What are the energetics of spring? Ancient healing systems see Spring as an important time to address the health of the mind, body, and spirit. Chinese medicine relies on certain protocols and recommendations to balance the Wood element. But the Chinese are not the only ancient tradition that acknowledges that the onset of Spring provides a unique window to heal certain patterns of imbalance.
“For many years I’ve witnessed how these elegant and intelligent processes observed by ancient people have found ways to play out in the lives of the acupuncture patients that have come to me for treatment. I called these archetypal patterns, Companions. They are remarkable companions that are there without fail, ready to inform us, challenge, and comfort us. Whether we are aware of it or not there are ancient stories that are being played out in our lives,” from TOTEM Companions Mastering the Twelve Archetypes and the Five Elements Within You,
In Spring, the Wood element becomes dominant, this energy is considered Yang. It moves up and out from the center of the body like sap. Sourcing from the yin energies of winter which are about storage and survival the Wood energy is about movement, new growth, and seeking places to create. A tree’s branches grow incrementally making its growth hard to notice. But it’s happening. Usually we are too busy to witness nature’s spring miracles. But not this Spring. This spring even indoors we have all been exploring new spaces and growing in new ways. Spring like all of the seasons, has an archetype which I call in my healing system, the Seeker Companion.
After many seasons, the Seeker becomes a Leader, and uses her intuition, intelligence and confidence to design a new future. Remember creation is an expression of our personal power which resides in the third chakra, the energy center of Spring. It’s gift is independence, the challenge or shadow is alienation.
Physical/ Emotional symptoms eye issues, impatience, irritability, tightness discomfort in the rib cage and mid abdomen (could effect any organs in this region), skin issues, other unregulated histamine responses, hand and wrist issues.
As spring turns to summer, our energy in the third chakra progresses into the fourth chakra which is the energy center of love. None of the energies in our body could exist without each other. Our ego helps us be productive and is housed in the third chakra. We also need the refining power of compassion which exists in the fourth chakra to quell the ego’s tendency to push too hard, to over-produce, or to over-function.
Recommended Movement Practices
Tree Qi Gong which is actually communing with a tree, being in a wild space, example walking on trails, standing or sitting on the earth, Wood Qi Gong, walking and swinging arms to move the lateral body, any exercise that stretches the side body, (where the liver meridian and organ is located.)
“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t to walk, then crawl, but by all means, keep moving.” ~ Martin Luther King
This is a big topic, I’ll cover the basics here. TCM favors Sour flavors in the Spring. They astringe the liver (think of what an astringent does to your pores, it makes them smaller, reigns them in) which helps control the Qi, literally retaining in the body and preventing “leakage.” Examples are lemon, limes, vinegar, pomegranate, kombucha, sorrel ( a type of green), etc.
I combine Chinese herbal medicine and the European Wise Woman herbal folk traditions. In the European herbal medicine tradition, the Bitter flavor is used to cleanse and a good time to do this is the Spring. Examples, I like parsley, arugula, Collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, dandelion greens, watercress, turnip greens, beet green, green coffee or free trade organic coffee used as a condiment or seasoning not as a crutch, dark chocolate (low sugar).
TCM suggests that we alter the preparation and cooking methods of foods to mimic the natural rhythms of Qi flow. Cooking in the oven or another method that does a long cooking time makes the food more Yang. Adding water pulsing or blending the cooked food makes it more neutral (universally suitable for most constitutions) and easy to digest. In the hotter months, we can generally chop up our food into smaller pieces (think matchsticks). As it warms up outdoors, shortening our cooking time is appropriate. Fermenting our food makes it cooler energetically or Yin.
- Your bra might feel tighter. Qi tends to get stuck in three places in a female. These blockages follow the pattern of the energy nature flow from the root chakra up and out of the body. Number one her reproductive organs, number two breast tissue and number three throat area. Your bra may feel tighter as the Wood energy of the liver and gallbladder channels end at the rib cage and disperse Qi and blood to the inner organs. In Spring, or during other times in life when the Liver Yang Qi rises,some patients report a pain sometimes sharp and without medical reason under the ribs. Or some other sharp alarming sensation in one of the three regions I mentioned above. Usually some method of moving the Chi in the body, (I use acupuncture) resolves the issue.
- Caffeine consumption. If you’re like me and most people I suspect, this subject is triggering. The fact is our community, our society and ourselves have a lot of pressure on us to do more than what is possible. And caffeine helps us achieve the impossible! But the Chinese doctor in me says more caffeine is a no-no in the springtime. We already have this energetic propeller called the Liver Yang. When our system is nourished this energy should energize us. Experiment with subtly lowering your caffeine consumption. I’m going from 2 cups of black tea in the morning to 1 1/2. Then somewhere as the weather heats up I will have only one cup black of tea. And in the heat of summer only one cup of green tea. This has looked differently for me over the years. As it will for you.
- Reigning in chaotic sleep habits. In the dark of winter it is easy for our sleep habits to become a bit irregular. Or a lot irregular! Obviously, sleep regularity is always important. But spring offers us a special window of opportunity. Often we are more active and may naturally feel more tired. Pay attention to your body and hop on that sleep train. Correcting sleep problems are more difficult in summer as we move into the element of fire. More on that topic in future blog posts.
- We talked about which foods you can build your diet around in the spring. I also touched on how to prepare and cook foods in the spring. Keep in mind that each season has slightly different recommendations and how to prepare and cook foods according to five elements. This advice is tempered by the needs of an individual’s constitution and her health challenges. And let’s live in the real world. There is no such thing as perfect food, a perfect meal or a perfectly mindful dining experience. But if you’re like me the thoughtfulness behind a system like TCM is fascinating. So here goes. The warmer the weather outside the smaller you chop your veggies and the shorter the cooking time. During seasonal transitions or times of high stress in your life make sure your food preparations are simple, food combining is minimal, and items are easy to digest. If you feel bloated, gassy in your elimination is abnormal re-evaluate. Again the explanation is TCM suggests that we alter the preparation and cooking methods of foods to mimic the natural rhythms of Qi flow.