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Perceiving Qi

As acupuncturists and therapists it is vital for us to perceive subtle energy. A key question to ask ourselves is how do we recognize qi energy?


Consider this for a moment, before continuing to read on.


How do you perceive subtle energy?





Do you perceive it through the pulse, by palpation, feeling it, or perhaps in the glimmer - or lack thereof - in the patient’s eyes?


While there are numerous ways to perceive subtle energy, I want to discuss how we can feel it through palpation.


With palpation, we may include reading the pulse, palpating meridians, and applying pressure or holds in key regions and points. When we palpate the pulse we are feeling into the dynamics related to blood flow and organ systems. This can tell us a lot about the state of both the blood and qi, but as we are feeling the pulse, much of what we are assessing is the movement of blood through the body.


When we palpate meridians and points, we can evaluate tension in the muscles and subtler forms of tension in the myofascial system. As qi moves through the meridians, we may conceive of perceiving subtle energy as fascial tension. There is real value in doing this, as it can help us determine the most appropriate points to needle on a patient, rather than just going with standardized textbook locations.


I have found in my practice, that when I take the time to feel for subtle tension (qi stagnation) in the fascia and needle the points accordingly, I tend to get a better response and stronger qi sensation. Similarly, when I locate points and regions that are a crux in the way that the body-mind is holding tension, strong physical and emotional releases can occur. Therefore, one way to perceive subtle energy is to feel for these areas of qi stagnation and nodules that get held in the fascia.


One way to perceive subtle energy is to feel for these areas of qi stagnation and nodules that get held in the fascia.


When key points are located in the fascia, dramatic shifts can occur with even just a little pressure. When I palpate and find a tender point, I have learned to hold it for a moment to see how the client responds. Often they may say that it is sensitive, but for those with shen disturbance and mental-emotional disorders, holding the point can induce an emotional release. This can be very powerful and healing on many levels.


Similarly, I have found that craniosacral therapy (CST) has taught me a lot about perceiving subtle energy. Craniosacral therapists are taught to perceive subtle rhythms in the craniosacral system, cerebrospinal fluids, and cranial bones. In some regards, perceiving these subtle rhythms is similar to reading the pulse, except that the therapist is aware of rhythms in the nervous system rather than in the vessels. I have also found that perceiving the cranial rhythms gives me information much like reading a pulse. Different rates, rhythms, and qualities can be felt with cranial sacral holds, and these may correlate with a person’s subtle energy, pulse, symptoms, patterns, and disease.


What I like about cranial sacral work as an acupuncturist, is that it gives me another way to perceive subtle energy, as well as a tool to heal, calm, and rejuvenate a patient. Learning CST has also helped me to get better at reading pulses because feeling cranial rhythms is even more subtle than feeling pulse qualities. Similarly, learning to feel the subtle tension that lodges in the meridians and fascia has helped me to be better at pulse reading and CST.


In conclusion, subtle energy may be perceived in several ways including through the pulse, via the myofascia, and in cranial rhythms. I believe that therapists and acupuncturists can greatly benefit their patients by learning all three of these, and then integrating the findings from each method of assessment into a coordinated treatment. To learn more follow the links below.




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