What is Vital Force or Chi?
“Aliveness” derives from the presence of high-vibratory, vital energy within an organism. This energy, or natural force, which fills the universe is referred to in traditional naturopathy and homeopathy as vital force and in Chinese medicine as chi. Hence, I have coined the term vital chi (e.g., Dr. Berkowsky’s Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System).
In this article, while the Chinese concept of chi is far more complexly elaborated than the Western concept of vital force (the fundamental essence of the two concepts are quite similar), I use the terms vital force and chi interchangeably.
Chi is the fundamental energy which sustains life and is present in the vibratory, biological processes of every cell. Chi has its own movement and activates the movement of things other than itself.
All physical and mental activities are manifestations of vital force, which vary in accordance with the structure and function of the different tissues. Vital force is not synonymous with the metabolically generated energy derived from the oxidation of glucose and fatty acids. Rather, it is the force that animates the metabolic processes which ultimately yield caloric energy. Vital force/chi differentiates life from death.
When alive, every part of the body is supported by vital force. The body is self-regulating and continuously adjusting to subtle changes, and shifts in both the external environment and its own internal environment. Vital force is elastic and adaptable, thus, it modulates its flow and other dynamics in accordance with the body’s regulatory needs. A corpse can be thought of as a body without vital force. To maintain health, there should neither be an excess nor a deficiency of vital force, either of which leads to illness.
According to Chinese medicine, chi circulates through channels, or meridians, throughout the body. The major channels often follow the cardiovascular circulatory routes with a network of progressively finer tributary branches permeating and supplying chi to all the cells of the body. There are 12 major symmetrical, bilaterally paired meridians (i.e., 12 on the left and an identical set of 12 on the right), 6 of which run along the arms and body, and 6 which run along the legs and body.
Each of the 12 pairs of meridians is associated with a specific organ or function. Energy moves along these channels in a complete cycle every 24-hours, transferring from pathway to pathway via connecting points. Thus, the meridians act as a means by which all the organs are linked together into an integrated entity. It is this cyclic and perpetual flow of chi throughout the body that is required to keep it healthy and strong.
How the Body Acquires Vital Force/Chi
In Chinese medicine, it is thought that chi is absorbed continuously into the body via breathing and intermittently via separation from the physical matrix of food. As all living organisms are enlivened by chi, all the plants and animals which serve as food sources harbor chi within their tissues. The digestive process separates this chi from the food’s substance, thus recycling it for utilization by the body that has ingested the food.
According to Chinese medicine, the spleen-pancreas is the digestive organ responsible for separating food-derived chi from its material matrix (referred to simply as the spleen in traditional Chinese medicine). Before the advent of modern anatomical knowledge, Chinese medicine considered the spleen and pancreas to be components of the same organ.
Thus, the lungs (which draw chi with each in-breath) and the spleen-pancreas (which extracts chi from ingested food) act synergistically to supply the organism with the continuous supply of vital force required to sustain its existence. Ultimately, there is a confluence of these two streams of chi, and it is the resultant integrated chi that flows through the acupuncture channels. This highlights the crucial nature of full breathing and efficient digestion in the maintenance of robust health.
The state of the channels is a crucial determining factor regarding health and disease. Once assimilated in the body, chi is distributed amongst the various organ acupuncture meridians such as the kidney meridian, liver meridian, etc., delivering chi to the organ that is serviced by its dedicated meridian. Thus, deficient or obstructed chi encourages organ dysfunction as well as blood stagnation (chi moves the blood), which, in turn, induces cellular nutrient and oxygen deficit, and autotoxemia: a build-up of toxins in the body that surpasses its threshold of tolerance.
The Origin of Vital Force
The idea of a vital force that animates the body extends back to antiquity. Ancient Egyptian religion referred to vital essence which separates the living from the dead as the ka. The Kabbalah discusses nefesh, or animal soul, which encompasses the sense of both life and breath. In ancient Greece, the physical body was thought to be animated by the psyche, which the sixth-century BCE philosopher Anaximenes equated with breath. In the Vedantic teachings of India, vital force is referred to as prana. Isaac Newton in his work Principia described a “subtle spirit,” whose “vibration” courses along nerves to the brain and muscles initiating movement. Twelfth century Arab philosopher and physician Averroes taught that vital force is present as a subtle substance in the cosmos and, via breathing, it is absorbed into the body and then transformed within the heart into animating life force.
In Esoteric Healing, Alice Bailey (1880-1949), a noted theosophist who had a decade’s long collaboration with a Tibetan teacher, writes that the purpose of vital force “…is to vitalize and energize the physical body and thus integrate it into the energy body of the Earth and of the solar system. It is a web of energy streams, of lines of force and of light. It constitutes part of the vast network of energies which underlies all forms whether great or small (microcosmic or macrocosmic). Along these lines of energy the cosmic forces flow, as the blood flows through the veins and arteries. This constant, individual–human, planetary and solar–circulation of life-forces within all forms is the basis of all manifested life, and the expression of the essential non-separateness of all life.”
Accordingly, every living organism is an integral part of the chi of the Earth itself and of the cosmos beyond. This idea that the vital force utilized by living organisms on Earth derives from interstellar space is widely held. Anthroposophical medicine recognizes three higher, non-material forces which sustain the existence of human life. The one that is most congruent with the concept of chi or vital force is referred to as the astral body.
It is a scientific fact that the human body and the physical structures of all other living organisms are made of elements that derive from stardust. When a star has exhausted its supply of hydrogen, it can die via a violent explosion called a nova. Such a stellar explosion causes a large cloud of dust and gases to be propelled into space.
Astronomer Carl Sagan in his 1980’s PBS series Cosmos related: “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”
Sagan is referring to the fact that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Humans and all other living organisms as well as most of the rest of the matter on this planet contain these elements.
The light projected by stars is a product of the energy released by nuclear fusion reactions at their cores. These are the very same nuclear fusion reactions which created chemical elements on Earth such as carbon or iron that serve as the chemical building blocks of plants, animals, rocks, etc. In fact, every element in the periodic table of chemistry, with the exception of hydrogen (which derives from Big Bang dust rather than stardust), are essentially components of stardust. Thus, aside from the hydrogen atoms in our bodies, the rest of the mineral composition of our physical structure derives from stardust.
Unlike stardust, a material substance, vital force is matter-less, and so considered by most modern medical practitioners to be an antiquated delusion. However, it seems reasonable that if the material substance of our bodies is largely constructed from stardust, then the vital force which elevates the body from the inanimate mineral kingdom into the animate realm of living organisms would originate in the same region.
Modern Medicine’s Lack of Acknowledgement of Vital Force
A simple scientific experiment can be done to prove the existence of vital force. Weigh a human being shortly before death and then immediately after death, and no difference in weight will be observed. This suggests that the absence of a matter-less force, not some quantifiable substance, is what differentiates a corpse from a living body.
Modern medicine has chosen to ignore the role vital force plays in health and disease. The thrust of modern medicine in the treatment of disease stems largely from its view of the individual as separate from the natural universe and the supply of chi it provides. Certainly, the need for oxygen, water, food and light are accepted, but unfortunately they are only given one-dimensional acknowledgement.
As discussed above, air and food are the organism’s two primary sources of chi. Fresh air, the source of both oxygen and chi is all-important for proper healing. Unfortunately, modern hospitalwindows are most often kept closed, forcing already debilitated patients to sustain their flickering life-flame with recycled air filled with the poisons and swarming microbes exhaled by the sick and dying. Renowned 19th century physician James C. Jackson, M.D. in his book How to Nurse the Sick, instructed: “Be sure, then, that in treating any invalid, whether suffering from an acute or chronic disease, you see that the room occupied has plenty of pure air, and that the person has opportunities to bathe in it…It is so refreshing, so recuperative, so calculated to restore the body to healthful conditions, and so easily obtained, as to leave those who forbear to use it for the benefit of the sick without justification.”
Hospital food is nearly as lifeless as the plastic tray upon which it’s served. (This is an oft-repeated joke, even by the medical staff.) Sleepand rest, essential for the reconstitution of the body’s reserves of vital force, are commonly interrupted to draw blood or to administer medication. The patient is even sometimes aroused from a deep sleep to receive a scheduled sleeping pill. Natural sleep and rest are crucial elements of healing in relation to any acute or chronic disorder and should onlybe interrupted if the patient has soiled the bedding.
Innate Intellect of the Organism: The Inner Physician
A crucial concept from traditional naturopathy is that the functioning of all the physiological processes within the body is guided by an innate intellect. This innate intellect is not associated with the rational intellect that guides our mental lives but rather an organic knowing with which every cell of the body is imbued.
This innate intellect is what the body’s “inner physician” uses to direct the body’s self-healing efforts. Accordingly, the role of a doctor in the treatment of disease is to make the requisite fundamental elements of health available to the “inner physician.” The inner physician then determines how to utilize these elements to best advantage, via the body’s in-built healing mechanisms, to restore the organism to a state of health. In this reference, Emmet Densmore, M.D. in How Nature Cures (1892) “…disease is but the expression and result of a disturbance of the conditions natural to life. The only useful office of the physician is to restore those conditions.”
This differs radically from the modern medical view of the role of the doctor. In this reference, there is no acknowledgment of the organism’s innate intellect. Instead, disease is viewed as evidence of the body having lost its way and incapable of charting its own course back to wellness. In this scenario, the external intellect of the doctor is required because the body is essentially a flesh and blood machine devoid of the sophisticated programming required for effective self-repair. The modern physician does not acknowledge the existence of the “inner physician.” Instead, the medical doctor feels certain that his or her intelligence is superior to the body’s innate intelligence.
This, of course, is one of the fundamental flaws in the practice of modern medicine. The conceit that the finite intelligence of rational consciousness is superior to one that derives from the infinite depths of the cosmos and the spiritual world contributes mightily to the depersonalization, egregiously limited standardization and proneness to clinical error associated with modern medical practice.
Vital Force/Chi is Composed of Both Force and Intellect
While many people are aware of the concept of chi, it is most often perceived as being an impersonal force – a type of cosmic electricity that vitalizes the body much in the same way that a flow of electrons along copper wires powers electric lights and appliances. However, chi is more than cosmic electricity, it is actually a form of cosmic intellect.
The teaching of Plotinus, the great 3rd century Greek philosopher, can help us understand this concept. Plotinus referred to God as “the One” (although he sometimes used the term “God” as well). Accordingly, the One is beyond space, time, form and conception and thus is essentially ineffable.
The first emanation from the One is spirit, a supernal light that contains all the archetypal forms that underlie all being and material manifestations within the realm of existence. Accordingly, spirit, endowed by the One with its own power is the direct facilitator of creation. Importantly, Plotinus uses two terms synonymously: spirit and Intellect. Implicit in this correlation is the idea that spirit is an all-pervading, intelligent energy and that the cosmos were produced, and are sustained, by the infinite creative power of this energy.
Intellect, in this context, differs from the cognitive functions, reasoning and conceptions associated with human mental activities. Human intellect derives from Intellect/Spirit, but represents only a minute fraction of its potential. There are after all, many forms of intelligence, including rational intellect, pre-logical instinct, empathic understanding and the knowing generated via interpersonal relation.
George Gershwin, arguably the greatest composer in American history, was actually scorned by many of the music critics of his day because he was largely self-taught and had never attended a prestigious conservatory. Nevertheless, Gershwin was both master composer and master pianist. Gershwin once revealed something of his learning process (referenced by Nicholas Delbanco in The Art Of Youth): “I went to concerts and listened not only with my ears but with my nerves, my mind and my heart. I listened so earnestly that I became saturated with the music. Then I went home and listened in memory. I sat at the piano and repeated the motifs.”
All the diverse forms of intellect are grounded within the matrix of this higher Intellect. Thus, the intellect required by a bird when building a nest, or by Albert Einstein while developing his theory of relativity regarding space and time emerged from this common ground.
Plotinus viewed spirit and Intellect as one and the same; he considered this cosmic intellect to be perfectly intelligent since all the archetypal forms of creation are inseparable from its essence. In turn, Plotinus referred to this essence of Intellect as “simply knowing.”
Plotinus writes in his master work the Enneads (quoted in the excellent Return To The One by Brian Hines): “For Intellect has of itself an intimate perception of its power — that it has power to produce material reality…And because spirit’s substance is a part of what belongs to the One and comes from the One, it is strengthened by the One and made perfect by and from material existence.”
The Book of Genesis similarly infers the role of intellect in the process of creation. For instance, Genesis 1:1-3 relates (from The Living Torah, translation and commentary by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan): “In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The earth was without form and empty, with darkness on the face of the depths, but God’s spirit moved on the water’s surface. God said, ‘There shall be light,’ and light came into existence.”
The inference here is that God’s spirit/Intellect engineered all the phenomena of the material world. It should be understood that when God’s speech initiated the first appearance of light in the material world, the divine inspiration regarding the idea of light (i.e., Intellect), expression of that idea (i.e., “God said”), and actualization of that idea (“and light came into existence”) all occurred simultaneously and were all one and the same. What the Torah is communicating here is that the universe was created via divine Intellect, is eternally imbued with it, and the universe’s ongoing evolvement is invariably directed by it.
Mirroring this, vital force contains the idea of sustaining life. This idea is expressed by its movement and dynamic energy and then actualized (once its journey through the cosmos concludes) with its absorption into the internal milieu of a living organism.
Intellect, Innate Intellect and the Inner Physician
This brings us full circle back to the traditional naturopathic concepts of innate intellect and the “Inner Physician.” Given all that is discussed above, it is reasonable to propose that the body’s innate intellect consists of internalized chi. Furthermore, the “inner physician” is the Intellect component of chi acting in collaboration with the intellectual powers inherent to each human being’s soul.
Plotinus held that soul, the second emanation from the One, emerges from spirit/Intellect. In a sense, spirit has a tangential relationship with Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious and soul with individuated consciousness.
Similarly, before chi is internalized via breathing or food ingestion, it still belongs entirely to the sea of chi that permeates the cosmos. Being moldable and adaptable, once vital force/chi enters the body’s inner environs, it undergoes a type of individuation wherein it shapes its essence in accordance with the specific parameters of the unique body/soul complex it flows through.
Therefore, stipulating that the organism’s innate intellect and its associated inner physician must be optimally operational in order to sustain a state of health, it can be confidently stated that that factors that interfere with the uptake and utilization of vital force are among the primary causative factors of disease. The intellect carried by vital force is required to continuously refresh and resupply the organism’s innate intellect. Lacking the necessary quotient of vital force, innate intellect becomes attenuated and disorganized. Pursuant to this, the “knowing” of the inner physician becomes uncertain and it loses the capacity to direct the organism’s native powers of resistance and recovery.
Suggestions for Building and Maintaining Vital Force/Chi
In traditional naturopathy and classical Chinese medicine, much of the practitioner’s focus is directed toward the preservation and building of vital force. A discussion of the options in this reference would fill a very large textbook. So today this article will make a few important suggestions:
1) Aspire to provide the fundamental elements of life and health to the body on a daily basis. Human life is dependent upon the presence of certain fundamental conditions: proper diet; pure water; fresh air; sunlight; adequate exercise, warmth, rest and sleep; emotional harmony; proper posture.
As a human being, you have an inherent relationship with these fundamental elements–disease is an outgrowth of a deficiency or excess of one or more of them. Restoration of health in the ill person is accomplished through the same means of sustaining life and preserving health in the well person. Each of the fundamental elements of life and health listed above are essential to the absorption and circulation of vital force.
2) Diet: A central dietary principle of my Natural Health Science System is: Eat a diet dominated by fresh, whole, high water-content foods. A high water-content diet consists predominantly of fresh fruits and vegetables with smaller amounts of a choice of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, brown eggs, fowl and fish. Ideally, every meal should emphasize water-rich foods.
Fresh fruits and vegetables (eaten at separate meals) are alkalizing and rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and organic water. When possible, use organically grown (and thus non-genetically modified) fruits and vegetables which, having been grown without pesticides, are more nutritious and do not contribute synthetic chemicals to the body’s toxic load.
The body is two-thirds water, and our “fluid organization” must be constantly nurtured and replenished. It is important to bear in mind that vital force must be absorbed into the body’s fluid organization (i.e., blood, lymph and extracellular fluids) in order to act efficiently within the body. When chi bypasses the fluid organization and engages directly with tissue, it gives rise to spasm and pain. We can refer to this circumstance as “reckless chi.”
Also, the alkalizing effect of a diet dominated by fresh fruits and vegetable is crucial to maintaining the alkaline pH and purity of the blood. It should be borne in mind that according to Chinese medicine, chi moves the blood and, in turn, blood nourishes chi. Therefore, if the blood is insufficiently alkaline or otherwise impure, it cannot effectively nourish chi.
3) Dr. Berkowsky’s Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System: The Skin and Vital Chi Flow
Being an essential matrix for the chi channels, the skin is a crucial medium for chi movement. The places at which the various channels and vessels reach the skin surface are the “acupoints” used in acupuncture and acupressure. Chi-flow can be accessed through these points, which are usually located in tissue depressions and differ in “feel” and electrical resistance from surrounding tissue.
Zhao Jin-Xiang, who developed the internal exercise system known as Soaring Crane Chi Kung, writes: “Every point is an orifice similar to the visible ones such as the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. The opening of a point is identical to the establishment of a connection between the body and the environment. The spent and diseased chi will be expelled from the body through this connection, while the healthy chi needed by the body will be taken in.”
My Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System is so named because one of its primary features is that it is designed to strengthen the chi-circulation throughout the body. This helps explain why one of the initial effects people report experiencing after a Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System session is increased stamina and vitality. The practice of Vital Chi Skin-Brushing on a daily, or every-other-day, basis provides powerful support for vital force/chi.
To learn more about this system click on the following link: Vital Chi Skin-Brushing
4) Alternate Warm and Cool Shower: Students and clients have reported that the Alternate Warm and Cool Shower forms a particularly powerful synergy with Vital Chi Skin-Brushing.
While this shower therapy has been used to treat specific health conditions, it has also served well as a general chi tonic procedure. Of all the various hydrotherapies, this “unequal periods” Alternate Warm and Cool Shower (with the emphasis on the former) is one I suggest most commonly as an overall tonic treatment. It’s an invigorating procedure which vitalizes chi, circulatory, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, nerve and skin functions.
As noted above, according to the Chinese, chi moves the blood and, in turn, blood nourishes chi. Therefore the circulatory tonic effects of this shower procedure will also indirectly enhance the integrity of the body’s chi flow.
The Alternate Warm and Cool Shower (preceded by your Vital Chi Skin-Brushing routine) employed three to four times weekly has proven to be wonderfully restorative.
For more details about the Alternate Warm and Cool Shower, click on the following link. Alternate Warm and Cool Shower
5) Essential Oils:
Many of you are probably aware that deep psycho-spiritual work with essential oils is one of the main focuses of my work. Essential oils can also be used to help support the integrity of chi within the body.
The olfactory nerves: nerves related to the sense of smell are directly connected to cerebral centers, including the hypothalamus: a crucial portion of the brain stem. The hypothalamus, along with portions of the cerebral cortex, comprise a complex called the limbic system, which can modify the way a person acts because it functions to produce emotional feelings, such as fear, anger, pleasure and sorrow. In this way, the limbic system guides the person into appropriate behavioral responses to daily survival challenges.
Too, the hypothalamus plays a pivotal role in maintaining physiological homeostasis and by serving as the link between the nervous and endocrine (hormonal) systems. Essential oils also contain hormone precursors and other very active biochemical components which can be used to positively influence various systems of the body.
Some of the essential oils to consider in this reference include: bitter orange, carrot seed, cedarwood, Douglas-fir, elemi, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, lemon, lemon grass, palo santo, pine, rosemary, spikenard and thyme.
One of my personally formulated blends called is specifically designed to support the flow and vibrancy of chi.
To use either the individual essential oils or ImmunEssence, you may want to consider the following particularly invigorating method:
Follow-Up Lemon Juice/Essential Oil Rub: This is best performed after Vital Chi Skin-Brushing and the alternate warm and cool shower. Do not dry completely. The skin must be moist for this procedure.
Squeeze the juice of ½ of a large lemon or 1 small lemon (preferably organically grown) into a small cup. Add to the juice: 4 to 5 drops of one or more of the oils listed above–whether using one or more oils, the total amount of oil should not exceed 5-drops to avoid potential skin-irritation – or 3 to 4 drops of ImmunEssence. Next, stir with your finger or plastic spoon. Now, using bare hands, rub the mixture into moist skin until completely absorbed. This is a wonderfully invigorating experience.
6) Keep Your Feet Warm
Chronically cold feet are not just a minor annoyance, but rather, an indication of sluggish, imbalanced blood circulation and the vital force deficiency and/or stagnation which set the stage for disease. If the flow of blood to the feet is abnormal, it’s likely that circulation to all extremities, including the head, is affected. This, in part, explains why people who suffer from cold feet also commonly manifest poor concentration, eye problems, headaches, nervousness, anxiety and insomnia. And because this causes an ongoing imbalance of blood supply to all the body’s tissues, there may be other troubling symptoms such as poor digestion, heart palpitations and lowered resistance to infection.
An even distribution of blood and normal flow-rate are required for good health and for the resolution of disease. Therefore, cold feet—a symptom of over-all circulatory problems and chi deficiency—should not be dismissed as a minor discomfort.
To learn more about the consequences of chronically cold feet and specific exercises and other therapeutic measures to address this problem, see my Dangers of Cold Feet booklet.
7) Daily Airbath
An airbath involves exposure of the undressed body to the currents of moving air. Though deceptively simple, it’s actually helps restore vitality and balanced nerve activity. I have recommended the airbath to young mothers for their babies as a daily relaxant measure; it’s also beneficial for those (of any age) who are hyperactive.
Benjamin Franklin was notably fond of taking airbaths, especially during his workday, claiming it enabled him to “think more clearly.” In The Practice of Nature-Cure, a great early 20th century naturopath Henry Lindlahr, M.D. writes: “Who would think of keeping plants or animals covered up, away from the air and light? We know they would wither and waste away before long…Civilized human beings have for ages hidden their bodies most carefully from sun and air, which are so necessary to their well-being…the human skin has become so enervated that often it has lost the power to perform freely and efficiently…Undoubtedly, this has much to do with the prevalence of various types of ill health.”His son, Victor Lindlahr, M.D., is also a noted physician; he remarks in The Natural Way To Health: “The action of the skin can be stimulated by three simple procedures: sunbaths, water applications and airbaths. And, strangely enough, the most imposing results are obtained by the simplest of all—the airbath.”
Air is to humans what water is to fish. It’s not enough to breathe-in air through the nostrils while wholly neglecting the skin’s breathing function. Like the lungs, the skin takes-in oxygen and throws-off carbon dioxide. Hiding the body under synthetic and/or heavy, tight-fitting clothing seals-off the skin from the life-stimulating influence of air. Since the skin is the primary organ involved in the regulation of blood-flow through the capillaries, some scientists feel it does as much work toward the proper circulation of blood as does the heart. The skin capillaries have approximately 800-times the combined cross-section area of the aorta, the largest artery in the body.
To learn more about the airbath, click on the following link: Airbath Article
8) Rest and Sleep
Adequate rest and sleep are absolutely essential for the maintenance of a robust flow of vital force within the body. Sleep affords the body’s chi reserves the opportunity to be reconstituted each day. Also, much of the body’s detoxification efforts take place at night while the body is in sleep mode. The accrual of toxins in the body beyond the body’s threshold of tolerance is referred to as autotoxemia. When the body is in an autotoxemic state, the blood, lymph and extracellular fluids are less pure and much more vital force is required to effect physiological activities in face of the resistance offered by stored toxins.
Rest is a conservative measure, in that it conserves vital force expenditure. Ideally, one’s daily routine should always feature rest periods (e.g., a nap, sitting in the park during lunch hour, etc.). This not only conserves vital force but also allows it regularly scheduled periods to reorganize between stress challenges.
Adequate rest and sleep help sustain a pattern of activity/rest rhythmicity in one’s life. There is a very close relationship between rhythmicity and the flow of chi. To read more about the importance of rhythmicity in one’s life, click on the following link. Health vs. Disease: A Matter of Rhythm
9) Exercise Coordinated with Breathing
One of the central characteristics of vital force/chi is movement. It is this movement that enables the movement and other kinetic physiological actions of the body. Thus, exercise attracts and supports the flow of chi and sedentary behavior offers resistance to it.
As discussed above, breathing is one of the two pathways by which chi enters the body. Modern human beings, especially urban dwellers, because of sedentary behavior, emotional stress and air pollution, among other factors, tend to breathe shallowly, using only a portion of the surface area of the lungs.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It plays a major role in breathing, as its downward contraction increases the volume of the chest, thus allowing for inflation of the lungs. Obesity tends to restrict the full motion of the diaphragm and this further inhibits the expansion of the lungs.
Breathing is the body’s most essential function. Without the continuous intake of vital force and meeting of air and blood, life would end immediately. We can live without food for weeks, without water for several days, but without oxygen, survival is limited to only a few minutes.
My Flow, Motion and Power Exercise Workout, which derives from my many years of eclectic training in both Western and Eastern exercise disciplines, integrates movement, flexibility and breathing in equal measure. Importantly, all the exercise movements are coordinated with breathing. Thus, the system strengthens vital force both through movement and breathing. The complete system is very extensive but the basic routine described in this fully illustrated booklet powerfully demonstrates its fundamental dynamics.
Disclaimer: This publication is intended as an educational tool, and not as a prescription. Seek the advice of your health-care provider before discontinuing any medication and/or trying any new remedy or technique.