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What is Qi?

Also referred to as Chi, Qi has Many Meanings.


One meaning of Chi that is central to Taoist philosophy and practice is qi as life-force -- that which animates the forms of the world. It is the vibratory nature of phenomena - the flow and movement that is happening continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels.

The Japanese refer to is as “ki,” and in India, “prana” or “shakti.” The ancient Egyptians referred to it as “ka,” and the ancient Greeks as “pneuma.” For Native Americans it is the “Great Spirit” and for Christians, the “Holy Spirit.” In Africa it’s known as “ashe” and in Hawaii as “ha” or “mana.”

"In China, the understanding of qi is inherent in the very language. For instance: The literal translation of the Chinese character meaning “health” is “original qi.” The literal translation of the character for “vitality” is “high quality qi.” The literal translation of the character meaning “friendly” is “peaceful qi."'


- The Taoist Guide, Elizabeth Reninger


In any case, Qi is instrumental to our very survival, the cultivation and increase of which can help to heal our bodies, our emotions, and sustain us well into our golden years!

Balanced & Free-Flowing Qi Equals Health

A fundamental insight of Chinese Medical Theory is that balanced and free-flowing qi results in health and vitality; while stagnant or imbalanced qi leads to emotional, physical and spiritual diseases.

Chinese medicine healers diagnoses energetic imbalances, and work to re-establish free-flowing qi in the human body; the goal is to establish a more open flow of energy in the body and particular area of injury or disease.

Qi Gong Training: Feeling the Qi

The ability to see and feel Qi can be cultivated over time. The capacity to perceive the flow of qi directly is cultivated through training in Qigong or Tai Chi.

Qi Gong is the art of using breathwork, imagery, and gentle exercises to increase one's Qi as well as to restore proper qi flow within the body.

These practices are wonderful supplements to any health care regimen, as they have a strong impact on aiding in the restoration of the body's energy levels.

As we practice qigong we cultivate the capacity to perceive Qi at all of these different levels – physically, emotionally, and spiritually--to feel ourselves and our world as fluid, and as spacious; as well as the areas that are unmoving, or blocked...often referred to as 'stagnant Qi' verses 'flowing Qi'.

As we become more adept in this way, we become aware and can directly feel the vibratory nature of all things. Not only do we experience our bodies as being comprised of flows of qi, but also come to understand that “emotions” and “thoughts” are also forms of energy.

Once this level of understanding and feeling takes root, we are excited to find that all things are possible and we begin to manifest our reality as the highest expression of our true natures, in health, balance, and harmony.

For some people, is comes more naturally than for others. But even if it’s not consciously cultivated or acknowledged, most of us have an innate awareness of Qi. For instance, We usually know when someone has a 'positive vibe' and 'terrific energy” as well as someone from whom we feel a “bad vibe or who may be sick and tired and have 'low energy.'”

How often have you entered a room and noticed immediately whether the atmosphere seemed relaxed and uplifted, or tense and heavy? To the extent that we notice such things, we are tuning into the level of qi in our surroundings.

Many Different Kinds of Qi

"Within the human body there is the qi that we’re born with, called Yuan qi, or ancestral qi. The qi that we absorb during our lives from food, water, air and qigong practice is called Hou tain qi or post-natal qi. The qi that flows at the surface of the body, as a protective sheathe, is called Wei qi or protective qi.


Each internal organ also has its own qi/life-force, e.g. Spleen-qi, Lung-qi, Kidney-qi. According to Taoism, the two most fundamental forms of qi are Yin-qi and Yang-qi -- the primordial feminine and masculine energies. Many qigong practices utilize Heaven qi and Earth qi, as well as the qi that emanates specifically from trees, flowers, lakes and mountains.

- Excerpt from: The Taoism Guide, Elizabeth Reninger

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