Qi Reactions

Qigong is a natural medicine and is based on increasing awareness. During a Qigong treatment or class you become aware of the blockages within your body, affecting your state of well-being. There is a saying in Chinese Medicine "Blood follows the Qi, Qi follows the mind". Once the awareness is there, the stream of Qi driven by your mind like a mighty river penetrates affected organs and tissues. It breaks concentration of pathogenic Qi that you were previously living with (sometimes for a long time), to bring you back to health.

During this process, and especially after the treatment you may experience something which is commonly called a "Qi reaction". This is a healing reaction of the body in a surge to expel foreign and unnatural patterns of Qi rooted and lodged in your energy system.

Let us look at an example of a Qi reaction..

A common Qi reaction - an example.

You come to receive a Qigong treatment for your upper back pain, which you have been living with for nearly 2 years. After certain message, back manipulations and energy adjustments you do feel some relief, but there is a feeling that something is still there and the pain is going to come back. "Nah - this stuff doesn't work" - you think to yourself.

You go home and next day you wake up feeling you are actually getting sick. You feel cold, have chills, and the fever is steadily climbing up; you have a headache and your upper back (WHAT?) is even more stiff and sore! Today is Saturday. You crawl under your warm blanket. Your family is concerned - they give you tea with ginger and honey, (or Panadol for your headache and send you to the doctor). But you believe it is just a cold which you caught on the way back and you decide to stay home.

Naturally, after some time you start sweating and fall asleep, however few hours later when you wake up in your sticky-wet bed feeling much better, you vaguely remember that you WERE GETTING A COLD two years ago, just about the time when your back pain started. However at that time you did not have an opportunity to stay in bed for the whole day, because you had a deadline at work and had to go there. This time YOU DID WHAT YOUR BODY TOLD YOU TO DO and now there is no more back pain and you feel a bit weak but very-very happy!

A common Qi reaction - the explanation

Qi reaction can be defined as a NATURAL response of the body (reinforced by the Qi) to do what it had to do in order to counteract the original pathogenic influence.

Yes, at that time when you were getting a cold your body naturally "told" you to stay home, but your behaviour DID NOT FOLLOW THE NATURE. You decided to go to work because of such and such circumstances.

According to Shang Han Lun, the classic of Chinese Medicine, when exterior Wind-Cold pathogen enters the body, it lodges itself in the upper part of the body, in the Greater Yang channel which covers the whole back. It blocks the flow of Qi through the upper back, stiffens it up, and the person experiences upper back pain. "In the disease of the greater Yang channel, the pulse is floating, the head and nape are stiff and painful, and there is aversion to cold" (Zhang, p.41). The cold blocks the pores of the body, and there is no sweating to release the pathogen. The treatment in this case would be to induce sweating. This is why warm blanket, honey and giner are used in folk medicine.

However, your decision was not to let it resolve, and the body had to live with the pathogen lodged in the upper back. Up until the day of the treatment, your decision, your intent HELD THE PATHOGEN INSIDE and you experienced your back pain for 2 years. Congratulations, now you moved a little bit closer to your nature.

Other Qi reactions

Qi reactions often resemble worsening of your current symptoms or they look like problems you have already had in the past but completely forgotten about them or learnt how to live with them. Commonly experienced are:

  • pain in the joints, muscle or any places of old injuries
  • high fever and flu-like symptoms, tonsillitis, sweating, cough
  • a discharge from any part of the body
  • hot rashes, sores, swelling
  • nausea or vomiting and diarrhoea

In fact, Qi reactions can take almost any form, but they differ from an illness in that they are a manifestion of unnatural foreign Qi that has been lodged in the body being expelled from it, whereas illness occurs when pathogenic Qi penetrates the body or manifests within it. In a way, a Qi reaction is a REVERSE of the pathogenic invasion: this time the pathogen struggles with the body trying to stay in, but it has to LEAVE the system because this time the body has had a great reinforcement following a Qigong treatment or practice.

Emotional reactions

Reactions may not only be of a physical nature. It is also common to experience a Qi reaction of an emotional or mental type. For example, those patients who had been living in the state of stress, may have an upsurge of anger. Anger is a natural reaction of the Liver Qi being suppressed for a period of time. Liver Qi in Chinese Medicine is in charge of a free emotional flow, and it goes into anger easily when the flow is restrained. Once the anger is passed, a person feels much better. Other common reaction is crying. This is also due to Liver being released (Liver manifests in the eyes), or due to grief and sadness suppressed for a long time and bottled inside the body, surfacing to leave the system.

Dealing with Qi reactions

If you have an unusual reaction following the treatment or a class, it is best to stay with the body and do what it tells you to do. If you feel like lying down to sleep - please go for it. Don't worry, the world is not going to stop whirling without you. If your body needs some food, or even some particular special food, or even wine - please follow, it is often our own acquired ideas, our "DO's and DON'Ts" that make us sick. You are not going to get fat from one chocolate or become an alcoholic from a glass of wine. Once your body receives what it wants, it follows you like a dog on a leash - listening to your commands, always willing to protect and help you.

Accept any Qi reaction with gratitude and think about your behaviour at that time, when the pathogenic Qi lodged itself in you. If you feel angry now, who is the one who made you angry? Was it due to something or someone being unjust? Or it is just because you did not understand a subtle meaning of that lesson your were taught by your own life?

Most important is to know that QI REACTIONS ARE TEMPORARY and they will leave you as soon as the pathogens causing them are overcame by your protective forces. What is required from you is your support. Intensify your Qigong practice if you do it yourself, or if you not - just stay calm and observe. Follow your body.

And once the foreign Qi leaves you, you will find yourself at a higher level of balance - your health and wellbeing flourishing, and the level of your Qigong practice will let you go a little bit further now.

Zhang, Zhong Jin (circa 150-219 C.E.) Shang Han Lun, On Cold Damage. Translated by Craig Mitchell, Feng Ye, Nigel Wiseman