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    The mosquitos in the midwest are torturous. They have made me move my practice to the play area next to the living room. What do you suggest we do about bugs?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais June 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      Bugs can be a problem. I have a screened-in porch, so I don’t have to worry about them. But once upon a time, I wrestled with them every morning. I found that if I practiced a little after dawn, there were fewer mosquitoes.

  7. CJ Bain June 23, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    I’m so bad at mornings I couldn’t even consider a 30-day challenge, so I made myself commit to a 7-day challenge. Now I’m on day 14 and I’m sure I’ll finish the 30 days and beyond.

    I’m not sure yet if I find practice at dawn better than any other time of day, but if I’m up early and do it first then I’m guaranteed not to skip because I’m late to work. Doing both my practices every day is definitely better than not.

    But where do you get dogs that go back to sleep instead of barking, cavorting and demanding attention as soon as their human stirs?

  8. Eric June 25, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    This would be a challenge for me! I embrace the night and love to sleep in. Though, I’ve heard the Krishnas start their meditation by 5a, and I’m sure it’s for the same reason. I’ll give it a shot! I may take a cat nap mid-day though…

  9. David September 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Hmmm. . Actually before I came across this article I was seriously considering waking up earlier in the morning for just such a practice ( As I practice alittle Chi Kung before going to work in the morning ). I am thinking that regular Chi Kung practice combined with the “Fix Your Eye Sight Chi Kung (or Chi Kung’s Ending facial massage in the morning light)” would be benefitial over all, at least for what I aim to achieve. I am going to start the 30 day challenge, I will let you know at the end of 30 days.

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