What is Qi?

Qi is the Animating Force and Material of the Universe. It can be particle, wave, energy or matter and is directed by the information it contains. When someone says, “he has good energy” it’s their experience of that person’s Qi, as energy, that they are talking about. In scientific studies of the efficacy of acupuncture, the researchers often use the word “bio-energy” to describe it. In its condensed form, Qi is also matter. Everything you see is made of condensed Qi— so are you, your car, your cat, cell phone, chair, chocolate, plants, even the rocks are Qi. This can seem confusing and hard to wrap your head around so how about a few analogies to aid your understanding? Qi is like water—it can be a vapor in the air and largely invisible but in its condensed form, it is a liquid or a solid, moving or still. Or think of radio waves that are completely invisible to us, but as a form of energy clearly exist and magically, to most of us, are routinely converted into music on our car radio.

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How are Energy and Information Related?

The component we call “information” is often left out of the definition of Qi but it is the information contained in it that determines what form it will take–as an apple or an automobile or something else entirely. For example, an acorn and a sunflower seed are both seeds and with the right conditions will become plants. One has the potential to become a massive oak tree that lives for decades, while the other is much smaller and lives less than a year. It is the “information” in the seeds that determine the size, shape, life-span, color, and other characteristics. Here is another example we have all experienced when we are with other people. The Qi around our bodies extends outward about 3-6 feet (that some call an aura) and we are continuously exchanging information with other people through our personal Qi-fields. This exchange gives us important information about them and we then respond by being openhearted or cautious towards them. Similarly, a walk in a beautiful natural setting can be restorative because we are taking in and exchanging Qi with the harmonious Qi of the environment. The information contained in our own Qi dramatically influences our level of health and wellbeing. If Qi is healthy and filled with positive information, life is harmonious. If it’s stagnant, blocked or filled with negative information, life can be a struggle. Happily, we can adjust our Qi through the practice of Yuan Qigong, which is designed to move it into harmonious balance.

How to Feel Qi

Yuan Qigong exercises gather and nourish Qi, dissolve blockages, and move it through the body with the aim of restoring balance and promoting health. As we become more proficient in Qigong practice, we become more attuned to Qi in its many forms and begin to perceive it in tangible ways. For those who can see it they say it looks a bit like mist. Others may experience it as a sensation like tingling, warmth, or pulsation. Most of us have the ability to sense it already. Would you like to try it? Take a moment to relax. Close your eyes and draw your awareness inside your body. Lengthen your inhalations and exhalations. Take a few slow breaths. You must be calm and relaxed to be able to perceive it. Begin to notice the sense of aliveness in your body. That’s Qi—the sense of aliveness! Or try this: put your hands close together, but not touching. Bring your awareness to the center of your palms and sense the space between them. Can you feel a sensation, perhaps a slight hum or a buzzing? It’s like tuning the dial of a radio to a distant station. You must be patient and totally focused on the task. Move your hands apart an inch or so very slowly and then back. Keep your focus there in a relaxed way. This is the essence of a Qigong exercise we call “Pulling Qi”. This simple exercise is an excellent way to begin to understand and work with Qi and it will help to integrate your mind with your body. Read more about a daily qigong routine.

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About The Author


Janet Brown

North Carolina, USA
Ren Xue has changed my life in both subtle and not so subtle ways. For example, my chronic shoulder and neck pain is gone, I sleep well and wake refreshed, and find I spend more time than ever in a calm and relaxed state. While seemingly small, these changes have dramatically improved my well-being and quality of life. I would love to share the benefits of this wonderful system with you.

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