Most people have at least HEARD of the word Qi, and many are now associating it with energy (a loose translation), but do you know that there are several types of Qi in Oriental Medicine, and that they have specific jobs? Qi is fundamental to Asian medical thinking. Ted Kaptchuk, OMD, in his book, “The Web That Has No Weaver” (which I highly recommend) explains it this way, “..we can perhaps think of Qi as matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy at the point of materializing.” Matter is energy frozen in light. So, let’s distinguish, in this blog, the different forms of Qi, and what their purpose is.
Chinese medicine (or Oriental/Asian medicine) refers to all Qi of the body as Zheng Qi (Normal), or Zhen Qi (True). This is what it is called before it becomes the other types of Qis in the body, with specific functions. A comparison could be that when you were in utero, the cells that begin the process of creating you have not yet deciphered what they will become, i.e. heart cells, stomach cells, skin cells, etc. There are three sources of Zheng Qi; Yuan Qi (Original/Prenatal), which is in part responsible for your inherited constitution, Gu Qi (Grain), derived from the foods you eat – and only good foods can create this Qi, and Kong Qi (Air) which is taken from the air we breathe in. The combining of these three Qis create the Normal Qi, and it permeates the entire body.
What are the functions of Qi?
As I stated above, there are several divisions that take place with Zheng Qi, creating the specific Qis, with specific functions. Zheng Qi is referred to as the Qi of the body that everyone refers to when they are talking about Qi. Qi is in constant movement and ascends, descends, enters, and leaves the body. It is inseparable from movement. There are five major functions of this Qi within your body.
1. It is the source of all movement in the body, and accompanies all movement. Sometimes this can be a hard concept to follow, but an example could be your Blood. Blood is a substance that will just lie there if it does not have Qi to push it along. Blood and Qi cannot be separated; Blood nourishes Qi, and Qi moves Blood. The development of your body happens because Qi is there to move that development along. Qi expands with the growth of your body. Qi is harmonious in Nature, but when it is blocked, it creates disharmony, or stagnation.
2. Qi protects the body. When it is healthy (harmonious, and in balance), it protects us from external influences (which we call EPIs – External Pernicious Influences), and combats them if they do enter. They will only enter if our Qi is weak. You know that when your resistance is low, you will get sick.
3. Qi is the source of transformation in our body. Remember that I said ‘good foods’? You cannot eat junk food and expect good Qi to come from it. It can only be created from good foods (bad foods are simply eliminated). It combines with the Air Qi to create other substances, like Blood, sweat, and tears (how’s that for a classic!), and urine.
4. Qi governs the body’s Substances and Organs, and keeps them in place. Basically, without that function, everything would fall out, or prolapse.
5. Qi keeps the body warm. This is your body heat.
I hope that this helps you understand what is referred to as your Qi.