If you’ve ever felt like you can’t keep up with the fast pace of modern life, you’re not alone. Modernisation has at once simplified and complicated our daily experiences, and this takes its toll on our mental wellbeing. The indoor spaces that protect us from harsh elements can also make us sedentary, whilst the same technology that allows us to instantly socialise can also leave us feeling depressed, anxious, and lonely. Though these technological advances have made it faster for us to produce, communicate, and innovate, many of us find ourselves working longer, harder, and faster than our biology can healthfully sustain.
Balancing the demands of our inner and outer lives has never been more crucial for maintaining and improving our wellbeing. Though it was codified thousands of years ago, classical Chinese medicine (CCM) and its concept of Qi remain just as relevant to our mental wellbeing today. Understanding what Qi is and where it comes from can help you gauge your stress levels, boost your mental wellbeing, and strike a healthy and sustainable balance between stress and ease.
What is Qi?
Qi — pronounced chee — broadly describes all forms of energy. Often translated as “vital energy,” Qi includes all of the tangible and intangible aspects of the universe, from the ground beneath your feet to the immaterial thoughts that you’re currently having. According to CCM, all life is a gathering of Qi, and a healthy life is Qi in balance. As such, both our physical and mental wellbeing can suffer when Qi becomes excessive, deficient, or stagnant.
If you’ve ever felt anxious, jittery, easily agitated, unable to sleep, or hot for no reason, you may have been experiencing excess Qi. Excess Qi is often produced by excess itself, such as excessive stress and physical and mental activity. Excess Qi can also result from overeating, strong negative emotions, overstimulation, too much alcohol or caffeine, and the presence of environmental toxins, such as water and air pollution.
If you’ve ever been mentally drained, burnt out, or fatigued, you may have experienced deficient Qi. Deficient Qi can be caused by leading a stressful life, lack of sleep, improper nutrition, dehydration, or underexposure to fresh air. A Qi deficiency can also arise when our mental and emotional needs aren’t being met, such as when we lack mental stimulation, positive social interactions, and support from loving relationships.
Often caused by stress and anxiety, Qi stagnation can cause multiple symptoms, including depression, mood swings, frustration, anger, and pain.
Qi is in a constant state of flux and change. Never created or destroyed, Qi simply changes form as life moves through its innumerable processes. One aspect of Qi (like food) transforms into another (like usable energy for your body). To describe the relationship between these different types of energy and experiences, CCM categorizes energy into two broad categories: yin and yang.
What are yin and yang?
Yin and yang describes the relationship between the material and immaterial aspects of our world. In terms of human life, yin describes the tangible things that nourish and sustain us (such as shelter, food, water, and air), whilst yang describes the intangible and subtle processes that animate us from within (such as thoughts, feelings, circulation, and nerve impulses). Yin is cold, solid, and substantial, whilst yang is warm, mobile, and light. Yin and yang are interdependent, inseparable, and constantly shifting.
Understanding how yin and yang operate in your life, mind, and body can increase your self-awareness, connect you to your mind and body, and guide you to the type of self-care you need. For instance, awareness of yin and yang can help to identify when you’re feeling edgy and agitated (excess yang) or unfocused and unmotivated (excess yin).
Drawing from these principles and the following practices from classical Chinese medicine, you can empower yourself to take actions that rebalance your vital energy, foster harmony, and support your optimum mental wellbeing.
How Chinese medicine and Qigong boost mental wellbeing
From its earliest beginnings to its modern form of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), CCM has aimed to understand and support human health based on principles of systemic harmony. In CCM, a system is comprised of every component that creates and sustains it. All aspects of a system — such as the human body, a family, community, or ecosystem — are interconnected and interdependent on each other for health and harmony.
Harmony is achieved when all aspects of any given system are free from excess, deficiency, and stagnation. This allows Qi energy to flow freely. Disharmony occurs when any aspect of a system is deficient, excessive, or stagnant, causing a disturbance in the systemic flow of Qi. In short, the uninhibited flow of Qi generates health, mental wellbeing, and sustainability.
Throughout the millennia, Chinese medicine has developed and fine-tuned multiple self-care techniques for addressing Qi imbalances — boosting mental and physical health, including Medical Qigong, acupuncture, Tai Chi, and herbal remedies. Gentle and noninvasive, each one of these treatments aims to reduce psychological and physiological stress, restore the free flow of Qi, and reestablish health and harmony in the mind and body.
White Tiger Qigong for optimum mental and physical wellbeing
Psychological stress and imbalance occur when the demands of our daily lives overwhelm our ability to adapt to the situation at hand. As a portable and easily learned form of self-care, White Tiger Qigong can help you soothe the symptoms of stress at any time by focusing your attention on the present moment, bringing your breath under conscious control, and establishing rhythm through slow, controlled movements. This intentional combination of mind, breath, and body can effectively stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, helping to boost mental wellbeing by calming and rejuvenating your mind and body.
Tiger Climbs Mountaintop Qigong
Tiger Climbs Mountaintop Qigong is one effective Qigong exercise that allows you to re-align yourself through balance, coordination, and conscious breathing. In addition to promoting a healthy flow of Qi in your liver, kidneys, and spleen, Tiger Climbs Mountaintop Qigong can help you embody the power of a tiger that skillfully navigates challenges and reaches its goal — one calm, focused, and graceful step at a time. For more insight into how to execute this exercise, you can refer to the 5 Animal Qigong eBook.
Life may be busier than ever, but your mental wellbeing doesn’t have to suffer along the way. You can learn more about incorporating Qigong as a form of self-care for your mental wellbeing on our wellness blog and through our library of Qigong ebooks and online courses.