What is Qi? (Or Chi?)



Qi is a common word used with Chinese Medicine and pronounced Chee. Your eye may glaze over when you see or hear this word, or you may instantly think this term has no relevance in today’s vocabulary. Sadly, it is a word lost in translation as it came over to the United States from China. For additional reference and history, you can read, by clicking here, some other perspectives on how the translation can be quite challenging.


Here I would like to best describe it in more Western Terms and how I view it. For those who have taken some biology classes, you may have come across the Kreb’s cycle. The cycle explains how mitochondria in our cells create fuel known as ATP (Adenosine triphosphate). In my head, qi closely relates to ATP when trying to visualize and conceptualize a sometimes nebulous term. From here forward, Qi and ATP can be interchangeable.


Qi = ATP


Qi is the energy that fuels our body created from the food we eat and the air we breathe. Qi is how we get through our day and how sometimes we feel great and ready to go, where other days we are prepared to hit the snooze button. Suppose our body is not functioning at its optimal level. In that case, we will see this reflected quickly with qi deficiency having low energy, depressed qi with a sad mood, stagnant qi, which can lead to anger, irritability, or frustration.


Lastly, think of qi in terms of what helps promote movement within your body and outside in our world. When qi flows freely, there is optimal health in our bodies and in our world. You can see it when steam comes off a boiling pot of rice, wind rustling the leaves in a tree, or when you take a deep breath in and let it out slowly to calm your breath.


The hope is that you can now see that when people use the word qi there is substance and action behind the word. It is more than just a vague word lost in translation.


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