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understanding the concepts and applications of chi energy  

Chi Pathways

the body's meridien linesTraditional Chinese medicine theorizes that meridians conduct energy, or chi (or 'qi' pronounced "chee") throughout the body.

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 health.

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 movement.

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 controversy.

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 are regulated.

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 of chi.

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.



Chi passes through the body following invisible pathways, or channels, called Meridians (Chinese: Jingluo). Jing means "channels" and Luo means "collateral".

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