We each embody an energetic force that powers our aliveness. In Traditional Chinese Medicine that life force energy is called qi. When our qi is in balance, we feel vibrantly unburdened — wellness at its best — but modern life has a way of interrupting that natural equilibrium. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to balance qi.
There’s major buzz right now around the notion of qi (or chi). Qi is another word for energy, but not just energy in the way we simply describe it — it’s the vital life force behind our body’s entire element. Not only do we hold qi internally (both physically and esoterically), but the environment around us holds it as well. According to Chinese medicine, qi is what holds the mass and matter of all things together. It’s the area between the empty spaces, the life behind the force and the movement behind our mind, body and soul.
Qi has many functions, responsibilities and purposes within our body and environment. And with a little help, we also have the tools to keep it balanced and maintained. Here is how to balance qi…
Qi Out of Balance
The term yin/yang is perfect to explain the necessity of balance. We need a little bit of light within dark to see the darkness, and we need dark with light to notice the light. There is a very precise balance at play that is maintained to keep clarity. And the same goes with our body.
To maintain good health, we need proper flow of qi. If there is an imbalance, this is when we start experiencing illness and discomfort. As practitioners of Chinese medicine, first we look to see if the qi is in excess mode or deficient mode. Next we follow with further inspection (checking tongue and pulse) and symptomology questions to discover exactly what is deficient and/or in excess. Then we use the tools of Chinese medicine: acupuncture, herbs and cupping to balance the body.
Qi Deficiency | Low energy or fatigue is the primary symptom of energy deficiency. But deficiency can also be internal. Qi deficiency can affect specific organs or the body as a whole, causing different symptoms. It is primarily caused by poor food choices, daily activities that are too draining, poor sleep, not enough rest and mental and physical stress. These may present as: fatigue, shortness of breath or no desire to speak, spontaneous sweating, swollen tongue (with teeth marks on side) and/or a weak pulse.
Excess QI | Excess qi is the build up of energy — especially when the body is having trouble digesting the overabundance of energy. This can be physical with blood (such as high blood pressure) or it can be emotional and mental (as with stress). The problem with excessive energy? The body doesn’t have the proper tools to work through this extra. It may stem from environmental toxins, excessive or not enough physical activity, overeating, stress, strong negative emotions, poor sleep and more.
To understand how deficiency and excess affects the body, I’ll review a detailed description of the different types and responsibilities of qi. Again, in Chinese medicine, each organ has its own responsibilities for building qi.
The Four Types Of Qi
Parental Qi | The qi inherited from our parents at conception. After conception occurs, parental qi is stored in the kidneys.
How to Balance Excess: Kidney energy cant be excess because we come into the world with the appropriate amount of energy.
How to Balance Deficiency: to balance deficiency, there needs to be practice of moderation. Avoiding energy surges from too much caffeine. Also, not working out too much and making sure you have plenty of time for rest and sleep are key too.
Pectoral Qi | Produced by breathing, it is stored in the chest area (lungs, heart and pericardium).
How to Balance Excess: Practices like acupuncture, meditation, deep breathing help relax the lungs. Keeping our stress levels balanced is important here too.
How to Balance Deficiency: Make sure you’re eating enough proper nourishing foods. Also, having a enough rest and play is key too.
Nutritional qi | Derived from eating foods and is responsible for the circulation nutrition throughout the body.
How to Balance Excess: Removing excessive fats, greasy foods and sugar from diet is key. Also, avoiding too much raw and cold foods help too.
How to Balance Deficiency: Eat warming nourishing foods from the beginning of the day is key here.
Defensive qi | Responsible for protecting the body from illnesses, it comes from nutritional qi (from eating foods) but helps our pores open and shut at the proper times to avoid illness entering our bodies.
How to Balance Excess: Defensive Qi is basically the energy within your pours allowing for proper sweat release. Make sure you’re in an open space when exerting energy to ensure you don’t catch someone else’s release
How to Balance Deficiency: Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the environment around you, keeping the back of your neck, midriff and low back covered.
The Functions Of Qi
Actuation | Qi is responsible for maintaining the vital life energy necessary for the body to grow and develop properly. This includes all the body’s functions (such as the organs and blood). If there is a qi deficiency, then the functional entities and vital substances will be negatively impacted, causing illness.
Warm | Qi helps produce heat and regulates body temperature for normal functions to occur. A deficiency in qi can result in a lowered body temperature and cold limbs. A means to combat this is consuming hot drinks.
Defend | Qi defends the body against the environment (such as viruses, bacteria and other elements floating around) which cause illness.
Contain | Qi is responsible for making sure the body’s organs and vessels keep fluids in their proper place. Qi is responsible for regulating blood flow and securing vessels from leaking. Qi also regulates body fluids (sweat and saliva) and ensures proper release through pores. Qi deficiency can cause body fluid and organ problems.
Transform | Qi is also responsible for transforming food into proper nutrition and air into the different needs of qi, such as blood and energy.
In addition to all the incredible aspect of qi, it also assists with blood flow, which holds our emotions. Chinese medicine teaches us that blood holds our emotions — so to keep us from feeling the stress and anxiety of life, qi needs to properly flow through the bloodstream. When this occurs we won’t produce excess emotion.
Qi is the basis of all life, and it’s what Chinese traditional medicine practitioners and acupuncturists primarily review before we diagnose what is happening with internal body fluids, blood, organs and emotions. Diagnosing proper qi patterns leads us in the right direction, creating a true shift that may be missed by so many doctors and primary care physicians. We are all truly unique. Each of us and our bodies, what we are going through and what we need to fix are all very unique.