We may occasionally hear the terms "stagnant qi" or "bad qi" in reading about our practice of qigong and tai chi. Both of these terms refer to problems of some kind with your qi. If we think of qi as an energy that flows through our body, then stagnant qi and bad qi refer to some kind of blockage of qi flow. If we think of qi as connectedness throughout our body, then stagnant qi refers to some kind of interference with that connectedness. Tai chi and qigong can be used to help with problems of qi flow.
Bad qi can be seen or felt as nausea or tiredness. It may be a general malaise. Stagnant chi is a little more severe, manifesting as pain, stiffness, problems with mobility, general ill health, or many other similar symptoms. There are many specific treatments in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for stagnant qi or bad qi.
Left untreated, stagnant qi and bad qi and turn into a chronic illness. If your Western doctor is unable to identify or treat symptoms, you may need a diagnosis from a TCM specialist.
Wherever tension is held in our bodies, we develop blockages to qi flow. Long term experience of any kind manifests itself in our bodies. For example, if we are under a lot of stress, we shoulders become hunched over because we "store" stress there. If we habitually stand with locked knee joints, we develop blockages and stagnant qi that manifest as foot, leg, hip, or back pain.
Long term practice of qigong promotes the flow of qi. Tai chi is a great form of qigong. The movements are designed to loosen our joints, muscles, and tendons. In fact, one of the fundamental practices of tai chi is called song. When you practice tai chi with song in mind, your joints open up and the qi flow improves. Further tension in your muscles is relaxed by being aware of substantial and insubstantial in our weight shifts.
Breathing is another important part of tai chi. This can also help with stagnant qi. Stagnant qi can feel like a heaviness or slowness in the body. Use abdominal breathing during your forms practice.
Slow down your form and breathe deeply. Use one in-breath for opening movements and one out-breath for each closing movement. Imagine your breath reaching all the way to your dan tian. As you exhale, imagine taking your breath to points of heaviness. Use your breath to move the stagnant qi out of your body. Use this to develop jing, or mental quietness.
Note: I am not a medical professional. I am not giving medical advice or providing a diagnosis. I am summarizing a concept from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Do not disregard advice from your doctor because of anything you read here.
© 2011 Eric Borreson