Qi and the Fascia

Carl Hendel, M.D.

We need to start with some basic definitions.


Fascia is a kind of connective tissue that invests (surrounds ) structures in the body. It surrounds muscles (myofascial layers), nerves, blood vessels, organs, just about everything in the body, AND it is all inter-connected! You've probably noticed fascia when you look carefully at a piece of meat. It's that shiny thin stuff that holds everything together..


Qi ...well, it's pretty tough to come up with a simple definition. Basically, qi is the energy of the universe. In Chinese Medicine, it refers to the energy of the body. It has many functions, including all movement (voluntary and involuntary), immunity and body defense, nutritive actions, and more. It is necessary for the proper function of all of our organs. Stagnant or deficient qi is the source of much pain and illness.


Qi behaves much like water, flowing through "paths of least resistance" moving from springs to streams and rivers, running to the sea. The passageways in the body are called channels or "meridians", and have eluded western scientific measurement. Western Medicine has been reluctant to admit that something that can't be measured (qi) can be real, let alone the passageways through which it flows. Obviously, we move and we breathe. This life force is undeniable, despite our present inability to measure it. The Chinese accept the presence of this life energy, and call it qi. The passageways, the meridians have been precisely mapped for over 3 thousand years.


These mysterious meridians, these channels through which qi flows.....what is the anatomic explanation? There are connections from the internal organs (heart, liver, lung, kidney, spleen, etc) to the surface of the body, and the meridians are accessible to acupuncture needles, acupressure (pressure points, shiatsu), and other techniques.


Perhaps the qi flows through the fascia, since it is the common connecting link for all of the structures in the body.

Acupuncture, the practice in Chinese medicine of inserting fine wire-like needles into places along the meridians, is said to adjust and balance the qi flow through the body.


TaiJi Quan, an Chinese internal exercise, teaches us to suspend our headtop and relax. By doing so, our fascia becomes like a silk curtain, hanging down from the base of our skull. The gentle movements generated by the turning of the waist and differentiaion of yin and yang, allow the fascia to flow in harmony with the mind. As we practice, the tissues un-wind, the lymphatic flow is enhanced, "the spirit is relaxed and the body is calm."

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