Are you feeling sluggish? Tired and lethargic?
We all want energy, but in this fast-paced world we often rely on sugar, caffeine and many other quick yet unhealthy fixes for an energy boost, only to crash later.
Revered as the ‘new yoga’, Qigong is an ancient practice that can greatly help cultivate your body energy, or ‘Qi’.
Translated as ‘vital energy’, this technique works with Qi to accomplish different purposes: cleansing the body, strengthening the organs and increasing energy levels and vitality. With Qigong, there is no need to drown yourself in coffee and other energy drinks for that short-lived energy rush.
What is Qi and How Is It Formed?
The very core of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is “Qi”. In TCM, Qi is believed to be the force that animates all things. In our body, it flows through energy pathways called meridians. It is through this network that Qi flows to different body organs so they can communicate with one another.
With correct stimulation of these pathways through Qigong exercises or other TCM practices, the Qi energy flow increases. With proper Qigong techniques, one can achieve sensitivity to Qi flow and seek other means to restore, boost or enhance it.
There are different forms of Qi energy in the human body. However, in general, Qi only has two main sources. The first one is the Prenatal Qi, also known as innate vital essence (see Understanding Qi Energy Basics and Function), which is the innate Qi you inherit from your parents before birth. The other is the Postheaven Qi, which is sourced from air, water and food.
Now, the two elements mentioned have to be processed by the bowels and viscera before they can be used as Qi energy by the body. Below is a diagram of how Qi is formed:
The innate vital essence sits on the kidney and is released at the ‘Gate of Life’ (found between the two kidneys). It goes up to the middle burner and joins with the food essence from the spleen. It continues to go up and mixes with the air from the lungs. The end product of this process is Qi.
From the diagram above, it is easy to notice that human Qi is formed through the combined work of the spleen, the lungs, the stomach and the kidneys in processing the three essences – the innate vital essence, the food essence and air).
Food contains Qi energy and it provides us the necessary nutrients we need to keep going and accomplish our daily tasks. We produce Qi through the air we breathe and the food we eat, but the process also depends partly on our lifestyle and our physical constitution.
When Qi energy is weak, it means that there’s something wrong within you. For instance, an organ, say your spleen, may be deficient of Qi, so it cannot function optimally. Deficiency of Qi can lead to weakness of the immune system or lethargy. One way to maintain top shape is to boost your energy with food.
What is Qi Deficiency?
Qi deficiency signifies that there’s a lack of Qi needed for the body to function. Every vital organ can experience deficiency, and the manifestations vary for each organ. For instance, the spleen and the lungs are often affected by Qi deficiency due to their vital role in the production of Qi.
There are four causes of Qi deficiency:
- Old age
- Weak constitution
- Poor nutrition
Aging is inevitable, but you can prevent illnesses and augment your overall state of health by maintaining fitness and having a well-balanced, Qi-boosting diet.
Qi energy levels may fall due to geopathic stress or electromagnetic radiation. Some natural environments contain particularly high amounts of Qi, which leaves you feeling uplifted. Your core beliefs and life values will also help you get better, fuller access to your vitality and improve your Qi level.
Your Qi can also become stagnant when your body is tensed and anxious. It is important to relax to free your Qi.
Prevent Qi Deficiency Through Proper Nutrition
One common question people ask when they take an interest in energy healing practices such as Qigong, Tai Chi or yoga is “What’s the best food or diet for boosting Qi flow throughout the body?” In general, Qi diet is like any other healthy diet but some people suggest having certain kinds of food.
The foods you have to eat are those that release energy consistently into your system for a long period of time. In the West, this food is called ‘complex carbohydrates’ – types of carbohydrate that provide a sustained source of energy.
Which food should you eat to enhance your energy? Whole grain foods such as brown rice, whole meal bread, oats, rye, millet, quino, barley and buckwheat, as well as other foods derived from whole grain flour such as noodles, pasta and whole meal are recommended.
Following the TCM theory, make sure that you eat plenty of organic, locally produced vegetables that are in season. Stir-frying or steaming is preferred. Vegetarian choices such as soya bean curd, beans, nuts and seeds are also good.
For meat, organic white meat such as turkey or chicken is ideal. Seafood, fish and eggs are also good, but only in moderation. There are many dairy and milk alternatives such as rice milk, soya milk and soya yoghurt.
Nori and kelp, which are made from seaweed, are less popular in the West than the East, but are good healthy choices. Honey should be used in moderation and unrefined sugar only if needed.
Another important thing is to buy foods that have undergone minimal transport, irradiation or processing, as these methods interfere with or destroy Qi. Microwave cooking will also deplete the available Qi in your food. As such, you have to include as much local, organic, fresh food in your diet as you can.
Recommended foods for building Qi energy include:
- Vegetables – button mushroom, asparagus, eggplant, cabbage, potato, squash, tomato, sweet potato, yam
- Fruits – cherry, apple, fig, logan berry, date
- Grains – buckwheat, corn, lentils, rice, oats, wheat bran
- Nuts and seeds – black sesame seeds, almond, peanuts, coconut, walnuts
- Fish and seafood – mackerel, herring, eel, oyster, trout, tuna, octopus, mussel
- Dairy – milk, cheese, yoghurt
- Meat – chicken liver, chicken, beef, ham, duck, goose, lamb
- Condiments – honey, rice syrup, barley malt
- Supplements – ginseng, algae, royal jelly, pollen
Foods for tonifying Qi deficiency
- Vegetables – yam, sweet potato, squash
- Fruits – cherry, apple, fug, logan berry, date
- Grains – sweet rice, rice, oats
- Bean products – tofu
- Meat – goose, ham, lamb, chicken, beef
- Condiments – molasses
- Herbs/Spices – liquorice
- Supplements – algae, American ginseng, royal jelly, pollen
Foods to Avoid or Reduce Consumption
People with Qi deficiency tend to crave sweets. In traditional Chinese nutrition therapy, sweets foods come in two categories – the empty sweet, which has an eliminating and cooling effect, and the full sweet. Empty sweet foods include simple sugars such as in juices, fruits, raw sugar and honey. The second category is the full sweet, which has a nourishing and warming effect. Foods under the full sweet category include protein, complex carbohydrates such as meat, red dates, potatoes, rice and tonifying herbs.
Also, green tea must be drunk lukewarm and not too hot. Likewise, reduce your intake of other fluids besides water, and avoid drinking too much after a meal.
In addition to the sweet foods, try to reduce intake of the following:
- White bread
- White rice
- White flour
- Chemical additives
- Refined processed and tinned goods
- Fruit acids
There are plenty of other ways to prevent Qi deficiency. Just remember the rule of thumb – buy organic, fresh, locally produced foods whenever possible. Refrain from cold drinks and cold foods if possible. Some TCM practitioners believe that cold food or drink can disturb Qi flow, while others think that cold drinks more likely contain bacteria as they’re not boiled, leading to illness.
Latest posts by Bojan Zimmerman (see all)
- Harness the Ancient Anti-Aging Secrets of the Taoist Qigong Masters – October 8, 2014
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- Dietary Recommendations to Prevent Qi Deficiency – September 24, 2014