The movie “Star Wars” is famous for its idea of “the Force” which is described as “an energy field created by all living things that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” Though the Force is treated as fiction by Hollywood and most Westerners, in fact the concept has a rich history around the world. In traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine it is called “Chi.” Japanese mystics and martial artists call it “Ki.” Indian yogis and sadhus call it “Prana.” The Ancient Greeks called it “Pneuma.” Jewish Kabbalists call it “Nefish.” Christians call it the “Holy Ghost.” Muslims call it “Baraka.” And the Polynesians call it “Mana.”
"Qi or chi is the source of everything, the building block of all things. Human beings are made of living cells, and when we look into each cell we see a membrane, the nucleus and so on. Then if you look further into that structure you’ll see atoms - electrons, protons, and neutrons. And if you look even further, scientists now tell us that they can see energy there. However, according to the 5,000-year-old Chinese Qigong theory, if you go beyond scientific measurement - this is called the chi level. We can communicate with the chi level using our minds to do different things, such as healing." - Luke Chan, Chi Kung Master
Chi has been studied and written about for over ten thousand years in diverse places such as China, Japan, India, Tibet, Nepal, Hawaii, and South America. It is the foundation of numerous health and fitness practices around the world including Chi Kung, Falun Gong, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Acupressure and Acupuncture, Reflexology, Orgone Therapy, Pranayama, Yoga, Feng Shui, and Martial Arts.
“Through scientific experiment they have demonstrated that there may be such a thing as a life force flowing through the universe – what has variously been called collective consciousness or, as theologians have termed it, the Holy Spirit. They have provided a plausible explanation of all those areas over the centuries mankind has had faith in but no solid evidence of or adequate accounting for, from the effectiveness of alternative medicine and even prayer to life after death. They have offered us, in a sense, a science of religion.” -Lynne McTaggart, “The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe,” (XXVIII)
“In Chinese philosophy, the field idea is not only implicit in the notion of the Tao as being empty and formless, and yet producing all forms, but is also expressed explicitly in the concept of ch’i. This term played an important role in almost every Chinese school of natural philosophy … The word ch’i literally means ‘gas’ or ‘ether’, and was used in ancient China to denote the vital breath or energy animating the cosmos. In the human body, the ‘pathways of ch’i’ are the basis of traditional Chinese medicine. The aim of acupuncture is to stimulate the flow of ch’i through these channels. The flow of ch’i is also the basis of the flowing movements of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, the Taoist dance of the warrior. Thus ch’i condenses and disperses rhythmically, bringing forth all forms which eventually dissolve into the Void. As Chang Tsai says again, The Great Void cannot but consist of ch’i; this ch’i cannot but condense to form all things; and these things cannot but become dispersed so as to form (once more) the Great Void. As in quantum field theory, the field - or the ch’i - is not only the underlying essence of all material objects, but also carries their mutual interactions in the form of waves.” -Fritjof Capra, “The Tao of Physics” (214)
Qigong (Chi Kung) is the Chinese name for the practice of cultivating life force energy. Throughout its over 5,000 year history Qigong has been found to have countless health benefits such as increasing core strength, blood flow, bone density, enzyme activity, serum lipid levels, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune functions. It reduces stress, hypertension, and risk of stroke, cures asthma, and has anti-cancer and anti-aging effects. When emitted from a Qigong master, Chi has been scientifically verified to aid in seed germination, increase the growth of plants and various cell cultures, and reduce the size of malignant tumors. When measurements are taken between a skilled Qigong master and receiver, amazingly both show identical blood pressure, respiration, skin conductivity, EEG, and heart rate variability. (Kenneth M. Sancier PhD “Multifaceted Health Benefits of Medical Qigong”)
Doctors at the Philadelphia Biomedical Research Institute have performed a number of experiments testing life force energy with fascinating results. Working in conjunction with Japanese Ki Master Kozo Nishino, the Philadelphia BioMed doctors created several experiments to test the efficacy of Ki healing. In their first experiment doctors took control blood samples of 21 volunteers, assayed the activity of their NK (natural killer) cells, and tested stress levels. Next the volunteers attended a 90 minute Ki breathing session led by Master Nishino. Afterwards the volunteers were tested again and the results were significant. The NK cell activity of 17 volunteers increased and stress hormone levels of all 21 decreased. PBRI doctors concluded that Ki breathing “can effectively enhance the immunoregulatory system and reduce stress even after one class which indicates that the method would help improve the health of its practitioners if they continue to practice it.”
This fact spurred a second experiment to test the effect of Ki energy on osteoblastic (bone forming) and osteoclastic (bone dissoluting) cells. First they had Master Nishino send Ki from his hands into 2 petri dishes of osteoblastic bone marrow cells for 5 and 10 minutes respectively. Next the cells were seeded in Fetal Bovine Serum, cultured for 72 hours, then counted. The dish given 5 minutes of Ki increased cell production by 6%, and the dish given 10 minutes of Ki increased cell production by 12%, both of which are quite significant. For the osteoclastic cells they had Master Nishino send Ki from his hands into 2 petri dishes of bone marrow for 5 and 10 minutes, then added parathyroid hormone to stimulate resorption and counted the cells one week later. This time the difference between the 5 and 10 minute samples was insignificant, but the difference between the control dishes and Ki infused dishes was radical. After 7 days the Ki infused dishes contained approximately 38% less osteoclastic cells. Doctors at Philadelphia BioMed concluded that such results suggest that Pranayama/Ki therapy can indeed help heal and prevent degenerative bone diseases like osteoporosis.
In a third experiment PBRI doctors tested the effects of Qigong on cancer. This time they used human liver carcinoma cells, subjected them to 5 and 10 minute Ki sessions, cultured them overnight, then measured cell numbers, protein concentration per cell, mRNA expressions and regucalcin synthesis. Compared with the control (non-treated) cells, they found the Ki-exposed cultures contained 30.3% and 40.6% less cancer cells, and the protein content per cell in the Ki-exposed cultures were 38.8% and 62.9% higher respectively. They found that the mRNA expression for “c-myc,” a tumor stimulator gene, was decreased and regucalcin, which suppresses DNA synthesis, was increased.
“We undertook this study to obtain objective and scientific evidence as to whether or not a 'Ki-effect' could inhibit the growth of cultured cancer cells … Our molecular biological studies and mathematical model analysis demonstrated that Ki-energy inhibited cancer cell division. The data also indicate that the Ki-effects involve some form of infrared radiation from the human body. This study suggests the possibility that Ki-energy may be beneficial for cancer patients because it suppresses cancer cell growth, and at the same time, it stimulates immune functions of the patients.” -Onishi T, Nishino K, Tsurusaki Y, Yamaguchi M, “Growth Inhibition of Cultured Human Liver Carcinoma Cells by Ki-Energy (Life Energy): Scientific Evidence for Ki-Effects on Cancer Cells”
Since most Ki cultivation techniques involve deep breathing and breathe regulation, Kozo Nishino believed that mitochondria (cells’ respiratory power plants) may play a key role in maintaining vitality and health. To test the hypothesis the team used isolated rat liver mitochondria and applied Ki energy as before. The results showed that Ki had a very beneficial effect protecting mitochondria, maintaining cellular metabolism, and decreasing the occurrence of unnecessary apoptosis (programmed cell death). Using infrared and visible range filters they also observed that Ki-effects involve near-infrared radiation with a wavelength range between 0.8 and 2.7 μm.
” -Onishi T, Nishino K, “Ki-Energy (Life-Energy) Protects Isolated Rat Liver Mitochondria from Oxidative Injury”
More verification for Ki/Chi’s medical efficacy has come with Harvard professor Dr. Herbert Benson’s recent studies involving the Relaxation Response and gene expression. The Relaxation Response (RR) is the physiological counterpoint to the Fight or Flight (FF) stress response. RR is characterized by decreased oxygen consumption and increased nitric oxide and carbon dioxide elimination, reduced blood pressure, heart and respiration rate, alterations in cortical/subcortical brain regions, and low psychological distress; FF is characterized by the exact opposite. Various forms of meditation, yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, qigong, repetitive prayer, progressive muscle relaxation, and other techniques all elicit this Relaxation Response. Acting through the same underlying mechanism, practitioners of these various disciplines all share (what would otherwise be) very unique physiological profiles and gene expression changes.
"Changes in the activation of these same genes have previously been seen in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder; but the relaxation response-associated changes were the opposite of stress-associated changes and were much more pronounced in the long-term practitioners." -Dr. Herbert Benson, “Genomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response”
Dr. Benson’s team took blood samples and assessed transcriptional profiles from three groups: long-term practitioners of various RR techniques (5-10 years), short-term practitioners (8 weeks), and a control group of healthy non-practitioners. They found that the expressions of 2,209 genes were significantly different between the long-term practitioners and the non-practitioners, and the expressions of 1,561 genes were similarly significantly different between the short-term practitioners and non-practitioners. More specifically, the results showed that long-term (and short-term to a lesser degree) cultivation of RR changes the expression of genes involved with inflammation, programmed cell death, the treatment of free radicals, cellular metabolism, and response to oxidative stress.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that psychosocial stress can manifest as system-wide perturbations of cellular processes, generally increasing oxidative stress and promoting a pro-inflammatory milieu. Stress associated changes in peripheral blood leukocyte expression of single genes have been identified. More recently, chronic psychosocial stress has been associated with accelerated aging at the cellular level. Specifically, shortened telomeres, low telomerase activity, decreased anti-oxidant capacity and increased oxidative stress are correlated with increased psychosocial stress and with increased vulnerability to a variety of disease states.” -Dr. Herbert Benson, “Genomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response”
Similar studies of Chinese Qigong, Indian Pranayama, and Japanese Johrei practitioners have also gleaned similar results. Published in the 2005 “Journal of Alternative and Complement Medicine,” doctors at the Texas Center for Immunology performed “Genomic Profiling of Neutrophil Transcripts in Asian Qigong Practitioners.” They found that long-term Qigong practitioners had enhanced immunity, down-regulated cellular metabolism, and apoptotic gene alteration in favor of rapid resolution of inflammation. The lifespan of normal neutrophils (white blood cells) was prolonged while the lifespan of inflammatory neutrophils was decreased. Doctors concluded that Qigong practice seems to regulate immunity, metabolic rate, and cell death at the transcriptional (DNA/RNA) level.
India’s Institute of Medical Sciences published their findings regarding gene expression profiling of Pranayama practitioners in the 2008 “Journal of Psychosomatic Research.” Much like the Qigong study, doctors found that long-term Pranayama practitioners showed effects on immunity, aging, cell death, and stress reduction through transcriptional regulation. Compared to a control group of 42 healthy non-practitioners, 42 Pranayama masters showed better antioxidant status at the RNA level, higher enzyme activity, better stress regulation and immune function (due to prolonged life span of lymphocytes by up-regulation of anti-apoptotic/pro-survival genes).
A group of scientists lead by Dean Radin exposed cultured astrocyte brain cells to repeated Johrei sessions and found that they flourished and grew much faster than control astrocytes. By doing nothing but focusing a certain type of intention / concentration onto these cells, they flourished compared to the non-treated cells. In other words, cultivation of life force energy results in increased brain cell growth.
“Research on Mind-Body approaches is accelerating. One of a number of characteristics of Mind-Body practice is the purposeful elicitation of the Relaxation Response (RR). The various forms of practices which elicit the RR include Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, meditation, repetitive prayer, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, guided visualization, affirmation, etc. These methods tend to trigger physiological and perhaps energetic mechanisms that move the body into a state of deep rest. It appears that this can literally change how genes behave in response to stress. Mind-Body practices that produce the Relaxation Response have been used by people across cultures for thousands of years to prevent and treat disease and generate states of mind that foster greater performance and intuitive insight. Recently, a number of studies have turned toward investigation of the effect that Mind-Body practice can have on genetic expression. In research on natural healing, functional maximization and holistic, complementary and integrative medicine there has been a growing trend away from simply studying disease mechanisms and outcomes, toward the study of the subtle factors that predispose individuals for sustainable wellbeing as well as for disease. Gene expression is an emerging arena wherein the total continuum – from wellbeing to disease – can be effectively investigated.” –Roger Jahnke MD, “Researching the Benefits of Mind-Body Practice by Investigating Genetic Expression”