Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sprang from the observation of Nature and is organized around the interaction of the Nature’s 5 Elements; Water, Wood, Fire, Metal and Earth. Each of these 5 elements is associated with a specific season. According to this model remaining healthy is about keeping these elements in balance and living in harmony with the seasons
In Asia they believe Spring begins in February with the Chinese New Year. Here in the west we recognize the Vernal Equinox (March 20) as the first day of Spring.
After this year’s harsh Winter many of us are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Spring; that time of renewal when the sap begins to flow and the seeds that have lain dormant beneath a blanket of snow become reactivated. It is their time to break free of Winters icy grip, worm their way up through frosty soil and place their tender green faces in the warm light of the sun.
According to TCM, the season “Spring” is represented by the element of Wood, the color Green, the emotion of Anger and the taste of Sour. It’s related organ is the Liver.
Tips for Staying Healthy in Spring
Be Aware of your Emotions
As the organ responsible for the flow of blood and qi (pronounced “Chee”) energy the liver is most affected by excess stress or emotions. When the liver is healthy the qi flows smoothly and our emotional state will be happy, we will feel kind and generous. When the liver’s qi energy becomes stagnant we become more susceptible to anger, depression, jealousy and envy. Our emotions can be a diagnostic tool. If we are experiencing these darker feelings it could be an indication of liver imbalance.
Eating with the Season One important aspect for staying healthy this Spring is eating right for the liver.
Green is the color of the liver and springtime, so eating young plants, sprouts and leafy greens will aid in liver qi flow. Green smoothies make a perfect Spring tonic.
It is believed that sour foods calm the body, help ground the emotional charge and support liver health. Some recommendations for liver friendly foods are; bamboo shoots, broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, dandelion greens, egg plant, fennel, scallions ginger, kiwifruit, lemons, limes, oranges, pickles, tomatoes, and vinegar.
Milk thistle tea is also excellent for liver health as it helps protect the liver cells from toxins and encourages the liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances such as medications, alcohol and other harmful toxins.
Move your Body
Another key to Spring health is being more physically active after the dormancy of Winter. Shoveling snow aside, if you have been relatively inactive, ease back into exercise. Take walks outdoors. The air outside helps the liver qi flow. Enjoy Nature and observe the new growth, the shoots and buds of the changing season. Do gentle movements like Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga. Exercises that involve turning the trunk are particularly good for the liver.
Stretching is important too as the liver controls the tendons. TCM tells us that our strength comes not from our muscles but our tendons. Our agility and flexibility are a result of healthy tendons. The liver stores blood during times of rest and releases it during times of activity, so stretching daily can help maintain the flow of blood and Qi needed for tendon health.
Look to your Liver
The sensory organs associated with the liver are the eyes. If you are having problems with your eyes, be it blurry vision, dry or itchy eyes you may have an imbalance of qi energy in your liver. Bringing the liver back into balance can improve these conditions. One exercise for the eyes includes working the full range of motion by following an infinity symbol or sideways figure eight pattern with your eyes, another blinking rapidly a few times to refresh the eyes.
Qigong for the Liver
For those unfamiliar with it qigong is a form of moving meditation that synchronizes a series of gentle movements with your breathing to stimulate the qi (life force energy) in your body. It is considered more than an exercise routine. As a part of TCM it is considered a healing art. There are a variety of qigong sequences designed to nourish the wood element and massage the liver. Here are a few simple movements you can try.
Massage the Liver
The liver is located on the right side of your body. Place your left hand over your ribs to the right of your solar plexus and visualize sending cool energy to your liver as you massage the area in a counterclockwise direction for about 3 minutes.
Energize and Vibrate the Liver
With your left hand still over your liver, take a deep breath. As you inhale visualize sending bright green light from your palm to fill the organ with peaceful and compassionate energy. As you exhale make the sound “Shuuu” and tap lightly on your ribs 5 times, visualizing any dark stagnant energy, anger or frustration being released. Annunciating the “Shuuu” sound will cause it to resonate in the throat and chest and combined with the tapping will vibrate the organ stimulating qi flow.
Clear the Liver Meridian
The meridians are the pathways through which the qi energy in your body travels. Tracing of the liver meridian will help to clear any energetic blocks.
Place one hand on either side of the front of your rib cage. Take a deep breath and as you exhale brush downward. (Making the “Shuuu” sound is optional.) When you get to your hips bend over and continue down the inside of the thighs, knees, calf, ankle, then over the top of your foot and off the big toe. Repeat 3-5 times.
The liver is responsible for the flow of Qi energy in your body, so for optimum health this Spring, eat green, taste sour, go outdoors and get your Qi moving!