As May 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.
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.
This year, more than most, I have found this transition to spring challenging. For example, I am experiencing some sadness, frustration and experiencing some digestive issues. The other day I burst into tears for no reason! Did you know that feeling these things can be completely normal during this transition? These symptoms indicate my liver and lung systems could use some extra support to ease the transition.
We can support ourselves during this seasonal transition by drinking lots of water, sleeping well, eating healthy unprocessed and seasonal foods, exercising more (sweating is good), qigong, meditating and/or being in nature. We are part of the universe, so if spring is coming in like lion we will feel it internally and externally; by balancing our energy, we can help the land balance also. The symptoms we experience during seasonal transitions can also amplify areas that need our attention; meaning they were there all along but they suddenly become louder!
The liver is like your tail-wagging dog: unconditionally loyal.
Among its 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, and the source of the anger or frustration is beyond your control, see if you can 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.
Turn your awareness to your breath and this moment and focus on that feeling of happiness, see if you can even 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 the above suggestions, here are a two simple exercises you can do to support the liver, balance your energy, relieve unsettled emotions, and support your digestion. These exercises are taken from the book Head-to-Toe Healing: your body’s repair manual by Master Chunyi Lin (founder and creator of Spring Forest Qigong and one of my teachers).
- Elbow cupping. This exercise helps with constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, eye pain, thyroid conditions, liver problems (including anger and frustration), 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 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!
- Great Rushing/Liver 3 (LV 3). Locate the area on the top of your foot between your big toe and your second toe. Run your finger between the bones of these two toes until just before they meet, there is a point there called Great Rushing or Liver 3 (third point along the liver meridian). Use your thumb or finger to massage this area with gentle pressure in a circular motion. This exercise helps with blockages in the liver, insomnia, anger, and incontinence. 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 simple but can be 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 and large intestine meridian systems or energy channels. These are the channels where your qi (life force energy) flows. By massaging these points, you are stimulating the meridians and removing stagnation or blockages (like a log across a river).
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 my teacher, 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 room temperature 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 or a squirt of fresh lemon to support the liver even more (springtime only for the lemon). 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!). Getting out in nature will also help to dispel and transform anger. 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 happening with the season.
Please share your reflections in the comments and let me know how the exercises felt!
Love and light,
Sue Crites, MSc, NCP
Qigong Instructor, Master Healer, Mentor