, As June draws near, can you feel the energetic shift in the atmosphere? Those of us in the Northern hemisphere point our faces in the direction of the sun as we step outside. We pause. We smile as we feel warmth and light bathe our skin. As we unbutton our coats and quicken our steps, we feel hopeful. Spring is here; we breathe a sigh of relief.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, yang energy is now on the rise. Yang energy will continue to build until June 21. This means it is good to have more greens in our diet. We are not ready for lots of cool foods yet though! It’s best to add fresh greens to a soup towards the end of cooking or sauté or roast them lightly in olive oil with sea salt. I have been adding kale and chard to my stir-fry just at the end, to wilt them but not cook them completely. This also makes the greens much more digestable.
According to Five Element Theory, Wood is the element of spring. We have been nurturing and balancing our winter element of water over the past few months. Now we can give the wood just the right amount of water to begin growing slowly. As we water the wood, energy begins to shift from the kidneys to the liver. Here in Alberta, Canada the land has been out of balance. Forest fires have been burning as the land strives to re-balance. We can help our bodies be in balance by drinking lots of water, sleeping well, eating healthy foods,exercising, meditating and/or being in nature. We are part of the universe, so by balancing our energy, we can help the land balance also.
The liver is like your tail-wagging dog: unconditionally loyal. Among it’s many important functions, the liver works at filtering blood while metabolizing nutrients, detoxifying what doesn’t belong, and controlling digestion and metabolism. Without it, we would die.
Emotions related to the liver include anger, frustration, and happiness. If you find yourself getting angry or frustrated, try to focus on something happy that has happened to you recently. Maybe someone paid you a compliment or gave you a gift, and it made you feel good. Take a moment to pause, put a smile on your face, slow down your breath, and breathe deeply. Focus on that feeling of happiness, send it to your liver, and visualize the anger leaving your body as you spend a few minutes breathing deeply. This can quickly shift your emotions so the anger doesn’t settle in the liver causing a blockage. It’s okay to feel anger, but you don’t want it to linger. It can lead to a deeper emotion of hatred and this can damage the heart.
In addition to eating a lighter and cleaner diet as spring approaches, there are a few simple exercises you can do to support the liver. It works so hard for you, so any support is very beneficial! These exercises are taken from the book Head-to-Toe Healing: your body’s repair manual by Chunyi Lin (founder and creator of Spring Forest Qigong and one of my teachers).
- Elbow cupping. This exercise helps with constipation, skin rashes, eye pain, thyroid conditions, liver problems, and stimulates the lymph system.
Hold your left arm at a 90-degree angle with your forearm parallel to the floor and in front of your body. Hold your right hand in a cup-shape and cup/pat the bent area.
Do this for about two minutes on the left arm, then switch to the right arm and repeat. You can repeat this three times or as often as you wish throughout the day. This exercise is even more powerful if you do it between 5 and 7AM, but anytime is good!
- Massage the top of the foot. This exercise helps with blockages in the liver, insomnia, anger, and incontinence.
Massage the area on the top of your foot between your big toe and second toe by rubbing your thumb up and down between the bones leading from these toes; start about two finger widths down from the toes.
Do this for about two minutes on the left foot then switch to the right; one or two times per day (or more often); anytime of the day.
These exercises are very simple but can be very helpful in supporting and balancing your liver thereby improving your energy, mood, hormone production, digestion, bowels, and more! Are you wondering how these exercises can possibly work when they seem to have nothing to do with the liver? These areas are part of the liver meridian system or energy channel. Your liver meridian is a major meridian that connects to many areas of your body. How cool is that?
Finally, I want to leave you with one more tip to support your liver. Every morning I start my day with Yin-Yang water. I learned of this from Master Lin, but Taoists have been using this water for thousands of years. I like to focus on balance in all areas of life, and this water supports that nicely. Yin-Yang water helps to balance your entire body, strengthens your digestive system, and cleanses your liver and pancreas.
Here’s how you make it: mix boiled water (not from the microwave) with cool water in equal amounts. It’s best to drink it while it’s still warm, but even when it’s cooled it’s still beneficial. It’s also good to add some locally sourced honey. Like the exercises, this water is so simple but has far-reaching benefits.
Enjoy the longer days, get outdoors more, stay warm, smile, and be sure to drink enough water for the wood to grow (otherwise you may start a fire!). I love sharing the energy of the seasons. The more we can be in balance with nature, the better we feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Take the time to look out your window and observe what is happing with the season. If you’d like more liver support, please join our upcoming Love your Liver Workshop (early pricing ends soon!).
Love and light,
Sue Crites, MSc, NCP
Qigong Instructor, Master Healer, Mentor