How to develop your chi

How to develop your chi

Feeling less than zippy? Get your chi flowing with these methods.

I recently read a wonderful definition of the life force known as chi. It’s from Santa Monica-based Dr. Mao Shing Ni, a doctor of Chinese medicine. “Chi travels and circulates through the channels of our bodies, similar to the way water flows in a riverbed.” In a riverbed. I enjoy envisioning my life force, coursing through my body, sinuous, like a cold stream in Alaska rushing over smooth stones. But when chi gets blocked or slowed down, we feel less than energized. Chi can be blocked by illness, emotions, and poor habits, according to Chinese medicine. For this week’s Healthy Habit, let’s look at some simple ways to get that inner tide rushing again.

  1. Declutter. According to the International Feng Shui Guild, clutter represents heavy, stagnant chi energy, which will hold us back from fulfilling our life’s purpose. Addressing the home’s surroundings can be a first step for other positive, energetic moves in money, career, and relationships. Take control of clutter, and if you can’t, invest in some help from a professional, such as a personal organizer, a cleaning service, a feng shui expert or a therapist.
  2. Edit that calendar. Being too lonely can stress the body, but too much social whirl can be draining. Build in at least 15 minutes a day of nurturing “alone time” into the schedule for rest, contemplation and restoration. Focus on friendships with positive people and say no to places and hobbies that make you feel down, instead of recharged.
  3. Belly breathing. Shallow breathing won’t give you as much energizing oxygen into the blood. Explore deep breathing by lying on the floor or a bed and put the palm of your hand on your belly. As you inhale, note how the hand and belly both rise. Focusing on the out breath, totally empty the lungs before breathing back in again.
  4. Check the pantry. Out goes foods that have been processed, as well as those containing too much sugar and artificial ingredients. In goes whole grain foods such as oats, as well as seaweeds, fermented foods and organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. For protein, try tofu, nuts, fish, seeds and beans, rather than red meat and eggs.
  5. Drop out. The Bach Centre, which promotes the Bach flower remedy system, recommends olive for tiredness and exhaustion after exertion, and hornbeam for weariness before action, such as when facing the day. Dilute two drops into water such as a mineral water, and sip.

Just like in our bodies, clogged chi can have negative consequences. Try these five ways to help unblock your home’s chi.

How to develop your chi

Kathryn Drury Wagner is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle.

How to develop your chi

In Asian tradition, chi is the life force which permeates the world. In addition to being in all living beings, chi is also found in spaces such as homes and gardens. Although chi is a metaphysical construct, rather than something which can be physically quantified and measured, belief in chi is widespread in many Asian nations and disciplines including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), martial arts, and feng shui, a Chinese art which involves balancing objects within their environment.

Like other Chinese words, chi is seen spelled in English in various ways including qi and xi. The pronunciation of the word is difficult to render in the Roman alphabet, but the word sounds like “chee” when spoken. The meaning of the word is linked to “air” and “breath,” which are believed to vital parts of life. Like air, chi is a form of energy which waxes and wanes in the body depending on health, and in a space depending on arrangement.

Many cultures have a concept of some sort of vital energy which runs through all things, such as prana in the yogic tradition. When it is in a proper state of balance, the energy moves smoothly through the space which it inhabits, and supports rather than fights against the space. Balancing this energy is a crucial part of living a healthy and calm life for many people in Asian countries, and the concept of energetic balance has been adopted by some Western nations as well.

An imbalance of chi can lead to ill health or discomfort in an environment. In the case of living beings, practices like acupuncture, acupressure, and other types of TCM are used to right the imbalance, by unblocking the flow of chi through the meridians of the body. A practitioner of TCM checks in with the patient’s whole body in order to assess overall health, and takes corrective measures as necessary.

In the case of spaces, many Asian traditions surround organizing objects within an environment to make the space harmonious. An imbalance of chi in a space is believed to lead to bad luck and ill health, and many rules surround how things should be arranged from bedrooms to graveyards. As the rules which govern arrangements can be quite complex, some wealthy households hire professionals to arrange their spaces, who are analogous to interior designers in the West, although their function goes beyond pure aesthetic consultation.

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

I cannot believe anyone would mention the Virginia tech shooter, Xi, and the DSM in a place like this, very odd. The DSM (Diagnostics and Statistics Manual) is virtually worthless and quite dangerous. The current DSM (the fourth or fifth edition) has created a new mental illness called "Oppositional Defiant Disorder". ODD basically makes free thinking a mental illness or a "thought crime".

I wish western academia would recognize the wisdom of the east and realize that their science has severe limitations. What cannot be seen or felt or heard is just as real as what can be seen, heard, and felt. anon16975 August 19, 2008

Researcher. How does Qigong and the manipulation of Qi have anything to do with the Virginia Tech shooter? In your statement you mention that he used the suite common room to study with his laptop and to create “special circumstances”. If you have done any research at all into Qi and Qigong, you should know that you cannot gather qi by using a computer and you certainly cannot create the meditative aspects of qi by doing so. Your description of qi as a belief in magic is also way off and rather humorous. You would do well to study the wonderful aspects of qi cultivation rather than resorting to scare tactics.

I want to say that in Nigeria too there exists a believe in Chi. This is taken to be a personal and deep relationship with God, that is God is not just God but my God. This is taken further as when a child is named using the word its meaning is for the child alone for example chidima (pronounced chee dee ma) God is good actually means the God of the child or of the parent(s) is good. That the circumstances that surrounds the birth of the child taken into consideration. posted by alhaj. Sorry I forgot my password. maty172 February 21, 2008

man, that is scary, in his belief of chi, he broke his mind while trying to find peace, and ended up killing people that is messed up! Researcher February 21, 2008

Chi, or Chee, or Qi is a belief in supernatural forces to explain the psychiatric outcomes of performing Qi Gong exercise katas in groups.

It is essentially a belief in magic.

When Qi Gong is performed in groups each person attempts to engage eyes-open meditation to harness the believed Chee energy while performing a slow motion martial arts Kata. As they do that they actually engage a primitive vision driven warning system that will attempt to break your concentration with a startle when movement is detected in peripheral vision.

To be able to continue meditating with eyes-open you must learn to ignore the detected movement in peripheral vision. But that does not turn off the brain system that subliminally detects threat-movement to trigger the startle.

That subliminal detection and your brain’s effort to warn you are a Subliminal Distraction. It is a normal feature of all human physiology.

In the 1960’s designers accidentally discovered that this subliminal stimulus of the subconscious would eventually cause a mental break.

This feature of Qi Gong is recognized as a Culture Bound Syndrome of China. It is one of the CBS’s included in the current DSM. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness of the American Psychiatric Association)

The Virginia Tech shooter created these “special circumstances” for Subliminal Distraction exposure when he used the suite common room to study with his laptop. As he began to have the usual outcomes of exposure, fear, paranoia, depression, and thoughts of suicide, he acted out the delusions of the mental break by planning and killing 32 people.

It was suggested to me once that one should have the bedroom furniture arranged so that the bed faced east. I guess this provided better chi?

Chi, also spelled qi or ki, is our life-giving energy. Martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture are all based on focusing, balancing or aligning chi. In particular, the practices of qigong, also called chi kung, and tai chi teach students to focus on and tap into chi. Students of martial arts like karate and aikido use chi force to chop through boards or deflect an attack. To be more effective with martial arts punches and strikes, it helps to learn how to focus chi into your fist.

Create a Chi Ball of Energy

Stand in a neutral, comfortable stance and rub your hands together briskly, as if trying to warm them up. As you do so, mentally hold the intention of bringing your chi force into your hands.

Place your hands just below your belly button and take a deep breath. Breathe out, releasing any tension from your body. Continue deeply breathing a few times, visualizing your breath fueling a ball of fire or light in your lower belly, known as the don tien.

Raise your hands as if holding a small basketball, and imagine the ball of light from your belly now being in your hands. Slowly and gently pull your hands apart, being aware of whether you feel an energetic connection between them. Keep your fingers relaxed as you do this.

Bring your hands closer together again when you feel the connection weaken, but don’t let them touch. Sense your ball of energy getting stronger when your hands are close, almost like two magnets repelling each other.

Continue moving your hands slowly apart and then together again, concentrating on feeling the chi both in your hands and between them. If you don’t feel the sensation of energy or warmth, keep practicing the movements.

Take a deep breath when you finish. Raise your hands and then drop them quickly to your side, shaking the energy out of your hands. Release the excess energy this way to keep from burning out.

Play with the Ball of Chi

Play with the size and shape. Keep your hands a uniform distance apart like you’re holding a softball. Slowly rotate them, first right hand on top and left on the bottom, and then bring your left hand to the top and your right hand to the bottom.

Grow and shrink the ball as you rotate it. Pull your hands further apart as if it was a basketball or beach ball, and then get smaller, to tennis ball size.

Pretend you’re throwing the chi ball of energy from one hand to the other. Concentrate on feeling the chi as you catch it, and then release it as you throw it.

Focus the Chi into Your Fist

Visualize the ball of energy sitting in the palm of your right hand, and then close your fist and around and through it. Feel the chi sinking into and surrounding your fist, which might bring on a warm or tingling sensation. Keep your hand tense to lock in the chi.

Focus on the sense of energy in your fist. Turn your fist palm down and punch forward. Punch the air, visualizing your fist and the chi moving right through a wall, board or other barrier.

Practice your punch with a heavy bag, pillow, mat or some other punching equipment, focusing the energy right through the object.


Do not try breaking a board unless you have proper supervision and have done all the steps to focus chi into your fist. If you do it, be sure to drive the chi and your fist right through and past the board.

I have practiced the gentle and peaceful Japanese martial art aikido since 1972, when I was a teenager. It still inspires me greatly. Something within aikido vitalizes and delights me, just by practicing the movements.

That is qi , the life energy. The swirls and spins of the aikido movements stimulate the flow of qi energy inside me as well as the other practitioners. Aikido might have the form of a martial art, but in essence it’s a way of dancing to the flow of the qi energy.

Me showing an aikido technique at my dojo Enighet in Malm�, Sweden.
The word aikido says it all. It translates to the way of joining qi (spelled ki when Romanized from Japanese). I let my qi energy emerge and join with that of my training partner.

In China and Japan, most of the arts – not just the martial ones – are expressions of the qi energy flow. It’s how the painters and calligraphers make their brushes sweep over the paper, how dancers move their bodies, how musicians make their instruments resonate and singers reach out with their voices. It is also essential in such healing methods as acupuncture, qigong, and reiki.

Qi Energy Exercises

Qi is a life energy flow that should run smoothly through your body and out of it. There are five basic conditions that need to be corrected and then perfected:

  • posture
  • relaxation
  • breathing
  • extension
  • centering

Belly breathing qi energy exercise.
Remember this: although the exercises are quite simple and can be done by anyone without previous training of any kind, you need to be persistent. You can feel a change already the first time you try the exercises, but the effect will not be lasting without repetition.

Try to do at least some of them daily. You don’t need to work on them for long. A few minutes should suffice, as long as you get back to them the next day, or at least a few times a week. If you don’t, your body quickly goes back to its old habits, and your qi energy flow may decrease.

The qi exercises are so easy, simply because it’s so natural. It’s what your body and your mind want, so they’ll be very quick to adapt. Click here to try it out:

Worldwide Life Energy

Here is my website about all those life energy concepts around the world and through history:

Maybe it could simply be explained as a symbolic way of celebrating the joy of being alive: the breath of life, without which we quickly perish.

This breath of life can be stimulated to increase. Thereby it rises to something far more than the mere consumption of oxygen, and extends way beyond the reach of our bodies. You will definitely feel the difference.

You don’t have to believe in qi energy to try it. Keep an open but also critical mind, and make your decision afterwards.

Life is a wondrous mystery. What brightens it up is precious, whether it can be seen in a microscope or not. And you know what Hamlet said to his doubting friend:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

In this episode of Qigong Radio, I answer some questions about different sensations readers have been experiencing when they practice.

In the Dragon and Tiger Medical Qigong Instruction Manual, Bruce Frantzis lays out important guidelines for what kinds of “chi reactions” to expect. I want to show you how to apply these guidelines to your practice.

Expect Chi Reactions

Dragon and Tiger is a powerful tool for awakening your body on physical, energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. As you practice these movements and begin to move your body in ways that may be different for you, energy and fluids in your body are stirred up and begin to move more vigorously. At some point you may experience reactions that may seem either positive or negative to you. These are called chi reactions: the body’s response to the effects of energy beginning to flow more freely through previously blocked places.

These reactions may show up immediately, hours after practicing, or even a day or two later. Although many people will not begin to feel either negative or positive reactions without practicing a lot, others, particularly if they have done other forms of personal development work, may notice reactions almost immediately.

Positive Chi Reactions

Positive reactions can range from feeling less pain and having more energy to being more centered, relaxed and comfortable with your body. Some people report that they sleep much better; others report greater flexibility and balance. You may also notice that you are calmer and have fewer mood swings. You may experience an overall reduction in stress and tension.

A transformative effect that most people consider positive, is an increase in and awareness of sexual energy. This is entirely normal as it is the most fundamental energy in your body, and practice of Dragon and Tiger will increase sexual energy. Finally, a transformative effect that confuses many people is what we call “good pain.”

Dragon and Tiger is designed to gradually work more and more deeply into your body, to release muscles and other tissues and joints that have been restricted or blocked. When an area of your body that has been frozen begins to loosen and realign, more energy moves through that area than you are used to. But if the energy cannot flow freely or fully, you may experience temporary pain in the area.

The Chinese medical theory of the body holds that pain in an area is a sign that the energy there is not flowing freely. You feel “bad” pain when an area is newly injured or hurt. In general, “good” pains tend to be temporary (lasting from a minute to at most a couple of days) and are usually dull, rather than sharp. As you practice you will learn to recognize such pains as signs of progress. Treat them with great care and keep within the 40 to 50 percent rule when you have pain, illness or injury (see p. 7). Back off practicing and be sure to consult your healthcare provider if you begin experiencing either significant pain or pain that does not go away quickly.

Negative Chi Reactions

As your body wakes up on various levels, it may do so the same way as when aroused from a deep slumber —cranky, sore and confused. You may experience some negative chi reactions. These can range from relatively mild but confusing aches, nausea, light-headedness, tingles, fatigue, unsteadiness, body temperature shifts or mood changes to strong emotional releases and mood swings to unusual dreams or shifts in perception. You may also experience physical discharges, such as stronger body odors or more frequent bowel movements.

As blocked and stagnant energy moves or leaves the body, energetic memories that are associated with the problem, stored in either your energy channels or physical tissue can awaken and cause you to relive the underlying and often repressed causes of the problem—especially if you have a severe condition.

You might experience what doctors refer to as a “healing crisis.” The term refers to that time during healing when a patient’s body temporarily feels worse before it feels better. For example, when the body burns out infections, the patient often has a high fever. When the fever breaks, the symptoms of the disease pass. The fever may cause the patient to feel terrible, until the stored toxins or blocked energy are released. Afterwards the individual feels better as the illness passes.

All these reactions are common to many natural forms of healing and are often a sign that your body is cleansing itself. Many people have a healing crisis when they fast or switch to a cleansing or vegetarian diet. The practice of Dragon and Tiger may often trigger such effects; they are fairly normal reactions. What is important to remember is that these reactions are temporary and usually pass when your body begins to rebalance itself.

If you begin to experience strong or uncomfortable sensations, immediately sit down, put your hands on your belly and gently breathe with your belly to ground and center yourself. Such sensations will usually pass within minutes. Then suspend or reduce your practice for a while. Start again by following the 20 percent or 40 percent rule and very gently explore your body’s reactions to these practices. Remember that you are not alone in such experiences; almost everyone who practices will experience some of these reactions at some time.

If the symptoms are intense, pull back your practice to 30 percent or 40 percent of what you consider your normal practice and consult with your teacher. Remember to drink plenty of water. Water helps accelerate the release of toxins. Taking some vitamin C also helps that process. Make sure you rest after practicing. Be sure to consult a healthcare professional immediately if you have any symptoms that might be a sign of a medical or psychological problem.

This article was co-authored by Frank Blaney. Frank Blaney is a Certified Qigong and Tai Chi Instructor with over 15 years of teaching experience. Passionate about making Qigong more accessible to people, Frank is the author of “Qigong: The Quick & Easy Start-Up Guide.” He also holds a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Jujitsu and trains executives and staff of corporations, NGOs, and communities in self-care, personal performance and conflict resolution. He holds an MA in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding from California State University Dominguez Hills.

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Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) is an ancient Chinese “internal” or “soft” martial art often practised for its health-giving and spiritual benefits; it is non-competitive, gentle, and generally slow-paced. [1] X Expert Source

Frank Blaney
Certified Tai Chi & Qigong Instructor Expert Interview. 19 May 2020. One hour of Tai Chi actually burns more calories than surfing and as many calories as table tennis, so even though it won’t help you burn many calories in comparison to high-energy workouts like running or playing volleyball, it can contribute to an overall active lifestyle. [2] X Research source But that’s just one of the many benefits! By increasing strength, flexibility, body awareness, and mental concentration, Tai Chi can improve your health, too. [3] X Trustworthy Source Harvard Medical School Harvard Medical School’s Educational Site for the Public Go to source

How to develop your chi

Chi, also known as ki, qi or prana in other traditions, is what drives your boat. It’s your life force. Centering it is all about sloughing off negativity, pessimism, stress, anxiety and a whole host of other ills in order to live your life with equanimity. Use meditation, breathing and exercise techniques every day to bring yourself back to who you truly are when life and its inherent challenges threaten to throw you off kilter.

Tai Chi

Tai chi is the gentler side of the martial arts world. This slow-moving exercise is rife with symbolism and has been practiced for centuries in China and now in North America as a way to center chi. It does so by balancing the yin and the yang — the two perfectly opposite aspects of your psyche. Yin represents the feminine and dark side of your personality, while yang is reflected by the light and masculine. When blended in harmony, your yin and yang imbue you with the ability to stay balanced and centered. Many recreation centers and martial arts dojos offer courses in tai chi where you’ll learn to connect the forms and symbols of this ancient discipline into one, long movement designed to center your chi.

Breathing Techniques

The breath is the vehicle by which good chi is delivered into your body and bad chi is evacuated from your system. Practicing qigong or yogic breathing techniques will center your chi faster than any other method. You are meant to take long, slow inhales and even longer exhales; but if you’re living a fast-paced, stress-filled life, chances are that you’re breathing shallowly, quickly and absent-mindedly. Concentrating on the simple act of drawing in a long breath that fills your lungs completely and exhaling just as fully will slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, calm your mind and return you to a state of equanimity. Take a few minutes a couple of times a day to practice breathing techniques to center your chi.


Meditation has been used for centuries as a way to center chi. By taking a comfortable position and breathing deeply while you let thoughts flow formlessly in and out of your consciousness, you are practicing meditation. Your chi benefits from the cessation of coherent and often negative thoughts that race through your mind all day. Meditation can quell your inner turmoil and let your inner harmony rise to the surface. Classic meditation is not for everyone. If you’re one of those people who can’t stay put for more than a few minutes, don’t despair; a meditation technique exists for you as well. Walking in nature or around a labyrinth especially constructed for meditation is also a valid and effective method of centering your chi.


Centering your chi is important. But what’s also worth considering is what throws you off balance in the first place. It could be that you have too much on your plate and not enough time or energy to handle everything quite the way you’d like. Take the time to notice what your triggers are and then take steps to rearrange your schedule or make modifications to your lifestyle to stay more centered.

  • Taoist Feng Shui; Susan Levitt
  • The Inner Structure of Tai Chi; Mantak Chia and Juan Li
  • Yoga Journal: Slow Hands

Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.

It’s not necessary to learn more tai chi sets in order to reach a high level. As one Tai Chi for Health in How to develop your chistructor said,

“Over the last 30 years, I’ve learned many sets of forms. My greatest improvement, however, came from teaching the simple sets, like Tai Chi for Beginners. When I teach how to integrate the essential principles into these simple sets, I demonstrate. And, as I demonstrate, I focus on integrating the principles. Through numerous repetitions, I have found that my understanding of the essential principles deepen each time, and, as a result, my forms improve immensely.”

For some, however, learning a more complicated set of tai chi forms may provide more enjoyment and a greater sense of achievement. Just remember that tai chi is an art, not a sport in which you move up through some arbitrary grading system, nor a competition where somebody wins and somebody loses (though there are tai chi competitions). The real reward in practicing tai chi is intrinsic, giving you a sense of personal fulfillment as well as enjoyment and better health.

At a high level, tai chi, to varying degrees, becomes a way of life for the practitioner. Sun Lu-tang, the creator of How to develop your chiSun style and one of the greatest tai chi masters in history, said that the highest level of tai chi is not being invincible, but is in understanding the Dao. The Dao is nature. Practitioners reach the highest level of tai chi when they are in harmony within themselves and with nature. So at a high level, the internal component matters most.

What is the right way to do tai chi?

Often, tai chi beginners ask ”Is there only one right way?” If you lived back in the old days, you may have spent years seeking out the ‘one best teacher’. Once found, you would have totally devoted yourself to studying under that person, thereby creating a bond of absolute faith in this teacher. As a result, you would believe you knew the right way, as it would have consisted of whatever was said or done by this teacher—your ‘one best teacher’.

It’s lucky that we can’t go back in time, as experience shows there is no such a thing as one best teacher or one right way. Too often limited exposure ends with limited ability. I believe that the ancients would have loved to have the chance to be exposed to different styles and teachers, as we can today. For, in doing so, each individual has a better chance to see what will work best for him or her. Today there is no need to spend a lifetime devoted to a single path, only to find out later it wasn’t the right one. Instead, we can learn different styles and interpretations, thus shortening our path to a higher level.

Let me touch on a few of these differences in styles and interpretation.

Different styles have different ways of moving the feet. For example, in Yang style, you move forward and backward by lifting your foot slightly off the ground and touching down like a cat. In Chen style, you step forward by lifting your foot higher and brushing the heel alo ng the ground. How to develop your chi

Different styles can also have different hand shapes. Yang style uses an open palm, while Chen uses a closed one.

“Depress the chest and raise the upper back.” This is one of the 10 essential points listed by Yang Chen-fu, one of the most famous tai chi masters in history. What does that mean? Different styles hold different interpretations. To many, it means relaxing the chest and allowing your qi to reach your back, but where most Chen stylists don’t hunch their backs, many Yang stylists do. Why?, because Yang stylists interpret “raising the upper back” to mean hunch the back.

Even, within one style, you can encounter many variations within movements. For, as individuals practice, they might find they like a particular interpretation of a hand or foot movement, which then is incorporated into their teaching. As a result, you may see all kinds of variations of the movements within a set form.

My point, minor differences aren’t important. Thus, there often isn’t one “right” way to do a tai chi movement. The important thing is to understand and integrate the essential principles of tai chi. For all styles of tai chi follow the same essential principles.