Transitioning from Winter to Spring
The Element of Winter is Water. This life giving fluid makes up more than 70% of our body, and it flows through our tissues just like it does the earth. It takes many forms such as sweat, tears and blood, that like the mist and rain turn into internal streams and rivers that flow into lakes and pour into the seas. When water gets obstructed, it can no longer flow, which causes the loss of life and vitality in the waterway. In our body that translates to stagnation and pain, which can lead to disease. The seasonal transition from winter into spring and the elemental influences of water and wood, creates one of the most physically trying periods of the whole year. After spending months immersed in the stillness of winter, springs expansive, driving energy can be met with resistance when there is a lack of proper flow. Our internal energy or Qi, moves from the organs of winter, the Kidneys and Bladder and pushes upwards into the Liver and Gallbladder in the Spring, with the impetus of a seedling relentlessly climbing toward the sun. This natural resistance between the elements has been shown to cause emotional unrest such as anger, frustration or resentment, which if left to build up, could give way a host of other symptoms including ringing in the ears, headaches, red eyes, shortness of breath and restless sleep. In order to weather this transition with ease, it becomes key that we find movement. Getting our blood flowing will help to keep the waterways clear. One way we can do this, is with intentional movement practices such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga or simply taking brisk walks. Our tendency is to be still and stay warm in our homes in the colder months, though our bodies being sensitive to these subtle shifts, begin to feel the pull of the coming of spring well before we feel the warmth of the sun. If we keep active during this time, we can avoid some seasonal discomfort. Any type of movement is helpful to keep energy flowing, but especially those that involve twisting through your center, swinging your arms, and stretching the sides of the body are all great this time of year. Specific movements that bring extra circulation to the liver and gallbladder, as well as ones that open the diaphragm such as deep breathing exercises,are perfect choices. When there is a struggle with the rising of wood energy it can get stuck at the diaphragm, impeding our ability to breath deeply. When you notice yourself breathing shallowly, take a moment to fill your lungs completely allowing your breath to fill your belly. It can help to rest your hand on your navel and focus on watching it rise and fall. This not only helps to open the diaphragm and ease liver tension, but it is also soothing to the nerves and supports proper Qi flow through the body. To give you some examples of helpful movements we have included a link to our YouTube channel where you will find short Qi Gong videos of some of these exercises.
From a nutritional standpoint, in the Spring, we can ease into the season by slowly shifting from the heavier, comforting meals that we tend towards in the colder months, to lighter, brighter more vibrant, flavors. As an example, rather than a potato chowder, we can prepare soups with a clear broth filled with ingredients that are lightly cooked and still full of life, like the plants of the springtime season. This may include vegetables that grow above ground, dandelion greens, fresh spring nettles, radishes and sprouts. Additionally it can be helpful to cut back on red meats and try incorporating more fish and legumes as protein in your meals. The flavor of Spring is sour, but we don’t need much to keep things flowing. A small amount of fermented vegetables, lemony sorrel leaves, vinegar or citrus fruits are great to have in moderation, as well as aromatic pungent herbs like basil, peppermint, ginger, thyme and other fresh culinary spices to add lots of flavor as well as important nutrients to the springtime diet. Follow this link link to some of my seasonal recipes for some inspiration. This past week, along with the extra hour of daylight we have been feeling grateful to see the sunshine filling our space, taking the chill from the air and making our hearts a little more joyful anticipating all the warmer days to come. As we begin to feel more lively and fill our days with activities, let us remember to take time to nourish our bodies and minds with acts of self love, healing foods, breath and fresh intention. Happy Spring Everyone!
Best Wishes from all of us at The ATC