Springtime and the Wood Element
Chinese medicine often speaks of the influence that each season has on life. Each season has a unique set of qualities that effect the way we feel, eat, rest and work. The spring time is the season of wood. Wood can be seen as a physical and tangible entity, as is the case with trees and plants, but it can also be seen as a symbolic representation of the qualities and characteristics that wood exemplifies.
Many people enjoy the spring season because it is a time of new beginnings. It is the time when the rest and solitude of winter give way to action and fresh ideas. This is demonstrated by the wood element. When a seed sprouts, or a perennial plant begins to put up new shoots, we see the potential energy of wood become manifest. Each day as I walk through our gardens, I marvel at the noticeable changes that occur over a short time. I am particularly enamored with the bamboo; it’s new shoots seem to grow right before my eyes. This demonstrates the power of the wood element to create change and movement.
The wood element relates to the liver and the gall bladder. It is these two organs, particularly the liver, that are responsible for creating movement in the body. If the liver is challenged or sick, than it can not effectively preform its duty to move the body’s qi. When this happens it can cause a number of different problems in the body.
To begin with it causes one to feel stuck, and possibly irritable. I liken it to being stuck in a traffic jam. When caught in traffic, we are usually trying to get to somewhere in particular, so the fact that we are not moving causes irritability. It may also cause our muscles to tighten as we internalize the stress that we are feeling. In addition, it might cause pain, high blood pressure, headaches, dizziness or digestive problems.
All of these functions are dependent on a free flow of qi to function properly, and if the qi is slowed or stopped, than the body begins to show signs of illness. So in the springtime it is especially important to keep your liver qi moving.
Five great ways to move the liver qi:
- Get regular exercise. It can be cardio or weights or both. Even a daily walk can do wonders for your liver qi.
- Eat a diet that is high in foods of the springtime. Especially fresh bitter greens such as kale, chard, dandelions, spinach or salad greens. The foods that appear in a certain season are the ones that are most appropriate for our bodies at that time. The bitter foods available in the springtime help move our qi and they help the body to detoxify from all of the excess dietary fat and inactivity that we tend to see in the winter time. It is also a good time to limit the greasy/ fatty foods commonly consumed in the winter.
- Practice some form of relaxation. In can be meditation, qi gong, yoga, deep breathing, pilates etc. In can also be something like gardening or knitting, as long as you make an effort to relax while you are doing the activity. In other words, if you are gardening, don’t worry about work while you are doing it.
- Get an acupuncture treatment or a massage. Both of these healing modalities can help move the liver qi.
- Experience the wood element. Garden, take a hike, walk in the park, etc. Acknowledging the character and tendencies of the wood element as it exist in nature and in the human body can be very therapeutic.