Sensations of Qi


People new to Qigong will invariably ask, "What does Qi feel like?". It can only be answered indirectly and examples are given. The sensations of Qi are pretty much subjective regardless of their amplitude as powerful and strong or subtle and ephemeral. Generally Qi can be described as hot or cold, coolness, tingling, heaviness or lightness, rushing, tightness, openess, electrical or vibratory, 

My Master, T.K. Shih spoke about the population as a whole in regards to who feels Qi. 

10% of people feel Qi easily

40 % of people will feel Qi with a little bit of work

40% of people will not feel Qi right away but after a lot of work will eventually feel it

10% of people never feel Qi even with a lot of work. It still is present and flowing but they do not have sensation of it

One thing that is pretty much consistent across the wide and varied landscape or Qigong practice is that practitioners who practice frequently and who have practiced a long time feel Qi easier, more quickly and can detect the subtleties of the Qi itself. I myself feel it best in my palms, spine, forehead and kidneys. Often, just demonstrating a form or opening my palm and giving it my attention for a moment allows me to feel it there. My hands may be more sensitive as I often do massage as part of my work as a Physical Therapist.

I do remember a time starting out when I felt nothing at all except peaceful and relaxed doing the Eight Pieces of Brocade, and that is quite OK too. I really did not feel any strong Qi sensations until studying Medcial Qigong with Master T.K.Shih in 2001. For a time I strove to replicate those sensations and felt like I did not attain anything from a session if I didn't feel Qi. That of course is a typical newbie response. To paraphrase the old masters 'Take notice of the landscape but don't get lost in it, just keep practicing.' 

Now days Qi sensations are a nice by-product of my training. I do feel it more now than I did starting out and it is because I work on deepening and relaxing into my forms instead of hinging my attention on 'what and when' I'm going to feel something. 

Skeptics may say things like "Your just feeling increased blood flow or nerve sensations". My response to them is "Yes! exactly!" Why would I not? Qi and blood flow together in the body. Our bodies are built with biological material that has to interface with more subtle energies that are also part of us. The most noticeable and measurable effects are things like respiration, blood flow, cortisol levels, blood pressure, brain wave patterns and galvanic skin responses. The sensations of Qi cannot be measured with instruments. Our body IS the instrument . Qi sensations are sensations perceived by us through the holistic interface of our entire body to this movement of energy.

So for all you Qigong practitioners out there and I'm really talking to you newbies, continue practicing, enjoy but don't get stuck on the Qi sensations, and know that those sensation no matter how powerful or subtle are valid justification to your progress in Qigong.

All the best to you,