This month we bid winter farewell and welcome spring back into the seasonal rotation. The days become brighter and warmer for longer; nature stretches as it begins to brush off the dark, cold, hibernation of the past four months and lets out an audible sigh as the warm westerly winds thaw the frozen surroundings.
Spring is the beginning of the Yang phases of the year while winter was a Yin time. During winter we conserve energy, reduce activity, and spend our time nourishing our bodies with hearty, warm foods. In the spring we rise early with the sun and find activity again, as these are yang activities, reflecting the ascending and active nature of spring. Buds begin to grow and the sight of the green colour of these young plants nourishes the soul through the eyes. The appetite for food decreases and the body naturally cleanses itself, not only of food residues, but of emotions of dissatisfaction, impatience, and anger as well. The metaphorical membrane of the eyes and mind disappears and vision becomes clearer.
In Chinese Medicine, the Liver and Gall Bladder correspond to spring and the promotion of a smooth flow of Qi (energy) throughout the body, as well as in storing and detoxifying the blood. The Liver could be considered as being in charge of ‘spring cleaning’ for your body, taking care of sprucing up from within our internal environment both physically and emotionally. This is the most optimistic time of year, so it is best to stop procrastinating and face the challenges of our day to day lives that can impede us from our spiritual evolution; we must face everything and avoid nothing! In order to do this, we must have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity and cleanliness.
Liver houses the aspect of our spirit that never dies from one lifetime to the next and therefore contains our reason for being. This is why the Liver has the capacity of determination, vision, and planning – this way we can spring into action and express our greatest innate qualities needed to realize our spiritual destiny.
In TCM, all of the Yin &Yang organs are associated with certain emotions or mental-emotional attributes. This can mean that if we are feeling one of the positive attributes it can contribute to health of that organ and also the health of the organ may accentuate that positive emotion it is related to. The same is true for the negative emotions that are then associated with the corresponding organs. The positive mental-emotional attributes of Liver and Gall Bladder are: compassion patience, acceptance, benevolence, and honesty. The negative mental-emotional attributes of the Liver and Gall Bladder are: anger, frustration, resentment, irritability, and belligerence.
Spring, the season of birth and new growth, people want to support the natural tendencies of their bodies by strengthening the Liver and its regulation of Qi, as well as fortifying against external attacks of Wind, common in the spring, which can lead to irritability, insomnia, headaches, and dizziness. Listen to your mother when she says to cover your neck when you go outside in the wind, it really can help prevent an invasion.
Put some spring in your step!
According to the philosophy of Chinese Medicine, the Liver is responsible for the smooth flowing of Qi throughout the body. When the Liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. In TCM all pain involves some sort of stagnation – Blood, Qi, Body Fluids, emotion or mental, and that stagnation then finds residence in joints, muscles, and tendons. Because the Liver and Gall Bladder govern the muscles and tendons, by promoting proper health and functioning of the Liver and Gall Bladder, we can keep the body, mind, and spirit harmonious and pain free. So, for optimum health this spring, move your Qi!
Stretch! The Liver controls the muscles and tendons of the body. According to Chinese Medicine, the Liver stores Blood during periods of rest and then releases it to the tendons in times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Try incorporating a morning stretch into your routine or add yoga or Tai Qi.
Eye Exercises – The Liver is said to open into the eyes, and although all of the organs in TCM have some connection to the health of the eyes, the Liver is connected to proper eye function. Remember to take breaks when looking at a computer monitor for extended periods of time and do eye exercises.
Get outdoors – Outside air helps Liver Qi flow smoothly. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that Liver Qi stagnation.
In the spring we naturally eat less to cleanse the body of fats and heavy foods of the winter. The diet during this season should be the lightest of all year and contain foods which emphasize the yang qualities of ascending and expanding – young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, immature wheat or other cereal grasses. Good spring foods include: onions, leeks, Chinese yam, wheat, cilantro, mushrooms, sprouts, and spinach and other leafy green vegetables.
Eat Green – Green is the color of the liver and of springtime. Eating young plants – fresh, leafy greens, sprouts, and immature cereal grasses – can improve the liver’s overall functions and aid in the movement of Qi.
Taste Sour – Foods and drinks with sour tastes are thought to stimulate the Liver’s Qi. Put lemon slices in your drinking water, use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing, or garnish your sandwich with a slice of dill pickle.
Enjoy Milk Thistle Tea – Milk thistle helps protect liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the Liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals such as mercury. Look for milk thistle in Chinatown or in the bulk herb section of your natural food stores.
Get Acupuncture! Acupuncture and TCM can help improve the overall health of your Liver and Gall Bladder as well as treat stress, anger and frustration, which are often associated with Liver Qi disharmony.
Try pressing on these acupuncture points at home during the week of spring equinox to get your Qi flowing smoothly for this transitional phase. Press firmly for 1-2 minutes each day.
· LV1 – (Called Big Mound, in English) This point is considered the Wood point of the Wood organ, Liver. It is used for a relief from any negative mental-emotional manifestations of Liver Qi stagnation. Located on the lateral side of the big toe at the proximal corner of the nail.
· GB41 – (Called Foot Falling Tears, in English) This point moves Liver Qi through the Gall Bladder meridian. Located posterior to the 4th metatarsophalangeal joint (toe beside the baby toe) in a depression lateral to the tendon of the baby toe.
Around the world spring is a special time of year and is celebrated in many different ways, so no matter how you get out and celebrate the start of spring, add in some activity to get your body, and Qi moving. And don’t forget to book in with your favorite acupuncturist!