What is Chi?
The understanding of the term chi is very central to understanding many forms of massage including Raynor massage. Chi literally means life force. It can be also spelt Qi and in different cultures can be called prana or sen or spirit. Chi is the underlying energy beneath the physical body. It is the difference between a living body and a dead body.
Modern science can’t really explain what is the difference between a living body and a recently dead body. Anatomically there is no difference between a live body and a recently dead body. They are exactly the same. Of course all the physiology or bodily functions have stopped, once the life force has left.
However, everyone with any common sense, will know that there is immense value in a living person while a dead body is often just buried or cremated before it starts to smell. There is no longer a person there to relate to.
There are many ways to prove the existence of chi. I will go into some of them here.
It is easy to prove that we are not the physical body. Our body changes all the time according to the food that we eat and the air we breathe and the various other sensations and things that we take into our body. We can all realize that we existed 20 years ago, if we are over that age. For example I am in my 40s and I can clearly remember the experience of existence when I was 20 or even when I was 1. I can still remember when I took my first steps as a toddler. However my physical body is completely different to that childhood body. Every atom has changed in my body. Scientists have shown that every atom is replaced in the body every 7 years. The body I have now is a completely new body than what I had 7 years ago let alone 20 years ago or 40 years ago.
Even the brain where many people think is the epicentre of their existence is completely new. The brain is continually having old cells die and new cells replace them so that our brain is a completely new brain after a few years.
So we can see that although our body is continually changing and growing , we still have a continuum of existence throughout that period. I am still the same self that existed 20 years ago, although of course I have learned from my experiences but still I am the same actual person. This aspect of ourselves that continues to exist over time is called the life force or chi or atma in Ayurveda. Some people might also call it the spirit or the soul.
We can look further at this idea that we are something other than just the material body by going through each part of our body and seeing am I the hand, am I the leg, We can clearly see that we aren’t our hand because if it got chopped off for some terrible reason we would still exist. We can see that we aren’t our leg by the same reason. We can even see that we aren’t the physical heart or liver because that can be replaced in a heart transplant or a liver transplant. Many parts of the brain, also have had brain damage through car accidents, bullets etc and yet the person still experiences the same sense of self, even our faces can now be transplanted, the outwards appearance can change but the inner person remains. So we can see also that we aren’t our brain in this way, although of course all of these major organs are very important for our physical manifestation.
We can also see that many people in older bodies often don’t experience themselves as “old”. They often say I am just the same person I was when I was young. Of course if there body has aged badly they may experience that their body doesn’t work as well as it used to but they themselves are the same person inside the body.
So this is where we can start to understand the question of what is chi. Chi is the animating factor of life. It is what distinguishes a living thing like a human, animal or plant from an inanimate object like a rock. While there is chi in a group of matter, such as a body it is alive and holds together in one form. When the chi leaves, the group of matter starts to break down into its’ constituent material parts such as a dead body decomposing and becoming part of the soil again.
This is such an important point when it comes to paradigms, or systems of thought, about medicine. Modern Western medicine is based on the idea that if we fix the matter then that is the problem fixed. This can work in some situations. But it doesn’t work in all situations. Eastern medicine and many traditional medicine systems such as Hawaiian medicine, and many Aboriginal and holistic forms of medicine, recognize the existence of the chi or spirit in a person and consider the treatment of the spirit to be the most important aspect of treatment because that is the real person. The material body of the person is merely a physical manifestation of that spirit, it is not the person themselves.
So when we look at mind – body – spirit forms of medicine, and we would have to include the Ayurvedic medicine of India as one of the most powerful and ancient forms of this type of medicine, Ayurveda often deals with disorders or imbalances in the chi or life force aspect of the person first. Fix the imbalances in the spirit or chi, and the mind and emotions will harmonize and the body will balance itself.
So, Raynor massage with its philosophical origins coming from Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Hawaiian medicine, Thai medicine and other traditional medicine systems looks at balancing the flow of the chi in the body and therefore helping to bring about a better state of health. This of course is also the basis for systems of medicine like acupuncture, reiki, Tui Na, Qi Gong, Tai Chi and the like.
So at the heart of the philosophy of Raynor massage is this concept of chi or life force and how it flows through the body. Chi can be compared in a poetic sense to the flow of water in a river. If there is a dam or blockage in a river then the chi won’t flow properly and this will result in a swelling. This swelling can also be seen in the physical body as muscle tension or a feeling of fullness in an area. This could then cause physical problems as muscle tension which will restrict blood flow, nerve function and lymphatic function as well as cause the skeleton and the bones to be pulled out of their healthy position.’
If we correct the flow of chi in the body by removing that blockage then we can see many of these problems go away.
How do these blockages occur in the first place?
Blockages in the chi flow can occur for many reasons. One of the first ones can be improper breathing. As can be seen though martial arts such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi and the art of hatha yoga we can see that breathing is very important in influencing the flow of chi or prana in the body. When we breathe strong and deeply we can positively affect the flow of chi in our body. We can also see the influence of things like rebirthing or integrative breath therapy here, where through deep breathing we access blockages in our emotions that can then be released, making a person feel better.
The other ways our chi can be blocked as I just touched, on is through emotional repression. When a person undergoes an emotional experience but “shoves it down” it can imbalance the flow of chi. For example, many people have repressed anger that hasn’t been healthily dealt with and this will cause interruptions to the chi flow. Other people have repressed sadness or grief and need to cry but don’t and so the chi becomes blocked.
Another way that I see people’s chi often gets blocked is when a person isn’t living a life that is in harmony or true to their spirit. When a person has an inner calling to be a certain way or do a certain thing in life but they don’t do it because of social reasons such as parental pressure, or social mores, or fear of social ridicule, then a person develops a blockage in their chi flow. In other words, when the person’s chi is flowing there will be a connection between their spirit and mind and body and any spiritual inspirations coming from deep in their soul will then start to manifest in the world. However, if a person has an inner calling to do something but doesn’t do that in order to please someone else, such as their parents their partner , their children etc then this can result in a distorted chi flow and eventually in ill health, sometimes even cancer or other serious diseases.
I see this often where people are doing a job they don’t want to do because they are trying to please their parents or doing it just for the money. This makes them depressed , which is a sign of stagnant chi flow and eventually that can also lead to physical or psychosomatic symptoms, some of which Western medicine has a difficult time in dealing with, because they may say it’s all in the persons mind.
So real health is when a person is living a life in harmony with their inner calling or what is referred to in Ayurveda as their dharma or life path. In fact, the deeper goal of Raynor massage is to get a person back in touch with this real sense of self.
Blockages in the flow of chi will be felt as a sense of pain as chi blockages are like a swelling in the river and this can feel sore for the person.
When we release these chi blockages many people experience the sudden sensation of the chi moving as a sense of a huge burst of electricity moving through their body. This is like a dam bursting. All of a sudden there is circulation to places where the chi never circulated before. People will also experience awareness and release of emotions that have been stagnant in their subtle body.
We can look at this subtle body, which could also be called a mental and emotional body, as something in between the chi or life force which is the essential self of the person, and the physical body. This middle layer of the person is where we hold all emotions. When we release the deeper layer or the chi, then the energy stored in this middle layer gets activated and can be released, especially if the client is working with the therapist by proper deep breathing methods.
So from the spirit or chi we unblock blockages and this opens up the emotional and mental zones and this then gets rid of physical tension in the body. We work through the physical body to get through the emotional body and then to the chi. Sometimes this involves very deep tissue massage and, most often this is the case, but at other times it can involve the lightest of touch or in some cases we don’t even have to touch the person because the interaction of our life force and their life force is very subtle and their chi body can be affected by very subtle energies coming from our hands.
So Raynor massage can range from being one of the deepest styles of massage to being one of the most gentle and subtle forms of massage. It’s all about the practitioner developing their ability to be able to sense the subtle imbalances in their client’s chi flow. So in one sense this massage can be learned very easily and quickly but in another sense it can take a lifetime or more to really master it. Because we are dealing with such deep issues as the life force itself we need to constantly be in a humble frame of mind, knowing that we are always students and that life is always going to be great teacher for us and also that every person that comes to us is a unique individual, unlike any that we have seen before although some patterns of imbalances can definitely be similar but never the same between people.
This article was written by Brandon Raynor – www.brandonraynor.com