The concept of qi (pronounced chee, and also referred to as ki by the Japanese, is the basic foundation of Chinese medicine. Qi cycles through the body in channels or meridians connecting to all of our major organs. Pain and illness arise when the flow of qi is out of balance or blocked. Qi Gong and Tai Qi are exercises practiced to keep qi flowing smoothly and thus promote good health.
The function of qi in the body is to transport, transform, hold, raise, protect and warm. The various organs have different relationships to qi and the direction of its movement.
For instance, stomach qi moves down, if it becomes “rebellious” and moves upward, we have nausea and vomiting. Besides being “rebellious” or flowing in the wrong direction, qi can also become deficient, stagnant, and sinking.
Chinese medicine defines many different forms of qi in the body. Defensive qi (wei qi) flows outside of the meridians, warming and moistening the skin and muscles, protecting the body from environmental factors, regulating sweat and body temperature.
A more dense form is nutritive qi (ying qi), which flows in the blood and the meridians nourishing the internal organs and the whole body.
So what is qi? The basic definition could be “energy” in the way that modern physicists use the term. It is the vital force found throughout the universe and can neither be created nor destroyed. Qi is both ethereal and material, continuously coming together and dispersing to form an infinite number of manifestations, from gas to solid, and from mineral to animal. Qi exists without life, but life cannot exist without qi.