What is this thing called Qi?

The next workshop is called The Healing Promise of Qi and is based on Roger Jahnke’s book of that name. However, in order to use qi as a healing tool it helps to understand a little bit about it.

What is Qi?

We can think of qi as a life force – an energy, the vibratory nature of phenomena. You can’t touch it but you can feel it. It is working continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels and is recognised by many ancient cultures under different names, such as ‘prana’ or ‘Great Spirit’.

The Three Treasures

Qi is one of the Three Treasures (San Bao) along with Jing, or Essence and Shen, which is similar to what we call the Mind and Spirit. The Mind-Spirit is a combination of Jing and Qi, so we can see the reason for the maxim ‘A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body.’

Where is Qi?

Like the song, qi is all around us, in heaven and earth, trees, flowers and water, as well as the meridians in our bodies. Thus there are different kinds of qi. We are born with Yuan Qi, which is inherited from our ancestors. Then we absorb postnatal qi from food, water and the environment. There is wei qi, which is protective qi that flows at the surface of the body and each organ has its own qi. According to daoist cosmology, the two most fundamental forms are yin qi and yang qi, the primordial feminine and masculine energies.

How does it work?

“Contemporary biophysics and new era cell biology are confirming much of what the ancients Daoist investigators of Qi seemed to intuit. We know that the universe is alive and dynamic with various forces including gravity, cosmic rays and the energetic frequencies of the sun. In qigong theory  a profound force enters the human system from the universe – heaven energy – and an equally potent and subtle force enters the human body from the earth, which we know is a huge magnet – earth energy…. The resources of heaven gather in the qi reservoir of the head and influence particularly the upper body. The resources of earth gather in the lower belly reservoir and influence the lower body.

“The heaven and earth link together through what is called the Central Taiji Channel… The connection of heaven and earth in the human system, through the Central Taiji Channel, parallels the vertebral column and the central flow of blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid and neurological activity.”1

Qi naturally flows through the meridians, nourishing and balancing. Like water in a pipe, if it becomes blocked, qi becomes stagnant and leads to swelling, pain and ill health: or, if there is insufficient supply, the body becomes weak and open to attack by bacteria and viruses.

Like a feng shui practitioner, we can recognise when something is not working smoothly and try to remedy it. This can be accomplished through acupuncture points using needles, cups or hand pressure but we can also use simple specific exercises to work on these points and to ensure a good nourishing flow of healthy qi. You can practise these qi gong exercises or energy work exercises at any time for health maintenance. You don’t have to wait until you’re ill!

The first part of the exercises associated with Roger’s Qigong form involve finding qi in our own bodies, becoming aware of the qi in the environment and gathering heaven and earth qi to send through the body.

The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke.

 

Silk Reeling Practise

Our next workshop will be based on the Ten Principles of taiji and qigong, first mentioned in The Canon of Taiji Chuan.

I studied these with the inspiring Barry McGinlay of the Tai Chi Life School at Tai Chi Caledonia one year. Like most worthwhile exercises, they are easy to say, but not so easy to do. It’s all very well listing the ten principles and talking about them but how do you practise them in a workshop? 

Since they are very much about linking upper and lower, inner and outer and so on, what we need are simple exercises that use the whole body. We want to be able to feel the way energy moves from the earth, through bubbling spring (yong quan) in the foot, up the legs, through the waist, up and through to the fingers. We repeat these exercises (as) many times (as you wish) so that you can explore the effect we are concentrating on.

If you already practise taiji, you already know a number of suitable exercises, such as brush knee twist step and fair lady works the shuttle. In the workshop, I’ll be offering silk reeling exercises.

Silk was and still is an important product in the Chinese economy. The silkworm larva wraps itself in a cocoon. To obtain silk from the cocoon, it has to be drawn out or reeled out extremely carefully. The action must be smooth and consistent without jerking or changing direction sharply. If you go too fast, the silk thread becomes too thin and breaks. If you pull too slowly, it sticks to itself and becomes tangled and lumpy. Thus, silk reeling is a highly skilled art. The movements are continuous, cyclic, spiralling and performed at constant speed – exactly what we are looking for in a taiji exercise.

Silk reeling can be practised single or double handed, solo and with a partner. The movements trace a taijitu (yinyang symbol) pattern using the waist while shifting the weight from leg to leg.

It’s a very popular exercise in Chen style taiji and I also spent a week at Caledonia with Master Wang Hai Jun, who makes them look wonderfully elegant and effortless. If you want to do some homework in advance, here’s a link.