What makes chi move?

This is the place to discuss the energetic aspects of Yin Yoga and its Daoist heritage
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What makes chi move?

Post by Bernie »

I recently received the following question:
  • Hi Bernie! Recently I talked about fascia, meridians and chi on a workshop. One of the students asked me what made chi MOVE. And that is actually a good question. Is it the pressure high to low? Is it electrical impulses? So what is it that sends chi from point A to B. My guess is the pressure as chi flows from high pressure to low pressure taking the way of least resistance along the interfacial planes, vessels or nerves but I could not answer the students questions fully. I hope you have a light on this subject :)

    Have a great day! Juliette
Hi Juliette

That is a good question. First, can I refer you to an article I wrote called Yoga and Energy? In it, you will see that there are 3 types of energy we can consider: the energy of transportation, of transformation and of communication. In terms of chi (or prana), I believe we are looking at the energies of communication within the body. The energy of communication is the most subtle (weakest) and thus hardest to detect. Now, to be clear, this is a Western approach to an Eastern concept: i don't think the Daoists would say that chi is communication energy (Dr. Daniel Keown defines chi as organizational energy), but let's leave that discussion for now and look at a Western view of communication within the body.

There are several ways we can stimulate communication inside the body: one is via mechanical tugging on the tissues. This is called mechanotransduction. The stress we feel in our postures is felt at the level of the cells embedded in our tissues. The cell membranes respond to the quality and quantity of the mechanical signals. Addressing your question, is this energy flowing from an area of high pressure to low pressure. I don't think so...this is a different form of energy. The tugging or stress we generate in our practice can reach out along fascial boundaries and travel quite far, and you may notice this as well: when you do Caterpillar, can you feel the stretch all along the back of the body? If so, we can't say that the energy was following a gradient from high to low, it is simply following the line of stress through the fascia.

However, there are many other forms of communication. For example: piezoelectricity-electricity generated through mechanical stresses. This also occurs in our bodies during yoga practice. Like all forms of electricity, these signals would flow along conductive lines (meridians or nadis), which we speculate run between the fascial interfaces (or interfacial planes as you describe.) Water is a great conductor of these currents and there is a lot of water conduits in our fascia. So, you could say that this form of energy flows from regions of high pressure (called high voltage in electronics) to low.

As mentioned, there are many forms of communication occurring in the body. While in the East we may subsume all of them under the label “chi,, in the West we are more discerning and differentiate them. Chemical messengers are used, called cytokines, which are also found in the fascia. These too would flow from areas of high concentration to areas of lower concentrations, but they may also be taken for a ride in the blood and lymph systems.

So, what makes chi move? It depends upon the type of chi being stimulated. I hope this begins to answer your question.
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