What's a Chi Machine?

GoldfishChi exercise machines were invented in Japan in the late 1980s. They are a type of passive exerciser which give stress-free exercise while the user is lying down. The term “chi machine” is used generically for these machines in the West.

Although they originated in Japan, and the Japanese do not call them “chi machines” - they call them Goldfish Exercise Machines - “Chi Machine” became the popular name for them after they were introduced to the West. Hsin Ten Enterprise Co. Ltd., the Taiwanese company who first marketed them outside Japan under the brand name Sun Ancon® or Sun Harmony, eventually filed a Trade Mark application in USA in 1999 for “The Chi Machine®”. Registration was then granted in USA and some other countries for this Trade Mark.

Although there are a number of other manufacturers who have produced similar units over the years since the Sun Ancon® was introduced, and despite the official legal status of “The Chi Machine®” as a registered Trade Mark, most people refer to all types of machine in this class as “chi machines” - whatever the brand or manufacturer.

However, because of the ambiguous legal status, they should technically be called “chi exercise machines” - and this is the term used on this website when we refer to them generically.

Chi exercise machines are electronically controlled, motor-driven appliances that create a dynamic wave of sideways motion up and down the user’s spine at an oscillation frequency which can be fixed (one speed, as in the original Sun Ancon) or variable. This happens while the user is lying on his or her back.

The sideways movement happens at the user’s feet, which are supported on a foot/ankle/leg cradle on the top of the device at a height of roughly 200 - 250 mm or 9 – 11 inches above the floor. The motor causes the leg cradle to oscillate sideways at a rate of between 80 and 160 times per minute. A TV Show showing the Sun Ancon® Chi Machine® being demonstrated can be seen here on YouTube. Another video which shows more clearly the movement thoughout the spine – produced by the company who markets the Surge of Chi Exerciser, a more advanced chi exercise machine - can be seen by clicking here.

The original and main purpose of creating this sideways oscillation or “pulsing” is to stimulate the area between the pelvis and the navel, which is known to the Japanese as the ‘hara’ - or ‘dantian’ to the Chinese. This refers specifically to the area centered in the lower abdomen (about three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel).

The Japanese and Chinese consider this area to be the core of our energy system and stimulating this part of the body has many potential benefits for health at a basic level. In Western medical terms the autonomic nervous system which is within the spinal column is being stimulated, and we know that breathing gets deeper as one demonstration of the fact that the body is experiencing a stimulating form of exercise.

Experience over the years has shown that other benefits are often experienced as a result of the mobilization of the pelvis and back, and massaging of the internal organs.

For more details of potential health benefits, please click here