Is Qi for Real?
Written by Lexie Bennetts, Licensed Acupuncturist and Owner, Calm Spirit Acupuncture and Massage.
Qi (pronounced “chee”) or human body energy is not something that is tangible or measurable–which leads many skeptics to question its existence. Some recent scientific studies have successfully imaged what is believed to be Qi or a body’s energy. New research where thermal cameras were used to image the body’s heat signature, images of the sinuses and lower back were taken showing abnormal hot and cold areas. The images were repeated after acupuncture and the temperature of the area was normalized. Science is trying to come up with more tangible or measurable proof of the body’s Qi and they are getting closer all the time. MRIs or CT scans show that when acupuncture is done, the brain changes. One famous study using a CT of the brain showed the occipital lobe light up when a needle was placed at the corner of the nail of the little toe. Scientists could not explain this based on neurology, but acupuncturists have long known that this point is good for the eyes. CT scans also show that when treated for pain by acupuncture, a patient’s pain areas in the brain change. Brain scans of meditating patients are very similar to patients having acupuncture.
Chinese medicine explains Qi as “energy on the verge of being matter; it is the bodies life force, it is what moves our blood through our body, it is what regulates our temperature”. When acupuncture or even acupressure is done, the needles or pressure on particular areas of the body stimulate the body’s energy to move the Qi in a certain way. One comparison or explanation I’ve heard is comparing the flow of energy in our body to electricity flowing through the wires in a building. Acupuncture points are like the switches on the wall that regulate current by turning lights on, off or dimming them.
Not only do we each have our own Qi or life force but everyone’s Qi is also connected to and influenced by each other’s energy. It has been known for thousands of years that when women spend a lot of time together their menstrual cycles get synchronized. This phenomenon is still unexplained by western medicine and today’s technology, and I believe this is one obvious sign that energy between each other is connected. Have you ever noticed when you meet someone you tune in to their energy and sometimes “align with it or feel repelled by it”? I believe we feel Qi all the time but in our western culture but we do not explain it as Qi. Instead we describe it as pain or tingling or numbness or a weird feeling…
One of the first times I really felt my own Qi was when I had ridden my bike in the cold and I got a terrible neck ache the night after my ride. The pain was awful for three days. The next day I had an acupuncture treatment. During the treatment my whole right arm and hand began to ache and feel cold. When the acupuncturist came in to ask how I was doing, I told him how I felt and he said “Good! That stuck Qi is moving”. At the end of the treatment my neck was so much better and I was blown away by the difference. I believe as we tune into our bodies and get connected with how we feel, we can notice our own Qi regularly. One simple technique I use is when I first wake and am still in bed or when I go to bed at night before going to sleep is to close my eyes and just do a scan of my body. I do a quick “check in” for what I am really feeling both physically and mentally from head to toe. Then, I get up and stretch and visualize breathing good energy into those specific areas that need better Qi movement.
Yin Lo, PhD, has written on the existence of Qi and other topics in Chinese Medicine. Visit https://acupuncturetoday.com to read his writings.
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