Chi Energy: The Life Force of the Oriental World

June 4, 2020
Chi energy is defined as a vital force that flows constantly through our bodies, and if it's blocked or altered, then it leads to disease. For the Orientals, only if the body is kept healthy, can the mind evolve.

Many of us, if not most, have seen the spectacle of a martial arts specialist striking a hard rock with his bare hands and breaking it in two. Their hands are undamaged, but the rock is smashed! It seems to be completely impossible and beyond all comprehension. The answer, according to the Orientals, lies in Chi energy, a Taoist concept from centuries past.

Not only martial arts specialists work with Chi; traditional Chinese doctors do so as well. It’s defined as a life force that you can concentrate, release, and allow to flow, as desired. It’s roughly equivalent to what we call “energy” in the West.

Chi, this life-giving force, governs everything, according to the Orientals. The objective of different oriental practices, such as tai chi, acupuncture, and reiki, among others, is to facilitate the free flow of chi, or to reconcentrate it with a specific purpose.Some people doing Tai Chi.

The principles of chi

It’s believed that, in the East, people began to speak of chi energy some 4,000 years ago. Since then, people have believed that this life force circulates through the body in rivers. Chinese medicine calls these rivers “meridians”.

Orientals believe that the way to make chi flow is through breathing and meditation. They believe that, by breathing properly, people synchronize themselves with the rhythm of the cosmos. And, by meditating, they say that’s it’s easier for the life force to break its stillness and stagnation and start to flow through the body and mind.

Over time, Orientals decided that not only breathing and meditation helped the flow of life energy. They also started to include movement as a means of balancing and harmonizing chi.

However, it wasn’t just any movement, but rather specific ones that they grouped into what we now know as tai chi or chi-kung.

Types of chi

For the Orientals, this vital energy is distributed throughout different areas of the body, including the most remote areas. However, it’s mainly concentrated in the kidneys, they say, and, from there, it makes health and life possible. In addition to that, they also believe it’s present outside of the body.

There are different types of this vital energy:

  • Zhong qi. This is the type of energy that comes from breathing and is considered to be the fuel that the whole body needs to function. Oxygen is its engine and influences the functioning of the muscles, organs, hearing, and voice.
  • Taste chi. This energy is supposed to come from the earth and all the processes that take place to absorb nutrients. This chi is inseparable from the blood. The taste of each food defines which organ it will benefit: spicy/lungs; acid/liver; sweet/spleen; bitter/heart; salty/kidney.
  • Wei chi. This is said to come from the Chi of food and to protect against infection, lubricate the skin and hair, although, of course, there’s no evidence to back this up.
A woman with closed eyes.

The function of chi energy

For Orientals, the health of the mind is inseparable from the health of the body. An imbalance in one of the two aspects immediately affects the other.

Chi flows to keep a person alive and healthy, as well as to restore balance and prevent the body and mind from weakening or deteriorating.

The first sign that chi isn’t circulating properly is the excessive production of liquids: urine or sweat. From their perspective, illness is believed to be a sign that this life force isn’t flowing as it should.

The way to regain balance, they say, is through meditation, breathing, the application of pressure on certain parts of the body (through acupuncture or massages), and the practice of tai chi.

This flow of life energy also depends on the spiritual dimension. From an emotional point of view, the first thing one seeks is to enter a state of calm. The quietness of mind is a way to re-establish energy balance. They strive to have a healthy body so that it won’t be an obstacle for their minds to be free and to evolve.

There are practices that allow people to concentrate the chi energy in a specific area of the body. In martial arts, they do this mainly in the hands, arms, and legs. And that’s how the Orientals explain a seemingly weak person being able to break a rock or make jumps almost against the laws of gravity.

Maratea, A., Franco, A., & Jáuregui, S. (2013). El Chi o energía vital.