We're hearing the birds again, the days are getting longer, and the sun is moving higher in the sky. It must be Spring!
In this post we want to share all we have learned from Traditional Chinese Medicine about transitioning your body from the depths of winter into the welcomed embrace of spring! You will find our sources at the bottom of this page for more information.
Thank you for spending some time to learn more about how the simple act of realigning your body with the seasons can improve your day to day and overall health.
Human bodies are complicated organisms, and they go through cycles, just like every living thing in the universe. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the body as a microcosm that mirrors the larger macrocosm of the universe. Because the energetic shifts that occur during the seasonal changes are reflected in our physical and emotional selves, it is important to adopt ways to support these transitions.
In winter we focus on embracing our Ying energy, which is more passive, feminine, and cool, like a seed underground waiting for spring so are we in the depths of winter. Spring brings longer daylight hours which leads to increasing our outward Yang energy, which is more active, masculine, and heated. Perhaps you can imagine yang energy as the first pop of green from a sprouting seed moving upward to the warm energy of the sun. Just like in trees, this yang energy moves up and out from the centre of the body like sap. This movement is much like the branches of a tree—hence the association with Wood. This is time for new growth, creation, and movement. Spring is a transition from ying to yang, death to growth, dark to light, and cold to warm.
Element is Wood
Yin organ is Liver
Yang organ is Galbladder
Climate is Wind
Emotion is Anger
Spirit is Qi (life force/vital energy)
Colour is Green
Taste is Sour
Sense organ is Eyes
Tissues are Nails and Tendons
Virtues are Birth, Growth, and Development
The liver meridian is responsible for the free flow of vital energy and emotions, imbalances can surface at this time of transition and can present emotionally and physically. Notice if you are feeling new emotions or physical imbalance lately. Signs of a healthy Liver and Gallbladder system are joy, feeling inspired, fulfilled, assertive, decisive, forgiving, vibrant and healthy.
Don’t overdo it. Don’t put away those winter coats just yet, spring weather is often unpredictable, and windy. Protect yourself from wind and stay warm, wear layers and a light scarf. In life, we see wind’s power and prowess. It is a force that can bring creative energy, such as through windmills and sailboats. On the other hand, wind can wreak havoc in the form of tornados and hurricanes. And in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Wind is an agent of illness carrying colds and other germ diseases into a body with weak defenses. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the liver channel system is more susceptible to wind, additionally, the nape of the neck (wind-gate), don’t forget to layer up and protect your neck.
Do you find yourself craving certain foods at specific times of the year? We sure do. We are done eating our winter squash, onions, and meat stews, it is time to move into fresh sour veggies! Look to nature to find locally grown edibles like fireweed or cattail shoots, spruce tips, or sorrel. Foods to include in your spring diet are organic vegetables, dark greens, leafy vegetables such as dandelion, chard, arugula, and watercress. Sour
Some more foods to incorporate are:
- Bay leaves
- Black sesame seeds
- Broccoli Rabe
- Coconut milk
- Complex carbohydrates (brown rice, millet, potatoes, amaranth, etc.)
- Green Tea
Chemicals are overtaxing on the Liver so opt for hormone-free and organic if it is affordable for you. Start your morning with water and lemon and a short walk. Try cooking with herbs, rosemary, fennel, caraway, oregano, citrus, vinegar, and dill. It is also recommended you eat dinner early so that while you sleep your body is cleansing for the next day instead of spending your resting energy digesting. Foods to Limit are greasy, fatty and fried foods which are particularly taxing on your Liver. Caffeine and alcohol should also be limited if you are experiencing emotional or physical imbalances and while consuming these may feel relieving in the moment, they may exacerbate any imbalances of the channel system.
Spring cleaning, re-envisioning your space and your body. Spring feels like a fresh start. Similar to clearing out our homes and physical spaces, according to TCM, Spring is a time to let go of what no longer serves you emotionally as well. In TCM, the Liver is responsible for the free flow of energy, emotions, and blood in the body. It is largely affected by the emotion of anger. Chronic feelings of stress, frustration,, and irritability can lead to an imbalanced liver. Look for ways to reduce stress and ask for help if needed. Try working through emotions and stress with journaling, creating art, laughter, or working with a licensed therapist.
As energy levels of the environment rise, you may find yourself feeling anxious for spring. Movement helps to circulate the energy of the body and therefore the work the liver does for us. The liver is responsible for the smooth flow of blood and emotions and is most affected by stagnation, that’s why we need to move our bodies. The liver controls the tendons, so start stretching every day. Stretching is good as it will open the pathways of the liver and gallbladder, avoiding stagnation and the many health problems that can arise when these organs are in bad shape.
Try incorporating more movement into your daily routine with light jogging, yoga, brisk walks, or dancing. Just as the season takes its time to shift into full bloom, take your time in this transition as your body and mind are slowly waking up from winter. Aim for around 30 minutes of exercise a day.
What does the wood element mean? Imagine a forest of trees. These trees illustrate an example of a healthy Wood element, the element associated with Spring. They are rooted, yet flexible. When wind comes, the branches bend and sway relative to the strength of the wind. Their strong roots allow them to bend without falling over, yet they are flexible enough to not resist the movement or snap. The image of the forest reminds us to stay calm, flexible, and unbothered by fleeting deviations from our path instead of becoming tense and rigid.
Welcome this wisdom of the Wood element and invite flexibility into your awareness as we shift from the depths of winter to the brightness of Spring. Support the Liver and Gallbladder systems by making these adjustments to lifestyle and diet and enjoy living in tune with the season!
Start your day early and with a brisk walk.
Allow the sunshine to lift you up and out. And as you walk outside, notice the growth and abundance around you, and feel life awaken within.
Begin new things.
Just as nature reinvents itself this time of year, so can we. Try to look at people and situations with new eyes. Let new growth mend over old wounds. Be creative! Make things, do things – at home, at work, and in yourself.
Contemplate how you wish to prepare for your summer harvest.
Spring does not last forever. Use its energy wisely, so that the crops you sow are those you wish to harvest. Allow the energy of spring to bring vision.