Qi (pronounced Chee) is a Chinese word that is usually translated as energy. Qi is the body’s motivating energy. Qi enlivens the body and mind. It is the energy and information that maintains each of us as a unique and complex system that lives in balance with the people and world around us. To be healthy we need sufficient Qi, it needs to be flowing smoothly around every part of our body, and it needs to be in balance across all aspects and systems of our body and mind. If you have got to that place where you just can’t summon up any energy, where you frequently catch infections, and where nothing fills you with enthusiasm, then it is likely that your Qi needs strengthening. Acupuncture, alongside rest and good food, is a great way of building that Qi back up.
The classics of Chinese medicine, written around two thousand years ago, explain that one sort of Qi, ‘original Qi’, is what is transmitted from our parents at conception. This is part of our inherited constitution. In addition, Qi is made from the food that we eat and the air that we breathe. This production of Qi depends on a clear flow of Qi and blood round the body. It will be reduced if there is too much physical or mental strain on the body and mind, and it will be disrupted by strong emotional stress – such as anger, grief, fear and sadness. This is one reason why I enquire about your past and present life in its broadest sense. By discussing these issues, we may be able to find things you can do to support the acupuncture treatment and make quicker and more sustainable improvements in your energy levels.
Often, Qi is weak in one particular system or meridian. For example, it may be mainly Spleen and Stomach Qi that is weak – a weakness in the Earth Element. Although the Chinese concept of Spleen and Stomach is not the same as Western medicine, they are the meridians that are concerned with the digestion of food. Consequently, an insufficiency of Spleen and Stomach Qi may give digestive and bowel symptoms as well as general exhaustion. What is interesting about Chinese medicine is that each meridian has a wide range of connections and influences. So a weakness in the Spleen and Stomach meridians may also give rise to blood problems such as easy bruising or heavy periods and give rise to the type of worrying which we call ‘overthinking’.
Another aspect of Qi deficiency is whether it upsets the balance between Yin and Yang. If the weakness is mainly in the Yang aspect, then the lack of energy will be associated with feeling slow, heavy and cold – a desire to snuggle down under the blankets and stay there! Yang energy is especially drained by excessive physical work or over exercising. If it is more a lack of Yin energy, then it may be more of a feeling of ‘running on empty’, with some agitation and hot night sweats. This may be linked to long hours of mental work or strain. Taking brief breaks from this type of work is very important to recharge your Yin.
As we come to understand more about our Qi we will be able to do more ourselves to keep it strong and balanced. During acupuncture treatment it is likely that you will become more aware of your Qi, and of how it feels when it becomes stronger. It is often difficult to make the changes in our lives that we need to, but even small changes can make a difference. And acupuncture is always there for times when your Qi needs that extra boost.