What is Qi Energy ?
Stress, illness, depression... the fault of the "Qi" ? For Chinese doctors, our physical and mental health depends on the good circulation of this "vital breath" in our body. Today let’s discover what is Qi energy…
1) What is Qi ?
🇨🇳 In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is a basis for the way we think about life, health and disease, how we diagnose them and how we develop treatments:
The idea that everything that surrounds us and constitutes us is essentially the result of the same fundamental component, Qi (pronounced tchi).
Thus, all matter comes from a condensation (materialization) of this energy by a vibratory or frequency change. This energy itself remains invisible.
We can say that the Qi corresponds to all that is perceptible but intangible. The QI is an energy that circulates throughout the body through a series of paths, called meridians, which connect all the organs 🧠. It feeds the 7 chakras or energy centers of the body.
Another way of translating the term Qi is Vital Energy. However, the term Vital must be taken in a broad sense; in Chinese thought, everything - living beings as well as the inanimate world is inhabited by the same vital energy (which could, in the end, be associated with the movement of elementary wave-particles).
"The universe is perpetually self-created in a constant evolution (...) from a unique material, the Primordial Breath or YuanQi, which is neither matter nor spirit".
A. Symbol of Qi Energy
The Chinese character that designates Qi expresses its double attribute: it represents steam escaping from a cereal that heats up.
🌾 At the bottom, the bunch of cereals suggests both the material base which is part of the manifestations of Qi as well as the nourishing aspect necessary for the manifestation of vitality.
The upper part, which also serves as a simplified form to designate the Qi, represents the vapors or fumet, and expresses the intangible part and the upward movement of transformation.
🌀 The concept of Qi is intrinsically dynamic. Impossible even to imagine it immobile, as in a photo... it would no longer exist. It is perpetual change and rhythmic transformation.
It condenses, dissolves, concentrates, expands; the manifestations through which it reveals itself change characteristics, one form integrates into another or separates from it, it rises or falls, the Qi is in constant mutation...
B. Chi the Universal Energy
The term Qi is often translated as "energy" or "breath". This is a reassuring translation for the Western mind, but it carries a certain prejudice. In the West, the term "energy" refers to measurable phenomena such as electrical, electromagnetic, nuclear, calorific or mechanical energy ⚙️.
To get closer to the Eastern meaning, one must turn to the Greek root energeia (force in action). This expression includes vitality, physical or moral strength, as well as the vigor or power of an organism. One can also think of the pneuma of the Greek philosophers: the breath of life = Universal energy and vital energy.
The concept of Qi is also found in the theories of Feng Shui. Feng Shui is the perfect harmonization and balance of energies in the home or workplace 🏡. This harmonization allows the complete fulfillment of the people who live or work there.
C. The Five Forms of Qi
In each of us there are essentially five kinds of Qi. They each have a physiological function:
- The original Qi ("Yuan Qi") is transmitted to us by our parents. It is stored in the kidneys and circulates throughout the body.
- The fundamental Qi ("Zong Qi") comes from eating and breathing. It is stored in the lungs and circulates throughout the body.
- The central Qi ("Zhong Qi"), linked to the functions of the stomach and the spleen, transports and transforms food.
- The nourishing Qi ("Ying Qi") circulates only in the blood vessels and accompanies the blood.
- Defensive Qi ("Wei Qi") comes from the kidney to warm and defend the body.
D. Qi and Emotions
As far as emotions are concerned, we can show, for example, that too much joy dissolves the Qi or weakens the Qi of the heart 💙, or that too much anger causes the Qi to rise violently upwards and obstructs the ways of the head, or that too much worry makes it stagnate.
Each emotion is accompanied by a particular movement or stagnation of energy, Qi, which will again have a direct influence on our physical health.
E. Qi Energy in The 5 Elements
Wood, fire, earth, metal, water: for the Chinese, everything on our planet is organized according to The Five Elements (or Five Phases). These categories group together all phenomena that have the same type of energy or the same symbolism.
Wood", for example, is the "rising" energy. It corresponds to the east, where the sun rises ☀️. It is also the spring, the green color, the liver, the eye or anger.
After spring comes summer, with a culminating energy: fire. According to this principle, wood begets fire, which begets earth, which begets metal, which begets water, which begets wood.
Together with Yin and Yang, this cycle is the basis of traditional Chinese medicine and gives the image of the coherence of the Taoist philosophy, which advocates harmony between man and nature 🌱.
F. Chakra and Qi
We can consider the chakras as the inputs and outputs of the Qi or vital energy in or from our physical body.
The 7 chakras are located in the physical body as follows:
2) Qi and Yin Yang
"He who knows virility, but contains femininity, will become a pool where all the strength of the world accumulates." said the wise Lao-tzu.
The Qi manifests itself first of all in us in the form of two complementary and opposed forces, the famous Yin and Yang: the feminine (the dark, the cold, the deep, the interiority, the emptiness) and the masculine (the light, the hot, the summer, the outside, the full).
☯ One never works without the other, and each contains within it the seed of the other. Thus, each man, however virile he may be, always has a feminine part, just as each woman always has her masculine part.
"For a Chinese doctor, if a woman is sterile, it is because she is "Yin-Yin": she lacks the Yang seed that will allow her to give life," explains Hiria Ottino.
For the Qi to flow harmoniously, we must therefore start by finding within ourselves the balance of these two forces ⚖️.
3) Use of Qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine rarely uses the term Qi, because its meanings are too broad in their semantic scope.
Like most Chinese words, its meaning is often specified by the context, and it is usually associated with a particular structure or material basis as in the following examples:
- ShènQi: the functional activity (Qi) of Kidneys (Shèn) ;
- JingQi: the vitality (Qi) that is expressed in growth or sexuality, from the essences (Jing) from the kidneys, marrow, brain and reproductive organs;
- FeiQi: the activity (Qi) of the lung (Fei) that supports, breathing, and the production of air Qi
🤔 Qi changes depending on where in the body it is located.
If the action of Qi is located in several places of the body, we will qualify this Qi as an attribute related to its function, its circulation or its origin.
For example, YuanQi, which is translated as original energy, is a general energy that supports all the activities of the body. Original means both that it comes from MingMen, the vitality emergence zone located between the kidneys, and that it is at the origin of all vitality in the body, from conception.
Another example, the nourishing energy that circulates in the meridians as well as in the form of blood in the blood vessels is called YinQi.
However, the term YingQi is also used to refer to the nourishing exchanges, the dynamism made possible by the circulation and absorption of nutrients in all the structures of the body.
It is all of these Qi, as they circulate near the surface of the body, that can be mobilized through acupuncture; they are gathered, dispersed or directed through the meridians to establish a better balance between the different parts and functions of the body.
4) Maintaining the Balance of Qi
☯ Just like Yin Yang, Qi must be balanced to stay healthy. If there is an imbalance, a disease can occur with different symptoms depending on whether there is a lack or excess of Qi.
Correcting the Qi imbalance is often the main task of the different healing modalities of traditional Chinese medicine:
A. Practice QI Gong
Qi Gong is the work of energy through the body. This practice is composed of exercises which, practiced regularly and daily, would allow to find the spiritual, psychic and physical balance.
The practice of Qi Gong uses a wide variety of movements that are generally very slowly linked, immobile postures, stretching, breathing exercises, visualization, and meditation with a great focus 🧘🏻♀️.
B. Acupuncture Sessions
The energy that circulates in the meridians is called JingQi. It consists of the different Qi that irrigate, maintain and ensure the proper functioning of the skin, muscles, tendons, bones and organs.
The meridians can thus be a mirror of the quality of the Qi that circulate within them, as well as the balance of the multiple structures of the body to which they are connected 🔗.
This is what gives them an important diagnostic power: they provide perceptible signs that reveal internal imbalances, hence the importance of observation and palpation when examining the patient.
Reiki is a holistic approach of Japanese origin belonging to the so-called "energetic" approaches. It consists in awakening in each of us a dynamic healing process by intervening on the vibratory field of the person ⚡.
A union between meditation and relaxation through touch, Reiki encourages the emergence of your natural potential. It is thus a practice of well-being and helping relationship, consisting in stopping the person's evils, by balancing his body - energy - mind.
What are the notions learned in reiki ? to determine the energy blockages that hurt to perform an appropriate reiki session to accompany the person psychologically.
D. Tui Na Massage
Tui Na massage differs from western massage techniques, mainly because of the energetic concept on which it is based (harmonization of Qi), but also because of the multiplicity of types of manipulation.
Indeed, the practitioner uses a wide variety of techniques depending on the areas to be treated, the type of imbalance, the age and constitution of the individual.
The therapist therefore relies on more than 300 different manipulations, rigorously classified according to their form, strength and function.
They are generally performed with the upper limbs (fingers, palm, hand, wrist, forearm or elbow), but sometimes the therapist uses the knees, feet or even the skull 🙃.
According to our western criteria, Tui Na would fall into the category of rather dynamic massages.
5) Regulate Qi
The individual and his environment are to be perceived as amalgams, "densifications" of Qi, which pass in a permanent flow from an immaterial state to a material state.
Qi have dynamics that are sometimes complementary, sometimes opposed, very often cyclical and predictable.
All these dynamics, whether internal or external, influence us and create complex interactions with our own organic systems. They can be grouped into two main categories:
👍🏻 The good energies, called the "ZhengQi". They tend to maintain our organism in its specificity, cohesion, harmony and efficiency to act. They act as much on the physical as on the psychic level.
👎🏻 The bad energies, called the "XieQi". They tend on the contrary to attack us, to destroy us, to intoxicate us, to move away from our physical and psychic integrity.
To simplify, we can say that the disease is a state of imbalance where the sum of the correct energies is taken in default by what turns out to be perverse energies. An acute illness is a state of struggle or mobilization of the good energies to push back the bad energies.
A chronic state usually expresses a medium or long term failure of the correct energies that can no longer restore the balance or the initial integrity of the body's functions and structures.
Any holistic and/or energetic treatment can boil down to toning up the correct energies and chasing away the perverse energies, if they are present.
A. Qi Deficiency
According to Chinese medicine, a deficiency in Qi can take several forms:
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of food
- Clean water
- Fresh air
- Other physical elements that the body needs to function properly.
- Also a lack of mental stimulation, social interaction and love.
B. Excess of Qi
Too much Qi can be as harmful as too little Qi or worse. It can result from the presence of environmental toxins, such as air or water pollution ☢️.
It can also be the result of excessive physical activity, overeating, stress or strong negative emotions.
6) Science and Qi
One of the difficulties that Chinese medicine faces in its efforts to be recognized by the Western medical community is the rejection of the theories on which it bases its understanding of disease and intervention.
The Eastern concept of Qi is not accepted by modern science 🧫, probably because it refers to a single, multiform Energy, whereas science observes and studies distinct energies and functions which, while they may influence each other, are nonetheless considered separate entities.
Thus, when science tries to understand the therapeutic action of acupuncture, for example, it wants to observe its isolated and specific effects: on local vasomotricity, the peripheral nervous system, the spinal cord, central brain activity, the release of endorphins, muscle relaxation, etc.
Several studies demonstrate 📉 some of the specific effects generated by acupuncture, but they are never able to encompass globally the actions caused by the mobilization of Vital Energy.
Nor can they take into account what the Chinese refer to as Xing Qi Shen Dong:
"To circulate Qi and move the mind, the two actions that are jointly essential to start the healing process."
Thus, there is still a significant gap between traditional Eastern conceptions, which are both simple and holistic, and the much more precise and complex scientific theories.
Read next: How to balance Yin Yang energies ? Acupuncture is based on the concept of universal and bodily energy. In case of energy deficiency it will be a solution to restore the Yin Yang imbalance.