What Is Qi?

What is Qi (pronounced “chee”)? 

It is typically translated as vital life force energy. Qi is the force that makes up and binds all the things in the universe together.

Qi embraces all manifestations of energy, from the most material aspects of energy with things like the ground on which you stand, the home you live in, your pet, the body you inhabit and the blood coursing through your veins, to the most immaterial aspects such as heat, light, movement, thought, emotion, feelings, energy - many of the things you can not see with the naked eye but do exist. 

In order to further understand the various aspects and manifestations of Qi within a given context, Chinese philosophy employs the concept of yin and yang where everything is seen as a whole and all things are relative and can be understood only in relation to something else. For example, we could not speak of height unless there were both short and tall. One aspect can not exist without the other.

Yin and yang are terms used to describe relative opposite qualities or manifestations of Qi. If yin is material, then yang is immaterial. 

Yin refers to aspects or manifestations of Qi that are relatively material, substantial, contracting, solid, heavy, descending, cold, moist, cooling, dark, passive and inactive. 

Yang refers to aspects or manifestations of Qi that are relatively immaterial, formless, expanding, hollow, light, ascending, hot, dry, warming, bright, aggressive, and active.

Optimally, Qi is in a state of continuous flux, transforming endlessly from one aspect of Qi into another and never stops, just as night turns into day and day into night. Each flows into the other in a never ending cyclical dance. It is neither created nor is it ever destroyed; it simply changes in its manifestation. Our Qi needs to stay in balance in order to maintain good health. A healthy human being is a dynamic but harmonious mixture of all of the aspects of Qi that make up who we are.

We have 3 types of Qi in the body.

  1. Prenatal Qi
  2. Postnatal Qi
  3. Defensive Qi

Prenatal Qi is what we come into this world with. It is inherited from our parents at the time of conception.

Postnatal Qi is what we sustain our life with after birth and comes from the air we breath, the food we eat and the water we drink.

Defensive Qi protects our body from harmful external factors in our environment that could create illness. It flows more exteriorly on the body and not only protects us but helps to nourish, moisten and warm the skin and muscles. It is in charge of opening and closing our pores and regulates sweating, which in turn, helps maintain our body temperature. It's kind of like wearing armour over our physical form and acts as a defensive shield.

If there is an imbalance in our bodily Qi, illness can arise, and should this occur modalities within TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), such as acupuncture, can work to bring the body back in balance and also work to prevent illness from happening in the first place.

So, Qi is energy and energy is you!




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