Qi or Prana – they are just different terms for energy aren’t they?

Qi (pronounced cheee) is often translated from Chinese into our Western language as ‘energy’. It is the bread and butter of acupuncturists like me as I needle to boost or calm qi within any acupuncture treatment. Anyone that does Tai Qi or Qi Gong (Chi Kung) will be trying to cultivate their qi through specialised movements.


Prana is translated from Hindu as ‘energy’ too. Cultivating Prana is what Yoga practitioners do particularly when they are practising the special breathing techniques known as Pranayama.

Is qi/prana some magic but imaginary substance or is it something real, something tangible?

To help you understand what qi is, try out this exercise:

Think back to this morning when you got up. How much ‘get up and go’ did you have?

If you are morning person, then you may spring out of bed full of vim and vigour. So at this time of day your qi is powerful, dynamic and sufficient (or even more than sufficient) for you to carry out your days work.

Not a morning person?

Then when you got up, your qi may have felt flat, low, and barely sufficient to get you out of bed and moving.

So qi can certainly be described as energy and experienced as something real.

Here’s another exercise to feel qi:

Sense the temperature in your hands and feet. Are they hot or cold? Or neither?

If your hands or feet are at either end of the temperature spectrum, so either hot or cold, then your qi is out of balance. If your temperature just feels ‘normal’ then your qi is in balance.

So qi can be experienced as something hot, something cold or something in between. Again this sense of temperature can be viewed as ‘energy’ and can be experienced as something real.

Both Qi and Prana are terms which are describing a concept of action, activity or movement.

In the first example used above, how much get up and go you have in the morning is the end product of many body processes including

  • How well you ate and digested your food yesterday.
  • How much energy you expended yesterday.
  • How well you slept last night.
  • How well your body carried out detoxification and building new blood cells last night.

These processes involve the movement of blood and fluids around your body and in and out of your cells. Oxygen, glucose, hormones and other substances need to be carried round your whole body and transferred into the cells that need them. Carbon dioxide, lactic acid and other substances need to be collected from your cells and moved around your body to wherever they are going to used or excreted from. So all of this involves action, activity, movement….or qi/ prana.

In the second example, hand and feet temperature, your qi can be experienced;

  • as heat (too much qi, body processes over active)
  • or as cold (too little qi, body processes underactive).

How does mindfulness based meditation help qi/ prana?

Mindfulness based meditation allows your body AND your mind to rest, to relax.


If your body and mind aren’t busy or tense then your muscles needs less fuel, less oxygen and glucose. This means other systems in the body (like the immune system or detoxification processes) get a bigger share of fuel and can work more effectively.  It’s then easier for action, activity and movement (qi/prana) to enable healing or maintenance and repair need to take place.

If you can take your mindfulness with you into everyday life (post meditation) then overall you will be using up less qi/ prana…. which gives you a better chance of living a happy, healthy and long life. 🙂

Mindfulness based meditation frees your qi. 🙂 

Does this explanation make sense to you? Qi and Prana can be challenging concepts to explain and understand, so if you are still a bit foggy and you want to clarify anything please put a comment below. Thank you. Annya x

More on qi/ prana on Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qi


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