This post is part of the series Mysticism in Oriental Medicine

Other posts in this series:

  1. Acupuncture in the Media
  2. Qi in Media (Current)

We’ve all seen the movies where marital artists fly through the air, Asian monks levitate off the ground in their meditation, and even throw energy blasts out of their hands. These powers are attributed to qi and when you master this energy you will gain self discipline, tranquility, and superpowers.

Or would you?

Acupuncture is useful for performance enhancement. I have treated people who dramatically improved their running mile.  Others have took a few strokes off their golf game.  Clearly something was helpful with these treatments.  The meditative disciplines of the Orient help with mental and emotional control and are the basis of mindfulness based cognitive therapy.  Performing the hadouken however, is a bit of a stretch.

Qi is seen by many as something like The Force in Star Wars. Traditionally, many Asian cultures saw the influence of qi in several aspects of the world around them. Qi moved the heavens and animated life. There were many different kinds of qi, and a skilled qigong master was thought to be able to change and use their qi as they saw fit. These claims come from Daoist texts, which did influence the teaching of acupuncture.

Reality, however, is far less mystical. Qi can be viewed as air in some contexts, in others it relates to metabolism or electricity and other phenomena. While these phenomena do incredible things they will not grant you the ability to bend spoons with your mind. Even if they could the texts from which these claims come state that you would have to be celibate for several years and follow strict dietary and meditative practices.  All of this would require you effectively becoming a hermit, cut off from the rest of the world. Life lived in such a fashion would be lonely, boring, and lacking in purpose.

So if qi doesn’t work like in the movies then how does acupuncture work?  The cultures which developed the system of acupuncture found something that works, just not the way they thought. Acupuncture influences the nerves, endocrine, and circulatory systems.  These systems send blood, nutrients, and appropriate signals to various parts of the body to help tissues repair, inflammation reduce, and metabolic processes to run smoothly. This leads to the body healing itself and improving athletic performance.

Every culture likes to tell tall tales. It makes for good story telling and is entertaining. However, one should always remember that reality has a habit of being right. While we may not be flying through space on the back of a giant turtle, we do live on a planet where electric eels, platapi, and ball lighting all exist. Acupuncture works because of anatomical principles, primarily ones associated with the nervous system. Qi need not be used to explain how things work. Instead of going and meditating under a waterfall for a few years, talk to an acupuncturist about how to sleep better, improve your circulation, and increase your performance potential.

 Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *