Late summer is the time for the Earth element in the Chinese Medicine system. It is the time for the harvest and great abundance of available fresh nutrients for nourishing ourselves. The Spleen and Stomach are the primary organs and meridians in the Earth Element and digestion and assimilation of nutrients is the primary function on a physical level.
Imbalance in this element can be reflected in the foods we are drawn to and the health of our digestive system. Classically craving for sweets is an indication of a Spleen dysfunction, but any strong cravings for foods that aren’t necessarily “good for us” in large quantities can be an indication as well.
To shift out of food craving imbalances and into craving food and the amount of food that is truly nourishing for us takes several steps. The first one is to be aware that there is an imbalance that can be changed. This seems so elementary, but in our busy lives we may not bring imbalances into full consciousness. We may just accept our habits as they are and not embrace the possibility of change.
The second step is to identify what you want and write it down. What would truly nourishing food habits look like? Take a few minutes to connect with your body and ask what would feel truly nourishing? Be open to its response. Perhaps it is a plant based diet, more broccoli, spinach, more healthy proteins.
The 3rd step is to identify the primary habits that need to be released to embrace the changes your body is craving. Perhaps you usually grab a coffee and skip breakfast. Your body may be craving time for a healthy breakfast with plenty of protein to curb cravings during the day. Whatever your habits may be, take one at a time. By tackling them in this way, you will likely be more successful in creating the change you are wishing to see.
Another great way to create balance in the Earth Element is through a yoga practice that specifically targets the Earth Element channels. The Sacred Pathways Earth Element practice opens and balances the Spleen and Stomach meridians which will lead to improved digestion, increased metabolism and will help to eliminate food cravings.
Remember, by choosing foods that are more nourishing for your body will also help you to make choices that are more supportive of you in other areas of your life as well.
Spring is a natural time for cleansing and detoxification in Chinese Medicine. In my previous post, I presented simple ways to detox on a physical level. There are also ways to work on clearing your thoughts and emotions. Eliminating negative thought patterns can help to improve your outlook on life as well as reduce unnecessary obstacles that occur due to chronic negative thinking.
The tricky thing about working on this level is that your thought patterns can become so habitual that you may not be aware of consistent negative thinking. It takes a high level of awareness for a consistent time period to identify your most common tracks that play over and over. These are the tracks of self- sabotage, negative thoughts about yourself, about others, blame and criticism also fall into this category. The good news is we do have full control over what we choose to think about.
I have a few favorite techniques that work well to stop negativity in its tracks. The first one is flip switching. With Flip switching, you have a list of thoughts ready to go that you can use to counteract negative ones. Say you often think about not having enough money (a very common theme for most people) You can identify a replacement thought such as “I always have enough. ““I have many talents and skills ““I enjoy the feeling of having enough money. “. Or you can choose thoughts that do not relate to the subject at all that help you to redirect your thoughts to something else completely such as “I love the feeling of riding my bike.” I love to see my kids enjoying themselves. ““I really enjoyed our last vacation.” You can use any subject that makes you feel better. You can list statements and try them on. Use the ones that work the best, which are those that help you to feel lighter, happier and help you to redirect your thoughts.
Another technique, which works really well with things you may be struggling with is to ask yourself “What if this were easy.” “What if this were fun.” “What if this just worked its own self out?” These types of statements help you to let go and ease tension in your body and mind that might be caused by repeating negative thought patterns. It takes dedication and effort, but if you keep working at it, you will soon find yourself with less and less negativity that causes resistance in your energy field. You may not be able to accomplish 100% positive thought, but reducing the negativity by even 30-40% can take you a long way toward a more fulfilling and joyful life experience.
Spring is the time for new beginnings. It’s the time for the seeds of creativity to come into physical form. In Chinese Medicine, it is the time for the Wood Element, which rules the Liver and Gall Bladder organs. When these organs are in balance, the energy of Spring naturally flows toward bringing ideas into form. When they are out of balance there may be ideas, but the actions to take may not be clear and the ideas remain in the imagination.
To take advantage of the energy of Spring, there are many things you can do to support the Wood Element in flowing ideas into reality. The first step is to support the liver and gallbladder on a physical level through a cleanse. There are many levels of clearing toxins from mild to intense. If you are new to cleansing, you may want to start simply by drinking 16 oz. of lemon water first thing in the morning every day for 2-4 weeks. The astringing properties of the lemon help to stimulate the Liver to gently clear toxins. Another gentle way to cleanse the liver and gall bladder is to take Milk Thistle. A quality supplement will have the following beneficial effects:
Another way to stimulate flow in the Liver and Gall bladder is a yoga practice. For the practice, focus on poses that open the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians. The Liver channel flows on the inside of the legs and up to the rib cage while the GB channel covers both sides of the body from head to toe. Therefore, incorporating poses that open the inside of the legs and the sides of the body will promote balance in the Wood element channels. Sacred Pathways Wood Element practice is available for preview by going to the home page and clicking on the free video series button. You can do all or part of the Wood Element practice each day of your cleanse to enhance your results.
Another practice for identifying actions to bring ideas into form, is journaling. Spend some time writing a to do list. Write a list of simple actions that don’t take a lot of time along with things that require more of a commitment. You can start by doing the things that require less effort to build momentum, then move to the projects that take more time and energy once you have built a foundation.
Spring is also a good time to cultivate a regular meditation practice. You can start by committing to a daily 10-15 min. meditation while you do our cleanse. Meditation can act like a mental detox time period either first thing in the morning to start your day off with a clean slate, or right before bed to help clear your mind for a good night’s rest. Choose the time you will be most consistent, then add the morning or the evening once you have formed a consistent practice once a day.
Any and all of these practices will help you take advantage of the natural energies of Spring. Pick at least 3 days and up to 21, commit to at least one or two of these suggestions. Journal your results on a daily basis looking for subtle improvements in your outlook, clarity and energy levels toward bringing your creative project into form.
We are nearly ½ way through the winter season and the days are already getting longer, which I am thankful for. Winter is the season for the Water Element in Chinese medicine, the Kidney and Bladder Meridians. The gift that winter brings with shorter days, longer nights is rest and drawing our energy inward versus out. If you tend to be a bit busy all the time and find it difficult to relax and unwind, then this can be a challenging time. If so, take note as it is the thing you need most to bring balance within the Elemental system.
The Kidneys (Kd) and Bladder (UB) are typically the Element that is most challenged in our Western society and the rest of the world is following suite. This meridian pair requires a balance of rest and activity to be at optimal function. It is the Element that houses our Jing, or the sum total life force energy we were born with. Over our lifetime, if we nurture ourselves enough, we can preserve this vital life force and be productive and active into our later years. If there is always a push to burn the candle at both ends, then the challenges of this Element will show up as joint pain, arthritis, neurologic problems and issues with the brain as we age.
The good news is, we always have the opportunity to change our habits. To nourish the Water Element it is a good idea to get more sleep during the winter months. Go to bed earlier, rise later if possible. Another way to nourish this Element is to do more exercise such as Yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong. If you usually run, then walking might be a good change of pace. If you usually do a hot or Power Yoga type practice, try taking more restorative classes. If you have a home practice, you can also shift the time spent in the active part of your practice with sun salutations and standing poses taking up less of the practice with warm up, floor work and relaxation taking up more.
Of course, you can access the Sacred Pathways Yoga series and do the Water Element practice several times per week to provide balance in the Kd and UB meridians and their organs. Benefits include efficient elimination of toxins, healthy aging, the support of optimal bone density, increased willpower and the Water Element Practice promotes courageous action.
Winter is also a wonderful time to enhance your mediation practice, taking advantage of the stillness and quiet. Early morning is my favorite time to meditate. There are many techniques with the simplest being just observing the breath. You can also meditate on an intention for the Kd and UB such as allowing deep rest to restore energy. Any time the mind wonders to thoughts or other distractions, simply return to your intention.
By allowing more down time and relaxation during this season, you can empower the Water Element to bring its gifts more powerfully through the rest of the year. If you get into the habit of regular practice during the Winter months, it is easier to continue through the rest of the seasonal cycles.
Metal Element – Letting go
The first two months of our Fall season have passed, and in another month we fully transition to Winter. So there is still time to take advantage of the energies of Fall – which is ruled by Metal in the 5 Element system. Fall is a time for letting go of things that no longer serve our highest good. It is a time to take inventory of what we now value in our lives and make the appropriate adjustments in our thoughts and actions to put us in alignment with our evolving values.
Throughout our lives we constantly grow and change through experience. What we wanted when we were a young child is different from what we want when in our teens, 20’s, 30’s etc.. Change and growth are necessary, but can also be scary. Many of us would rather cling to certainty and what is familiar over taking the time and effort to make the changes that would truly serve our evolution and happiness. Resisting change results in stagnation which will manifest in our bodies, moods, relationships and our flow of abundance.
Take the time to evaluate what you value in your life right now in the areas of work, relationship, experiences, health and wealth. What is in alignment with what you value and what you want to experience and what is not. Write down each category and allow yourself to fully express first what is working and then what you would like to experience differently.
Once you uncover what must change in your life to meet your new values, you can take the steps that allow those changes to occur. Without the self -inquiry and discovery, you are at the whim of what you have already created. The only change that can lead to true happiness and joy are those that are directed from the level of your true self or soul. This is where a consistent yoga practice can be an extremely valuable tool. It leads you to connection with your soul and higher guidance, allowing you access to what your soul is calling forth from you now.
The Metal Element practice was designed specifically to encourage the energies of letting-go, forgiveness and facilitating the deep connection with your inner core. When you initiate the work through the body, the mind naturally let’s go and it becomes easier to shift from the familiar and even welcome the next phase of growth.
It may be feeling more like winter, but we still have a full month of Fall. In Chinese Medicine Fall is the season for the Metal Element. On a physical level it rules our immune system and respiratory system. If there is a weakness in the Metal Element it may show up in the immune system as easy to contract colds and flu. One simple way to bolster your immune system is to keep your head and neck covered when there is a chill in the air. It may seem like a myth that allowing yourself to get cold or going without a jacket can lead to a cold, but in Chinese medicine the area at the base of your neck is called the wind gate area. If cold enters this area with enough frequency and your immune system is weakened, then it can certainly make you a ripe guest for the cold virus to take hold. Next time you head out and there is a chill in the air, grab your jacket, a scarf or hat, it may just save you from contracting that annoying cold that is going around.
Another way to keep the Metal Element organs functioning well is through the Sacred Pathways vinyasa sequence specifically targeted to open and balance the Lung and Large Intestine Meridians. Both these meridians flow through the arms, so poses that emphasize stretching and opening the shoulders, forearms, wrist and hands can be helpful in supporting the energy flow in these meridians thus supporting your immune and respiratory systems. Since I have been practicing these vinyasa flows on nearly a daily basis for 10 years, I rarely get sick. When I do, it typically lasts only a day or two and then it’s gone.
With the right tools and a little bit of effort and awareness, you can stay well and thrive throughout the viral season.
I always get excited for the cooler weather. It encourages a slower pace from the busy summer months. There is more time to get indoor projects done and one of my favorite things about the chill in the air is soup making. Nothing is quite as sweet as cozying up to the fire with a nourishing and tasty bowl of soup. A bonus to soup meals is they tend to be full of veggies, easy to digest and deeply nourishing.
I just made one of my favorites the other night and I just have to share it, Curried Salmon Soup! It probably remains one of my favorites because we generally do not have enough Salmon left over to make it, so it doesn’t get made as often as some of my others.
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 sweet or yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of water, give or take
2 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste
3 stalks of celery, diced
1lb of marinated and baked salmon
about 8-10 organic, rainbow fingerling potatoes, diced
1 – 2 cans of coconut milk (to taste)
½ pound Spinach (optional)
Give this soup a try and let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Be careful, it might lead to the desire to meditate and practice yoga on a regular basis! Namaste.
In a recent poll it was discovered that over 70% of people in the United States are chronically dehydrated. Water and Oxygen are the two most essential elements for the human body to thrive. As babies we are 80-90% water and through the aging process most elderly are only 50-60% water. This is partly the aging process but primarily due to lack of fluid replacement.
Hydration is essential in removing toxins from the body and making space for nutrients to enter cells. If you don’t take in enough water, toxins build up and nutrients cannot enter; this is the beginnings of all disease.
Think of a grape versus a raisin. A grape is full of fluid and has plenty of space inside. The fruit within the grape is slimy and you can glide your finger over it easily. A raisin on the other hand is shriveled and the inside is condensed and sticky. This is the same with your cells. When dehydrated cells become sticky, toxins get stuck inside and cannot move out. The raisin is a good analogy of tissue that has become inflamed and painful.
To quench your thirst, the general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. That may sound like a lot if you are not used to drinking adequate amounts, but your body will thank you with increased energy, clear thinking, decreased pain and improved skin and hair texture.
Water is the primary driver for the following bodily functions:
· The flow of blood and lymph through the body
· The functioning of our brains
· The cushioning and regulation of organs
· The transfer and absorption of nutrients into cells and tissues
· The removal of waste from the cells
· The movement of nerve impulses through the nervous system
· The balance of hormones
· The regulation of body temperature
· The lubrication and cushioning of joints
Drinking enough water alone can have a tremendous positive impact on the healing of the following diseases:
· General pain and inflammation in muscles and joints
· Tension headaches and migraines
· Weight loss
· Water retention
· Skin problems, including acne, eczema and psoriasis
· Gastrointestinal issues
· Spinal problems
· Hearing and sight problems
· Dysfunction of the kidney or liver
· Hormonal problems
· Gall and kidney stones
· Circulation issues
· Heart disease and strokes
· Mental disorders and addictions
· Impaired memory and brain function
· Autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus and fibromyalgia
Water alone may not do the trick but it will certainly improve your tissue and organ health enough to support other interventions.
It is also important to get your water from a good source. If you have access to a local spring, that is the best. A really good home filter is recommended for households on city water systems. Ideally, your water will be free of contaminants, have an alkaline ph between 7.o and 9.5, be mineral rich and will have a taste you enjoy.
Glass containers and stainless steel are the best ways to store drinking water. Plastic bottles are best avoided on a daily basis because water may contain traces of the plastics it is stored in. However, hydration from a plastic bottle is better than no hydration at all.
Adequate water intake should not be minimized in any healing or wellness regimen. With water being the greatest percentage of our bodies, it must take priority in our daily routine.
Jan Mead PT LAc is the creator of Sacred Pathways Yoga, a practicing physical therapist and acupuncturist. She is passionate about helping people achieve their wellness goals from the physical level to the spiritual.