Making the Qi Fly is one of the greatest needling techniques in acupuncture. A brief overview is that Wei Qi and Ying Qi are brought into balance. When completed correctly and they are balanced and harmonized, any number of “one treatment cures” can occur naturally because balanced and harmonized qi can normalize areas of evil qi. After the treatment, the patient often states that their body feels lighter.
While most acupuncturists have heard of Making the Qi Fly, instructions for performing it are rarely described because lineage masters usually teach it to only their most advanced students. Therefore, I can only describe this technique as it was taught to me by my lineage master Dr. Sho Yung Si. He said the technique came from a royal doctor of the Chin Dynasty.
Dr. Sho was very famous in Taiwan and taught Making the Qi Fly during the last decade of his life. At that time, he frequently demonstrated it at classes and in 1993 at the Second International Acupuncture Conference in Taiwan. I was privileged to assist him and his adopted daughter, Miss Lin; my job was to draw the slide-show charts that demonstrated the needling technique.
Dr. Sho practiced Qi Gong for most of his life and, even at 90 years of age, his energy was very strong. It isn’t necessary to practice Qi Gong in order to perform this technique but those who have practiced Qi Gong, or similar exercises involving qi, find it easier to learn. It usually takes a considerable amount of practice to learn so it is impossible to say how long it will take to become proficient. Practice is vital.
In Taiwan, it is customary for acupuncture masters to ceremonially accept dedicated senior students as lineage holders; these students are then permitted to be with the master at any time. As a lineage holder, I saw Making the Qi Fly performed many times and, of course, I was required to perform it myself so Dr. Sho could check my technique. I am pleased now to be able to describe the entire technique to help ensure this very useful treatment is not lost. The headings below that are in quotation marks are those used in my lineage.
How to Make the Qi Fly
Dr. Cho always had the patient sit for this treatment and never performed it with them lying down. Then one needle is inserted. The point chosen must be deep and muscular so the needle can be manipulated without causing pain; the Large Intestine Meridian was frequently chosen and the needle is often inserted at LI 10. However, you can choose any point on any meridian as long as there is adequate qi and blood in that meridian; Yang Min channels are also a good choice. The most important thing is that initially, when you insert the needle, you must be certain to get the qi. You can’t do anything if you don’t get the qi in the first place!
Regulating Qi in the Meridian
Using LI 10 as an example, insert the needle. Realize that there are three narrow layers and the meridian layer is in the middle. We need to access the meridian layer where the qi should be flowing upwards to the shoulders. However, the patient may say they can feel the qi sensation running down to their fingers; this means that the needle has been inserted correctly as far as the point and the meridian are concerned but now the qi must be manipulated in order to change its direction.
It is commonly taught that the direction of the flow of qi can be changed by rotating the needle and it is generally stated that twisting the needle counterclockwise causes the qi to flow downwards while twisting the needle clockwise causes it to flow upwards. In fact, twisting rarely solves this problem because twisting without adjusting the depth of the needle generally causes the qi to focus. When this occurs, the qi becomes immobile and the patient complains of feeling discomfort and/or pressure at the needle site.
Before Inserting, Withdraw Slightly; Before Withdrawing, Insert slightly.
The doctor controls the qi with the tip of the needle and must always take care not to lose the qi; this is why we withdraw slightly before inserting and insert slightly before withdrawing. This keeps the qi on the needle.
In the LI meridian, the qi flows upwards. If it is not flowing in the right direction, you must correct it. To do this, first insert the needle very slightly deeper. Then withdraw it very slightly back up to the meridian layer while twisting it once clockwise 45 to 90 degrees. Performed correctly, this will cause the qi to change direction and flow upwards. If it doesn’t change direction, repeat this procedure. When performed correctly, the patient should feel the qi changing direction.
The most common problem is that the qi is too weak to flow; you can increase its strength by repeating the above procedure. That is, get some qi on the needle and push it into the meridian layer. Then rotate the needle clockwise once 45 to 90 degrees. Then the qi should flow. All movements of the needle are small and delicate and are performed slowly and carefully. Considerable practice is required in order to learn how to keep the qi on the tip of the needle.
Always remember that, when you are moving the needle up or down, you are making a channel for the qi to flow up or down. Therefore, when you are twisting the needle, you must twist it along its entire length. That is, from the top to the tip of the needle, the needle must be kept straight. If the patient complains of soreness, it means that the qi is unable to move up the channel. Then you must withdraw the needle up to the skin layer and try again.
The most common problem is twisting the needle too quickly or too much. Remember that the qi must follow the needle and that it can’t move very quickly. The slower the manipulation, the better. Careful needle technique is the basis of Classical Acupuncture.
Qi Passing Through Joints
If the patient’s qi is strong, it will flow through the joints with no problem – but it will flow a little slower than normal. The qi moves at a rate of 6 body inches per respiration, so this will take a little time. If the flow is too slow, you can increase the speed; if it is too fast, you can slow the speed.
Once it has moved through the elbow and shoulder joints, ask them if they can feel the qi at their face, then the chest, then the Stomach Meridian in the thigh.
If the qi doesn’t move easily into the Spleen Meridian, it may be necessary to manipulate the needle at LI11 again; you must do this anytime the patient doesn’t feel the qi move to the next location. Remember to do it slowly. Don’t over treat or turn the needle too many degrees too fast or the qi will be lost or focus. You can tell when the qi is lost because the patient will complain of discomfort at the needle. When this happens, you must either start all over again or give up.
However, if the patient’s qi is weak, it may not move at all. Wait 3 to 5 seconds before repeating the procedure. If it still doesn’t pass through the joints and the patient says they can feel their qi everywhere, it may mean that the qi is flying away.
Rotate Needle to Make the Qi Go. Insert and Withdraw to Increase or Decrease.
To make the qi go, twist the needle clockwise or counterclockwise. To increase the qi, insert the needle and push the Wei Qi inside. To decrease, withdraw the needle and lift it up to the yang layer. The patient may comment on a change in their body temperature; if Wei Qi has been utilized their entire body will feel warmer but if Ying Qi has been utilized their entire body will feel cooler. This indicates the energies are now balanced and that qi is flowing freely through all the meridians. When qi is flowing in the meridians there is a local sensation of movement that is comfortable, with no pain.
Qi Passing from Meridian to Meridian
The next big step is passing from the LI meridian into the Stomach Meridian. Once these initial steps are completed, the qi will generally flow smoothly through one side of the entire meridian system. However, if the patient doesn’t feel the qi moving from Stomach Meridian into Spleen Meridian, perform the procedure one more time. After completing one side of the body, do the same treatment on the opposite side.
If the qi doesn’t pass, repeat the procedure as described in “Qi passing Through Joints.” Always remember to perform it slowly and carefully so the qi doesn’t focus or get lost. When the qi is lost, the patient will feel sore at LI11 when you twist the needle. If this happens, you must start all over again at the beginning or else give up.
The Mind Leads the Qi
When you have finished all the main meridians, you can then do the Eight Extra Meridians. To do this, lead the qi from the base of the spine up Governing Vessel to join Conception Vessel at the mouth where the qi then flows down to Dantien and then returns back up to the mouth. Then move down through Flush Vessel, Belt Vessel, Yin Heel Vessel, Yang Heel Vessel, Yin Link Vessel and Yang Link Vessel. (Note that Flush Vessel runs from the medial foot area into the genitals; there it splits in two and then flows upwards on either side of the abdomen to the chest, filling the space between the Stomach and Kidney Meridians.)
Lead the qi by telling the patient to pay attention to a specific place on the body. Then ask them if they feel the qi in the that body area – for example, qi moving from Spleen to Heart – to make certain it has flown from one meridian to the next.
To get to Belt Vessel, lead the patient’s consciousness from the bottom of Governing Vessel up to the waist and then have it encircle the waist. Then, to the Heel Vessel and ask them to pay attention to the outer leg above the ankle (Yang Link). You don’t have to lead the qi between each area because you are manipulating the needle; just ask the patient to pay attention to a new area and their mind will lead the qi. Do the outside of the other leg and the qi will fly there. Then ask them to pay attention to the inside of the leg (Yin Link). The order of treatment is to do the outside of both legs first and then the inside of both legs.
It is important that the practitioner always remains calm and keeps eye contact with the patient; this helps ensure that the patient easily feels the sensations. If the patient becomes nervous or if they are hurt during needle manipulation, the qi will be lost.
At the end, after meridians and vessels are done, ask the patient to put their attention on GV20 – the Crown Chakra at the top of the head. They will usually feel it as a small spot of numbness. Then tell them to put their attention on Kidney 1 and the qi will immediately be there. So the qi has flown from side to side and now from the head (Heaven) to the bottom of the feet (Earth) without requiring a channel. The qi is actually flying.
According to the Neijing, the Master focuses his mind, controls the patient’s mind, makes the patient calm, and then the Master can easily control the qi and have it flow to the correct location. The qi can be directed to a specific disease process or through all the main energy meridians or even through the entire energy system of the body.
Dr. Sho said that about 70% of the patients he treated could feel the qi fly; in the remaining 30% of patients who don’t feel it, the qi still flies. He said: When the qi flies on a highway (the bright channels), the patient can feel it but when it flies on a country trail (the dark vessels/the collaterals), the patient can’t feel it.
Before Removing the Needle, Activate the Qi.
This means that the qi flows and spreads out from that point. To do this, insert the needle into a meridian to get the qi. Then balance the yin and yang at that point so that the qi can flow smoothly. Before removing the needle, manipulate it by twisting it 45 to 90 degrees clockwise.
Some Qi Gong Masters can manipulate the qi with their fingers, but this is exceptional. For the rest of us, insert the needle slightly further into the acupuncture point, then withdraw slightly and then turn counterclockwise.
Don’t rotate more than 180’. Leave the needle. Qi flows six inches per respiration and takes approximately 30 minutes to circulate through the entire body. Leave the needle longer for cold, deficient or chronic symptoms. Leave for a shorter time when treating excessive symptoms or fire evil. Sometimes evil qi is relieved almost immediately.
If you twist the needle too much – that is, more than 360’ – try twisting it 90’ three or four times. If the qi doesn’t move each time, do one twist of 90’. Increase effect by pulling out and pushing in. Focus the patient’s attention by asking them if they feel something in a specific area; if they do feel the qi in that area, don’t move the needle but, if they don’t, insert and withdraw slightly.