What is qi?

What is qi?

Vital Life Force

Nature pulsates with radiant energy. We need this energy like the air we breathe. Without it, our lives become mechanical. This life force is known by many names. Yogis call it prana. Acupuncturist call it qi. And, though spelt slightly different, martial artists also call it chi.

By whichever name, these words all describe the basic energy that runs through all of life. Anodea Judith calls it charge. I like that word. It’s a part of our everyday life. Even the most skeptic among us can relate to it, as in having “a charge” about something.

The Tao can’t be perceived
Smaller than an electron,
it contains uncountable galaxies.

– The Tao Te Ching

To be healthy, qi needs to flow unobstructed through our body. Additionally, we must know how to regulate it. This refers to the ability to calm it down when we have too much and turn it up when we have too little. But most of all, we must cultivate this vital life energy for the deeply human experience of being alive.


All emotion is accompanied by charge. For example, anger is a fiery energy of self-protection that wants to move outward, while sadness is a heavy sensation that tends to move inward. When you’re afraid, you can feel your muscles tightening and your breath constrict. These bodily sensations are linked to emotion, but they are all fueled by charge.

When we block or suppress an emotion – a learned “habit” – we block its charge. This diminishes our life force and creates issues in the body such as back pain, tight shoulders or digestive stress. In a similar way, we can also lose precious energy by expressing too much emotion, discharging it onto a friend, partner, or child. Which can create depletion, overwhelm and exhaustion.

Sometimes chi has a more mental quality. It can bring inspiration or sudden insight. On the flip side, it can be a nagging inner critic or a persistent worry. Generally speaking, chi is neutral. As usual, it is our experience of it that gives it color, temperature and flavor.

Free Flow Energy

When charge becomes blocked, it doesn’t just go away. Instead, it gets locked up in the body, hidden from awareness. If it is repeatedly triggered while simultaneously blocked, it can become embodied. One might experience it as unexplainable fear, doubt, or anxiety. Over time the blocked qi becomes the new normal and the mind turns its attention elsewhere. All it takes is a small trigger, such as being criticized or left out, to bring all that repressed energy up to the surface.

To lead a balanced life, we need to nurture our vital life force. In Mindful Embodied Therapy we use the body to release stuck energy that got locked in the muscles and tendons. You will learn to recognize old patterns and find new ways to manage emotional energy without suppressing it. This is a life skill you take with you wherever you go, empowering you to live freely with ease and grace.

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