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Natural Awakenings Indianapolis

The Basics of East Asian Medicine: Joy and Harmony in Motion

May 31, 2016 04:10PM ● By Greg Golden

Chinese medicine views the emotional and physical bodies as reflections of one another.  One analogy for this is the anatomy of a tree. The emotional body is represented by the underground roots—private and unseen. The trunk and branches of the tree represent the physical body—the part of the individual openly visible to the rest of the world.

Perfect health is viewed as a three-part equation: the abundance of vital, life-force energy or qi; the unobstructed flow of qi; and the balance and harmony between the organ systems.


The first part of the equation is the abundance of qi. There is no direct translation of the word qi into the English language, although some translate it as energy and others describe it as oxygen and blood circulation. Qi is a summation of both the energy derived from air, water, food, sunlight and emotions, as well as the ability to make use of this energy. Qi, therefore, is not only the energy of the force of life itself, but also the functional systems to derive and utilize this energy.

This is a concept out of the basic scope of the Western medicine model, which is largely based on the sciences of biology and chemistry. In these sciences, everything is viewed as physical matter with physical substance. While this is an important characteristic of health, it is not the entire picture. Energy and function in Western science fall under the category of physics. Physics describes everything as matter and energy simultaneously. This is one way to understand Chinese medicine and qi. The qi is the energy and function of the energy as it interacts with the matter.  

Relating this back to the model of the tree, the matter is most closely related to the trunk and branches of the tree—the human body. The energy is most closely related to the roots of the tree—the human emotion. The qi is not just energy; it’s how the energy and the matter function and interact together.  


The unobstructed flow of qi is the second part of the equation. An old expression in Chinese medicine states, “Wherever there is pain, there is obstruction; wherever there is obstruction, there is pain.”  

The obstruction is described as qi stagnation, an energetic blockage, or as blood stasis, a physical and energetic obstruction. The qi is said to move the blood, so when there is blood stasis, there is essentially qi stagnation. In order for the individual to feel well again, the obstruction must be alleviated so that the qi may flow freely throughout the body.

As the emotional and physical bodies are reflections of one another, so the obstruction of qi usually manifests as both physical and emotional pain. For example, a condition classified as Liver Qi Stagnation can be experienced both as a physical pain in the chest, as well as an emotional upset, such as anger or depression. Unblocking the qi will result in the dual benefit of both relieving the physical and emotional discomfort.  

Balance and Harmony

For the final part of the equation, Chinese medicine is focused on balance and harmony, so while each organ system needs to be performing its own function, it also needs to be in balance with all the other systems. Within this medical system, there are specific warning signs and symptoms of one system being out of harmony. This imbalance is addressed accordingly by some modality of the medicine, such as acupuncture, an herbal formula prescription, or a qigong exercise specific to regulating and harmonizing the imbalances present.  

Just as there is a healthy harmony between organ systems, there is also harmony between the emotional body and the physical body. When there are disruptive emotions, such as anger or fear, it’ll specifically affect the dynamics of the qi in negative ways and when there is elation or joy, the qi will flow freely and unobstructed. Conversely, when the flow of qi becomes obstructed or erratic, this energetic dynamic can be interpreted as anger or anxiety respectively.   

These concepts and dynamics are outlined in the classics of Chinese medicine and have been cornerstones of the medicine for literally thousands of years.  

Dr. Greg Golden Dr. Greg Golden, Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, practices in three locations in Indianapolis. He is a licensed acupuncturist, board-certified herbalist and certified to practice a full scope of Oriental Medicine. For more information or to contact him, visit
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