Chi. Prana. Life force. Energy. Despite having many names, it’s a universal concept; that vital spirit within us that determines us alive. Ancient Chinese Taoist tradition called this chi or qi, and used the term to refer specifically to the energy that flows through all things in the universe. Chi is what moves us, what makes us alert, animated and present.

Although intangible and seemingly somewhat mystical, the basic notion of chi is really rather simple. If our life force is strong and flows freely, we flourish. If it is weak or blocked in some way, we experience fatigue, lethargy and lack of direction. We all know what it’s like to feel low in energy, but we have far greater control than it may seem at first glance. If anything in your life, body or mind feels stuck in some way, it’s likely that your chi is blocked. The good news? There is plenty you can do to get it flowing again.

Full of Life

The concept of an energetic life force is a common thread throughout the ancient cultures of the world. In China, it is called chi, in Japan, ki, and in India, prana. Though various traditions provide varied definitions, energy has been the cornerstone of traditional medicine and healing for centuries. In Western culture, we tend to think of energy as vigour, vitality, spirit, passion and power – that feeling of being truly alive. Whilst sometimes it seems as though we are full of life, other times we are running on empty. Becoming aware of the subtle ebb and flow of your own energy is the essential first step in understanding how to maintain it.

Optimal Health = Optimal Flow

According to Chinese medicine, energy isn’t limited to states of mind, but rather it affects the body at a molecular level. Each organ and biological system is said to be connected by chi, and optimal health – both mentally and physiologically – is defined by optimal flow of this energy along meridians or channels in the body. Most traditional forms of medicine determine that the root cause of illness and disease is an energetic imbalance, a blockage in energy’s healthy flow. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for this to happen. Imagine the body and mind as an electrical current; it only takes one loose wire or short circuit for the whole system to overload and a fuse to blow. By understanding the domino effect of energetic imbalance, we are able to take a holistic approach to wellness and healing.

Signs and Symptoms of Blocked Chi

If your chi is blocked, it may not always manifest as glaringly obvious signs of illness. The subtler symptoms include lethargy, low libido, erratic emotions, indecisiveness and lack of motivation. Physiologically, signals of stuck energy tend to be those vague ailments you can’t quite put your finger on; constipation, headaches, nausea, dizziness, the general sense that something isn’t quite right, that something is out of balance. In Chinese medicine, all physical ailments have an emotional component. Even modern science has come around to the idea that body and mind are not as separate as was once thought.

Physical, Mental, Emotional

But why does energy become blocked? Just as the human body is an incredibly complex machine, the reasons for blockage are diverse and multifaceted. Blockages can be physical, mental or emotional; they can be rooted in social, sexual or spiritual fulfilment, in creativity, finance, or sense of purpose. Even the food you eat, the place you work and the corner of the world you live in can have a profound effect on your energy flow. Certainly, modern life doesn’t make it easy for us to maintain an energetic balance. Even the seemingly simple things have a huge impact; swapping sleep and self-care for smartphones and constant caffeine will eventually take its toll.

Chi in Infinite Supply

Thankfully, chi is available in infinite supply, anytime, anywhere – all we have to do is tune in. Our ancient ancestors were wise enough to formulate an extensive array of practices for restoring, channeling and maintaining a healthy flow of energy in body and mind. If the concept of vital force is new to you, a good place to start is in the hands of an experienced traditional medicine practitioner. Acupuncture and Reiki are particularly effective means of shifting stagnant energy along, helping to restore the equilibrium of energy flow. For a more direct DIY approach, practices such as tai chi, Qigong, yoga and even good old exercise are great ways to stimulate chi circulation, and self-practice is the best way to truly appreciate a direct experience of our ever changing energy.

Living in Tune with Energy

By becoming acquainted with the complex and delicate interplay of vital energy in body and mind, it is possible to develop your level of chi. Increased chi helps your body's resilience toward illness, enhances mental capacity and makes you feel more vibrant in spirit. When chi flows freely, you get a sense of being in sync with life, a general feeling of calm, confidence and creativity. Next time you feel low in energy, take a moment to reflect on what might be causing it. The closer you pay attention, the more obvious chi becomes and the easier it is to maintain. When we live in tune with ourselves in this way, we can live a life full of energy, full of vitality, full of life force.