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.”
Long term students of Pranayama/Ki breathing have been found to consistently have higher bone density rates than the average population. 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”
“Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among human beings. Most current treatments for cancer … come with significant drawbacks, including toxicity, costs and potential harm to both mood and immune function. Therefore, an effective non-pharmacological therapy for cancer with less cost and no side effects could have a major impact on cancer treatment. Qigong therapy shows promise in treating cancer and preliminary studies report immediate improvement without side effects and even complete remission in patients who engaged in ongoing practice … Studies on Qigong and it’s curative effect on cancer have demonstrated consistent results for its inhibitory effect on cancer growth and metastasis, in both in vitro and in vivo studies, as well as in clinical observation … Our review suggests that this therapy should be seriously examined and be considered as an important supplement to conventional cancer treatment and other chronic diseases … Unlike other alternative medicines, which are only able to cope with symptoms, Qigong therapy focuses on the entire body and its health system. Our review suggests that Qigong therapy may actually stop and prevent cancer growth, and help patients recover from many different diseases at the same time.”–Kevin Chan and Raphael Yeung, “A Review of Qigong Therapy For Cancer Treatment”
For their final study, the PBRI team designed an experiment suggested by their Ki-expert Kozo Nishino. 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.
“We are demonstrating that so-called ‘Ki-energy’ is a natural phenomenon, and therefore, it can be analyzed by rigorous scientific and objective investigations. A ‘breathing method’ developed by a Japanese Ki-expert, Kozo Nishino, stimulated immune activity of practitioners and lowered their stress levels. We then reported that his Ki-energy inhibited cell division of cultured human carcinoma cells. Since ‘breathing’ is directly related to oxygen respiration, he has long proposed that mitochondria may play a key role in maintaining vitality and health. This led us to undertake the project to explore a possible relationship between Ki-energy and mitochondrial function.” -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”
“My studies, along with those of several researchers in the USA, revealed that Transcendental Meditation elicited physiological changes that were the exact opposite to the stress response. Virtually every indicator of stress, from heart rate and blood pressure to body chemistry and brain activity, changed in the opposite direction during meditation. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School dubbed this the ‘relaxation response,’ and almost overnight meditation became respectable. Doctors began recommending it to patients; teachers encouraged students to take it up; even city business people took lessons on the quiet.” -Peter Russell, “From Science to God”
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).
Johrei is a Japanese spiritual practice much like Reiki, Qigong, or Pranayama which utilizes life force energy as a healing modality. 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”