What is Energy (AKA prana, chi or ki)?

Although there are many specious claims made about “energy”, also known as prana, chi, and ki, it is based in a very real experience.

Close your eyes and recall a time when you were excited, notice where you were, what you were thinking, recalling this as vividly as possible. Then notice what is going on in your body. You may feel some tingling in your chest.

That is all energy is. It is a tingling sensation.

If an acupuncturist leaves a needle in long enough, you will feel some tingling around the needle. This is where the idea of chi in Chinese medicine comes from (The Japanese call it ki). They think it flows through meridians in the body and that blockages cause ill health.

There are breathing exercises in Yoga called pranayama. They can result in tingling bodily sensations. Yoga teaches that prana permeates the universe, is brought into the body with the breath and circulates in the body through channels call nadis.

New agers often refer to energy like it is electricity. As an electrical engineer, I can tell you, skepticism about the electromagnetic nature of it aside, it does not follow a closed loop like electricity does. I have had someone tell me that they felt energy come out of me, yet I didn’t feel it. So much for the circuit hypothesis.

I have done meditations that circulate the energy and others that work with it in other ways. Although, I am dubious that I am literally circulating energy, I have found the practices beneficial. Perhaps, these experiences will be studied scientifically someday to find out what what is really going on.

©2016 Stephen L. Martin

Photo: Acupuncture dummy showing the meridians through which chi is believed to flow.

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