Of all the feelings that are ‘normal’ at the moment, common narratives have included feeling stressed, burnout, nervous system feels on edge, experiencing poor sleep quality, brain fog, low energy, or mood changes. If any, all, or more resonate with you, you’ll be like many during lockdown who are struggling to feel themselves, making it a good a time as any to talk about cultivating Qi for preventative care.
You may not understand it well (yet!), but most have been aware of Qi during an acupuncture treatment, where feedback or sensations occurring from different areas over the body during needling. Regular feedback sensations might include feeling warmth or coolness, tingling, heaviness, fullness, or magnetic quality. We usually encourage you to sit with it, feel into it, and allow the sensations to undulate, and hum away. This is Qi.
Discovering Qi and feeling more aware of how those sensations flow is also something you can do at home, after all – Acupuncture is simply influencing your Qi. It’s already within you. Cultivating Qi can be often tied with ritual. Think of all the many small actions in your day, and what percentage of those deplete you compared with replenish you. How does that add up in your life? Routines that help strengthen your Qi are something that everyone can practise.
Three ways to cultivate Qi:
1. Qi Gong is one of the focuses on breath, form and focus; standing in meditation (wuji) & moving in harmony (taiji). It brings together Yin and Yang, strengthening your Qi and vitality. Qigong is actually a fundamental part of Chinese Medicine, with physical movement and meditative cultivation used to extend ones lifespan in Taoist tradition.
2. Meditation. Start with a just few minutes each day with a focus on breathing, stillness, self-reflection and grounding. A little side activity you can work with to help with bringing your attention to Qi sensations can be practised through rubbing your hands together in front of your belly until they’ve warmed a little, and then separate your palms slightly and create small circular movements , or separating and bringing close together again. Feel into sensations in your fingers and palms.
3. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is classically a preventative medicine, but these days we often are treating when someone is symptomatic. TCM works to keeps Qi strong and robust, and is a full system of health, working with Qi in order to heal the body through both internal and external medicine.
It’s a little all-encompassing (and may actually include the first two points within its recommendations), involving looking at your symptoms through a macro lens; what symptoms are common or cyclic for you, how they respond to things within your environment, food and with stress, alongside any underpinning factors that could be impacting your health. Things such as noting the quality of your sleep, digestion, and energy are common baselines, but we lean into any area that feels noteworthy for you, and might ask questions that feel seemingly unrelated in order to understand how underlying factors are being influenced. We’re looking for a balance; for example, we know if we experience grief it’s healthy, and should be honoured. We don’t supress our system’s responses, but instead look at ways to best support the body in order to heal. A very simple summary is that we determine which systems are depleted, stuck or in excess, and treat accordingly.