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Qi – The energy of life

The Chinese term qi (pronounced chee) refers to universal life energy. This energy has been investigated and written about by most cultures in the world. The Japanese call it ki, the Indians call it prana, the Greeks pneuma and so on. But what is it?

Qi is an energy that surrounds, permeates and sustains every living thing. All movement and energy in the universe can be thought of as manifestations of qi from the burning of stars to the flight of a hawk qi is at work everywhere you look.

All living things are made of several layers of energy. The body that you can see and feel is the most dense field we can see it easily as it falls well within our visible spectrum and we can also feel its denseness.

There is another field which extends beyond the physical body and it is possible for you to feel this field too with little or no training and a few people can see this field as well. We often refer to this field as our aura. It does exist, it has been measured and photographed and known about for millennia.

Many people don’t believe this energy exists – that is they don’t believe it until they feel it for themselves. That is the only way you can be sure. You can see photos or videos but we all know they are easily faked. What can’t be faked is the feeling that qi gives you.

Feel your own energy

Try this now. Bring your hands in front of you around six inches to a foot apart. Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed and focus on that space between your hands.

If at first you don’t feel anything move them slowly towards each other and apart until you can feel some energy between your hands. Look for the following sensations:

  • Tingling feeling like pins and needles
  • Warmth or cold feeling
  • Magnetic pressure like feeling

Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything at first. The hands tend to be the most sensitive part of your body to feel energy but there are several reasons why you may struggle to start with. These include:

You are too tense. Energy finds it hard to move through tight muscles. The gentle movements of tai chi open the joints and allow a stronger energy flow.

You’re not breathing fully. Good breathing habits are so important for your mental and physical health. A relaxed but powerful breath also boosts your energy field so you can feel it more easily.

You don’t know what to feel for. To begin with the feelings are quite subtle. The more you can relax the more you can feel. The very act of trying to feel this energy will create relaxation in your arms and shoulders.

You’re not focused. If your mind is endlessly bouncing from one thought to the next it’s hard to feel the flow of energy. You are using your monkey mind instead of your eagle mind.

The Chinese practices of Tai chi and Qigong teach you to relax your upper body and drop your tensions downwards. They encourage a full breath and teach you to be more aware of what is going on inside your body.

As you start to become more aware of your energy you will find you can draw energy from almost any source. The biggest source available to us is the earth we’re standing on. Relax your arms and hands down and imagine drawing energy up through your fingertips so it goes up your arms as you breathe in then back down again into the earth as you breathe out. Then try doing the same drawing it up and down your legs – this is not quite so easy as your legs hold tension from supporting your body.

The Chinese equate good health with a strong flow of energy around the body. Any blockages or places where the energy doesn’t flow fully often manifest as physical symptoms. Chinese medicine revitalises the energy and clears these blockages using a variety of modalities including herbs, acupuncture and qigong.

When you start to look for it you see the play of energy all around you. In romantic relationships each person gives their partner energy by giving them their love and attention. One or both parties can become addicted to this loving and powerful energy they are receiving. They may come to rely on it as their main source of energy. If the relationship breaks down they’ve not only lost a companion but their biggest source of energy. This can make them feel low for a long time after until they learn to generate their own energy and survive on their own again.

Energy expresses itself through yin and yang. The more difference there is between those two polarities the stronger the flow of energy. Try to become more aware of the flow of energy inside you and all around you. Without it life is flat and two dimensional. For me an abundance of energy is almost synonymous with happiness. When you’re happy the energy flows out of you and everyone around can see and feel it. When you’re down it’s another story. You don’t have enough to even motivate you to do the most basic things.

A big part of regaining your energy lies in the way you breathe. But that’s another story.

Find out more about how to develop your own energy through the tai chi classes I run.

You might be interested in …

  • Work on your posture and breathing while you walk
  • Walk freely with more balance and less tension
  • Become more aware of yourself and your surroundings
  • Make every walk a richer and more enjoyable experience

Plus – get our popular weekly email full of rare tips and skills on using the deeper principles of tai chi to improve your health and life.

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