Chinese medicine theorizes that meridians conduct energy,
or chi (or 'qi' pronounced "chee") throughout the
Tai Chi may be regarded as a Traditional Chinese medicine
practice along with acupuncture, herbs, diet, massage etc.
as meditative physical exercise intended to promote or improve
the flow of chi.
Chi is believed to regulate spiritual, emotional, mental,
and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing
forces of yin and yang.
When yin and yang are balanced, they work together with the
natural flow of chi to help the body achieve and maintain
Chi passes through the body following invisible pathways,
or channels, called Meridians (Chinese: Jingluo). Jing means
"channels" and Luo means "collateral".
Traditional Chinese medicine identifies 20 of these 'pathways'
along which of chi or vital energy may 'flow' or circulate
through to all parts of the body.
The 8 primary or main meridians are those which pass through
the five pairs of vital organs.
These are the lung and large intestine; the stomach and spleen/pancreas;
the heart and small intestine; the bladder and kidneys; the
gall bladder and liver.
12 Secondary meridians 'network' to extremities and limbs
such as ears, arms, feet etc.
Chi 'flows' from one meridian to the next in a continuous
loop or circuit.
The lung meridian ends close to where the large intestine
meridian starts; and where the large intestine meridian finishes
the stomach meridian begins, and so on.
The Yin and Yang meridians are the two most important or
central. These orbit north to south along the midline of the
body. The yin meridians are in the front (anterior trunk)
and inside body surfaces; whilst the yang meridians are in
the back (posterior trunk) and outside body surfaces.
The action of chi is often associated with electrical and
magnetic effects, which seem to be side-effects rather than
the main active principles.
Electricity comes to us both as: 1) high voltage, low current
energy - as with high voltage cable lines where electricity
travels for miles with little power expenditure; and 2) as
low voltage, high current house energy - which can turn an
electric fire element red-hot almost instantly. Chi therefore
may also manifest in different "currents" and "voltages".
The "low voltage, high current" type has much stronger
physical effects than the "high voltage, low current"
type. This second type is considered to be much more ethereal
in nature and linked with pure spirit and transcendent experiences.
So, as well as the task of accumulating the chi, there is
also the process of refining it by raising its "voltage
/ current" and establishing connections to more expanded,
penetrative levels of consciousness.
Chi can be developed , and directed around the body, through
the conscious (intention) linking of breathing and physical
This is often first felt in the hands as warmth, tingling
and heaviness. With further practice the chi begins to be
felt in the arms, the legs and throughout the body.
Chi can be generated and accumulated (usually stored in the
Tan Tien, or lower abdomen and pelvis) in the body to increase
the overall capacity for all forms of action or experience.
In many chi-development exercises, the body (with its correct
poise assumed) is moved in easy fluid patterns, which harmonise
with the natural motions of the body’s muscular and
skeletal structure. The rhythm of the breath is allowed to
link with the movement, and the mind is called into play by
imagining the breath as the flow of chi (which may be visualized
as a golden fluid) through and beyond the body parts involved
in the movement. The awareness is concentrated without tension
and fully open to the whole field of action.
TCM healing methods apply the direction of chi to an affected
part of the body, acting as a means of catalysing the body’s
own processes in order to restore proper functioning.
Western scientists have found meridians hard to identify
because they do not directly correspond to nerve or blood
circulation pathways. Some (western) researchers do believe
that meridians are located throughout the body's connective
tissue; whilst others insist that chi does not exist at all.
Such differences of opinion have made this an area of scientific
Despite these 'differences' western science does confirm
that stimulating certain points along these pathways through
acupuncture enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed
at a greater rate than under normal conditions. These signals
may start the flow of painkilling biochemicals, such as endorphins,
and of immune system cells to specific sites in the body that
are injured or vulnerable to disease.
Further research in this field has also found that several
types of opioids may be released into the central nervous
system during acupuncture treatment, thereby reducing pain.
Other studies have also shown that acupuncture may alter brain
chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and
neurohormones and that acupuncture has an affect on the parts
of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary
body functions, such as immune reactions and processes whereby
a person's blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature
Over the centuries, Chinese physicians have identified specific
points (junctions, gates, valves and so on) along the meridians
at which the insertion of a needle or the application of pressure
could be used to balance and regulate the flow of chi, thus
preventing or curing a wide variety of ailments. These points
are electromagnetic in character and consist of small, oval
cells called Bonham corpuscles that surround the capillaries
in the skin, the blood vessels, and the organs throughout
the body. Traditional Chinese medicine theorizes that there
are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body.
So, whilst studies have documented acupuncture's effects
there is still no explanation on how acupuncture works within
the framework of the Western system of medicine. The same
applies to Tai Chi which is a form of self administered meditative
physical exercise intended to promote or improve the flow
Whilst this author neither confirms or denies either the
skeptical western or the enthusiastic eastern perception of
chi, this summery supposes that chi, meridians and TCM in
general (and Tai Chi in particular) is worthy of consideration
as a means of promoting a sense of well being in the practitioner.