Despite our wintry excitement this week, it's beginning to feel a lot like springtime. Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. There is nothing like feeling the warmth of sun on your face after many chilly months. I also love clearing out the clutter, throwing the windows open and finally being able to go on long walks with my pooch. Conversely, springtime can be a physically, mentally and energetically uncomfortable time for many of us.
Learning more about Chinese Medicine and it's connection to nature has made a world of difference in my life as I move through the extremes of season here in Minnesota. My dad always told me to "work smarter, not harder." I like to take that phrase to heart when thinking about navigating through the seasons. Would you like to learn more about the springtime according to Chinese Medicine principles and how you can support yourself through the season? Here goes:
In Chinese Medicine, it is thought that our bodies are simply a small universe within the larger universe. In this way, changes to the external world are often replicated in our bodies. One major way to observe this is how our bodies respond to season changes.
Each season is connected to one of the five elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood). Each element is connected to a pair of "organ systems". An organ system is a holistic and more energetically focused understanding of some of the forces that govern our body's functions. This is not to be mistaken with the Western physiological function of the organs, although there is considerable overlap. Each element is associated with a season, color, sound flavor, balanced/unbalanced emotion and much more. By association, Spring is connected to the Wood element and the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems. It is also associated with upward/expansive energy, new beginnings, the color green, the sour flavor, and the sound "Shhh." The balanced emotions are generosity and kindness and the unbalanced emotions of anger and frustration.
The Wood element's energy is upward and expansive. During the winter, a lot of energy is spent reflecting and restoring our bodies. Plans get generated and energy is build to implement them. When spring hits we are ready for action. Think about the amount of force a little sprout has to use to push through the ground to get to sunlight. It's a lot! We feel the energy within us. This makes the springtime a wonderful time to start new projects, renew goals, join a group, and generally plant seeds for the future.
The Liver and Gallbladder organ systems are particularly prone to fullness. Additional upward and expansive energy in these organ systems during the spring can result in increased neck and shoulder pain and headaches. I see this a lot in my practice! It's a great time to add in more stretching, especially lateral stretches. It's also a good time to schedule regular bodywork and acupuncture. Grounding exercises, meditation and journaling are also helpful tools for balancing all the outward energy if it's starting to feel like too much.
Spring is the time for new beginnings and it's also a great time clear out any clutter in your surroundings and in the body. Chi Nei Tsang (abdominal massage) is a great way to support any cleanse or detoxification program you may be doing this spring. It's also a great stand alone therapy to support clearing and detoxify the organs. Incorporating cleansing breathwork, going for walks, and simply committing to drinking more water can also help get your system moving.
Anger and irritability are the predominant emotions of an imbalanced wood element. You may find these emotions more prevalent in the spring time. Preemptively focusing on kindness and generosity can be a particularly great practice during the spring. Volunteer, donate the items that you no longer need, help a friend, give all the hugs. Also look for ways to express that anger in a healthy manner.
Other fun ways to support the Wood element would be to incorporate the colors, sounds and flavors. You can't go wrong with eating more green foods. Also incorporating more sour foods into your diet can be supportive, although this it is best to not go too overboard with this one. A little sour goes a long way. The sound associated with the Wood element is "Shhh." One way that you could incorporate this is by taking 10 deep breaths and when you exhale make the sound forcefully. This could help dissipate any extra Wood element energy that is rising in the body.
There are so many ways to support the Wood element during the springtime. I hope you enjoyed learning about some of them. This is a topic I like to get really nerdy about, so please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to know how you can learn even more.
Amy Daws is a trained Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu, and Chi Nei Tsang therapist. She is interested in the way that these modalities can bring healing and joy to people's lives.