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Yi Energy: One of Five Types of Energies in Taoist Five Element Theory

The five elements in Taoist five element theory.  Yi energy is associated with the Earth element.  All of the elements exist in either a beneficial or detrimental relationship to each other.

The five elements in Taoist five element theory. Yi energy is associated with the Earth element. All of the elements exist in either a beneficial or detrimental relationship to each other.

Relationships between the five elements.

Relationships between the five elements.

Yi energy is one of the five types of energy associated with time-honored elemental theory in Taoism. The five element theory includes relationships between five elements and how our bodies function. Each of the elements is associated with specific organs. For Yi energy, which has the characteristics of the earth element, the organs include the spleen and pancreas. The spleen is the primary organ. It is connected energetically and functionally to the other major digestive organ, the stomach.

According to Taoist Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, imbalances in the function or energy in the spleen can give rise to various psychological disorders, whereas a healthy spleen indicates a healthy psychology. Other health disorders can ensue from problems related to the Earth element.

I discuss below various aspects of Yi energy and how it can be corrected and optimized for anyone who wishes to take the Taoist approach towards balancing your body's energy. I include resources for exercises, exercise videos and healing sound meditations that help restore your Earth energy. The times of day that are best to perform these exercises are also listed.

Yi and Shen

Related to the energy expended by thought and intention, this form of energy regulates the Shen, or spirit. It is related to the Earth element and the two internal organs the spleen and the pancreas. It is the energy of the stable mind and a moderator of one’s behavior. It is also responsible for analytical thinking, memory and intelligence. It can balance polarity, as it is neither yin nor yang. Yi can be a factor in eliciting and fostering change.

Balanced versus Imbalanced Yi

An imbalance of Yi is evident when thoughts become overwhelming as when one experiences depression, anxiousness, confusion, loss of memory, obsessiveness and related symptoms. Psychological instability and lack of reflection are imbalance signs in children. Signs of a healthy Yi are trust, acceptance, impartiality, quickness of mind and honesty.

Disorders of the spleen can cause general weakness of the musculo-skeletal system and a reduced capacity to lift. People with diseased spleens have poor musculature. Gastrointestinal disorders and disease that affect the throat and tongue may also occur.

Using Acupressure for Yi Balancing

The Spleen Meridian begins at the inside edge of the big toe at the edge of the toenail, and goes up the inside of the leg and ends up at the mouth. An acupressure point that helps regulate the Yi is SP 9, or spleen 9, which is located on the inside of the leg in the hollow about 4 finger-widths below the head of the tibia. Massage or press the point in a circular fashion, pressing up towards the protrusion. Three to five minutes of pressure is needed to help balance this point. If someone is doing acupressure for you, have them hold SP 1 and SP 9 together until they notice an synchronization of the blood pulse in both points while you just relax your mouth.

Qigong Exercises for Energy Balancing

What Exercises to Do and When

The best time of the day to do exercises or meditations specifically for clearing out excesses of this organ is between 9 and 11 AM. Tonification exercises are best done between 9 and 11 PM. Of the Five Animals (Frolics) Qigong Exercises, the Bear is associated with this element. The healing sound for this element for both purging and tonifying the organ is “whoo” and you can visualize breathing in yellow as a color when breathing in.

General health improvement exercises like Dragon-Tiger Qigong can help, and there are Taoist Five Yin Tonification and Regulation Exercises, which help balance the energy of all five yin organs: spleen, liver, heart, kidneys and lungs.

Herbs That Can Boost Yi Energy

One of the first ingredients that you find in TCM herbal mixes that are meant to help boost the shen is the Reishi (Ganoderma species) mushroom (also known as Ling Zhi). You can make teas from dried mushroom slices or you can buy it in a herbal mix that includes other ingredients. Other herbs that are common in these formulations are the root of Polygonatum sibericum, stem of Polygonatum, licorice root and salvia root. Some of these herbs also help cool fire, or heart energy.

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Some practitioners believe that is is also necessary to cleanse the liver while you are on a program of improving your Yi energy. (Having all of your organs in good shape is a good idea, and for that I recommend using qigong healing sounds exercises.)

A herb that is not a part of TCM, milk thistle (Silybum marianum), has been shown to help in increasing healthy liver tissue. There are several published studies that confirm the beneficial effect.

The Ling Zhi Mushroom

The lingzhi or reishi mushroom is renowned in TCM as an herb for enhancing longevity and the spirit.

The lingzhi or reishi mushroom is renowned in TCM as an herb for enhancing longevity and the spirit.

Simple Spleen and Stomach Meridian Qigong Exercise


Before you do any exercises or herbs mentioned above, consult both your medical practitioner and a certified doctor of TCM. The TCM doctor will be able to diagnose the problem and offer qigong exercises and offer herbs that can assist you in healing. Medical Qigong doctors are also able to diagnose Yi disorders. Verify the choices of TCM and Medical Qigong doctors with your medical doctor before continuing with the TCM prescription.


birurramachandrappa on November 21, 2017:

Good, well informed one.

Mika on June 13, 2015:

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Randy McLaughlin (author) from Liberia, Costa Rica on April 16, 2013:

Rasta1 - The Taoist legacy is rich in meaning and utility for our contemporary lives. The Taoist healing arts and the martial arts are closely linked. They differ by intention. I have a blog qigonghealingarts and a blogspot that further discuss using qigong for healing.

Marvin Parke from Jamaica on April 16, 2013:

I have read a little into Tao. It is the science of natural balance and being. The elements of yi and shen are very interesting. I also love the charts provided.

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