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What Is this “Qi” Stuff, Anyway?

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “oh, my qi is low today.” Or maybe you have said it yourself! However, you may find yourself wondering what qi actually is Simply put, qi is energy. The Chinese character for qi is symbolized as vapor or steam coupled with [uncooked] rice; this conveys that qi is non-substantive and substantive at the same time. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, qi exists on a spectrum of immaterial and light to dense and heavy.

In the human body, qi manifests in many ways. Blood is considered the densest form of qi, while the mind (thoughts, consciousness, ideas, self-awareness) is the most subtle, immaterial form of qi. If we follow the spectrum of dense to subtle, bodily substances would be listed as: blood, body fluids, essence, qi, and mind. A full discussion of each substance is beyond the scope of this brief article; I will focus on qi in the purest sense possible.

Qi is the substance, or energy, that animates our physical bodies. There are 6 main functions of qi:

  • Transforms food and fluids
  • Transports substances (namely, nutrients from food & fluids, waste material)
  • Holds fluids and blood in vessels
  • Raises organs (keeps organs in their proper position)
  • Protects the body from external pathogens
  • Warms the body (and internal organs)

Qi provides motive force that causes blood and body fluids to circulate; actually, qi travels along with blood and body fluids in the vessels and channels of the body. Additionally, the word qi is used to describe the functional characteristics of the individual organs and the entire body.

So, if your qi is low or deficient you may experience this in more ways than simply feeling tired. When your qi is deficient, your blood and body fluids do not circulate effectively. Possible symptoms, include:

  • A desire to take a nap or get back in bed
  • Uncomfortable, bloated sensation in the abdominal region (from poor digestion)
  • Muddled thinking/fuzzy feeling in the head
  • Poor memory and/or concentration
  • Weakness in the limbs
  • Cold hands & feet, or entire limbs

When qi stagnates, then pain, exhaustion, and difficulty breathing are among the possible outcomes. As stagnation persists, then qi rebels, giving rise to eruptive anger, migraines, nausea and other types of counter-flow of substances.

Healthy and strong qi allows for clear thinking, good memory, healthy blood circulation through the vessels, and efficient digestion (from intake to elimination). In general healthy qi supports our entire body in operating smoothly and effectively. Despite the fact that many of us live busy lives that lead to depleted qi, we are able to replenish qi on a regular basis; it is actually possible to do this daily and hourly.

You see, the building blocks for qi are the food and beverage that we consume, the air we breathe, as well as deep relaxation and rest. When our harried schedules allow little time for enough rest, we must be more dedicated to other avenues of restoring qi. Thus, for overall well-being, it is imperative that we consume wholesome foods and beverages that are easy to digest (examples: lightly steamed fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits, whole grains, protein from clean sources, water, and herbal teas). We must breathe clean air with proper breathing techniques. And before waiting for our bodies to show signs of illness, it is always helpful to receive the wisdom of holistic practitioners (such as myself!) who assist you in keeping a healthful balance in body-mind-spirit-emotions.

May peace be upon you!