Qi (pronounced chee and sometimes spelled as Chi) is everywhere. The simplest description is that Qi is a type of energy. This energy exists in all things, in different forms. In general, Qi serves to hold matter together (as in molecules and cells), give it motion or growth, and gives objects their characteristic “intrinsic nature”. For example, we could say the ocean waves crashing on the beach have a certain type of Qi. The wind blowing through your hair also has a characteristic Qi as well.

However, these basic examples do not fully illustrate the importance of what Qi really is. Qi gives motion, growth, warmth, protection and nourishment. Sound familiar? These are the basic ideas of what life is – that is to say, living organisms of all types require nourishment, and exhibit growth and often motion as well. Living things have systems in place to protect themselves in order to continue living. So, perhaps a better working definition of Qi is the life force or vital energy.



  1. The strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity.
  2. A feeling of possessing such strength and vitality.

Indeed, when our bodies are full of abundant Qi, we feel strong and vital, and we do not get sick easily.

But where does this energy come from? The traditional view is that Qi comes from “Heaven” and “Earth” and is also produced within our bodies. Put simply, the “Heavenly Qi” is the breath and air, and the “Earthly Qi” is comprised of the substances that nourish us, like food and water. The Qi of breathing and nourishment combine together in the body to create more Qi that protects us from illness and injury, maintains our body temperature, keeps our organs functioning properly and gives us the vitality to get through the day.

Blocked Qi creates pain and disharmony in the body

An ancient adage most acupuncturists adhere to is simple yet elegant and effective: “When the Qi is blocked, pain follows. Restore the flow of Qi and the pain goes away.” This idea is simple but a profound tenet of acupuncture. The traditional Chinese view of how Qi flows in the body is through a network of invisible vessels commonly referred to as meridians or channels. Just as water pressure builds when a garden hose is kinked, reducing the flow to a mere trickle, injury, inflammation and excess tension in the body function in a similar manner, ultimately obstructing the flow of Qi that should be nourishing and keeping the organs and tissues healthy. Acupuncture helps to “un-kink” the obstructed meridians and restore proper, harmonious flow of vital energy in the body.

While we could continue on to describe the myriad forms of Qi, suffice to say it is a concept that is central to understanding the Chinese medicine approach to health. It has been said the best things in life cannot be bought or sold. Indeed, Qi cannot be found for sale at a store, it can only be cultivated by living in harmony with nature, exercising regularly, breathing clean, fresh air, and eating wholesome foods. With this understanding, abundant health is possible for all of us, regardless of age, economic background or education level – it is truly the level playing field of life whereupon we have an equal chance to live happy, productive and healthy lives!