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What is more important than your health? The answer to this question is straightforward, we all have one life on this earth; no one has spare lives. So clearly, taking care of ourselves should be of utmost importance.
I am often asked the question, “What is the key to optimal health?”
According to Traditional Oriental Medicine, the fundamental principle of health roots within the understanding of Qi (also known as chi or ki), or “vital energy.” On the basic level, everything in the universe stems from qi, and the ultimate goal for any living thing in the universe is to accumulate an abundance and free flow of Qi.
Qi has always been one of my favorite topics; when explained clearly, it allows people to achieve an A-HA moment. Regardless of a person’s existing perspectives, understanding of health, or beliefs about the universe, free-flowing Qi remains a principle of health. This means that irrespective of the medical system discussed—western, Traditional Oriental Medicine, Ayurveda, and so on—the concept of Qi can be applied and validated. It is an underlying principle that does not change based on circumstance.
Centuries ago we, human beings began to understand the mind and body by observing the nature that surrounded them. We watched as the rivers flowed through the land, we observed day turn into night, we studied how animals interacted with each other and with nature. During this time we began to realize that these same fundamental principles could apply to the understanding of our mind and bodies.
Some of the macro properties of the universe mimic the micro functions within our body. For example, just as planets orbit the sun, the protons and electrons orbit the nucleus within the atoms that form the cells in our bodies. We connect to our environments in more ways then most of us tend to consider on a regular basis. The energy or Qi that allows things in our world to be in motion is the same Qi that exists within living beings that allows life to exist. Our bodies are vessels for Qi. That Qi allows us to walk, talk, and blink, but also allows our organs to function, our muscles to grow and our brains to think.
There are some methods that we can utilize to build the level of Qi within our bodies. The Ancient Masters of the East, understood the concept of consuming Qi-rich foods, such as herbs from the surrounding environment, as well as partaking in specific practices, such as Qi Gong (aka Qi Gong) or Yoga, for example.
However, acquiring an abundance of Qi is only one part of the process. The free flow of Qi is just as imperative. Without diving too deep into medical theory, I’ll touch on the concept of blockages. Blockages can occur in the body due to things like injury, infection, and illness, but for purposes of this discussion, blockages can also occur as a result of the constant environmental forces that work against us–pollution, germs, stress, chemicals, to name a few.
An analogy that I like to use when I talk to groups is that Qi is similar to that of a river. It provides a nice visual. So, we have these river systems carrying Qi throughout our bodies, and over time, at a narrow point in the river, some sticks and branches might start to get caught along the river bank. Over time, more debris gets caught in those sticks, and a dam begins to form. On one side of the barrier, an abundance starts to accumulate, which may become stagnant. A deficiency transpires both of which speed the process of aging and lead to disparities in our condition. There is no longer free-flowing Qi, and an imbalance occurs.
An imbalance is the root of any adverse situation, but we will save that topic for a future discussion.
When Qi is deficient, or blockages exist, it will negatively affect health and may also affect other areas of daily life, such as mood, confidence, focus, enthusiasm, and productivity. When Qi is abundant and free-flowing, it creates an immediate positive cycle.
Balanced Qi leads to increased strength, increased strength leads to increased oxygen, increased oxygen leads to better circulation, and better flow opens the channels (meridians) of the mind and body. Balanced meridians lead to a balanced level of Qi.
This positive cycle effectively brings nutrition to organs and the skin with efficiency, thereby promoting ultimate health, youthfulness, and longevity.
So, as we can see, it pays to have lots of free-flowing Qi. If you become aware of Qi within your body, you will take the time to listen to your body. Of course, you know when you are hungry, but if you look to your body, it may tell you that it wants a particular type of food—a leafy green or some iron-rich meat. Listening may be what it seeks to get through a blockage that is forming. It may tell you that you need to sleep or go for a run to get your blood and Qi moving.
Once you become aware of the Qi within your body, it opens up new realms of understanding, such as the Qi of the environment around you—within the communication between a group of people or a geographical climate.
As you can see, there are multiple layers to the discussion about Qi, but I hope that in the immediate term, you may have gained some insight into the way Qi works within your being. Understanding Qi helps you become aware of what your body is communicating to you (the “mind-body connection”—also for a future discussion), so that you may live a long and fruitful life of well-being.
So in short, just remember…qi is the key.