Ready, Set...Wood Season!: Tips for Staying Balanced in Spring
Looking out my window, I see a flat watercolor blend of dull browns and grays— for most members of the plant kingdom, dormancy is still the order of the day.
But over the next several weeks, tiny buds on the trees will burst forth from glossy limbs; and sparkling fields will be jumping and buzzing with lush excitement in green!
According to the 5 Elements branch of Chinese medicine, each season brings its own energy, which is essential to harness for the balance of the whole, and for our health and wellbeing.
Spring is associated with the Wood Element and the Liver.
It’s that tiny sapling, pushing up with all its might and against all odds through the crack in the cement. It’s the powerful trunk of the tree that uproots an entire house. It’s the energy of the Warrior–it is single focused, goal oriented, and never takes its eye off the target.
It’s about growth, forward movement, and transformation.
Some argue that it is the most powerful Element of all, as it is the urge of life itself to express and come out into the world.
The Wood Element reminds us that growth and movement are vital
Without growth, we stagnate, and with stagnation comes a host of problems. If we’re stagnating in any area in life, it is precisely in the spring more than any other time that these issues come to the forefront.
If we are held back or blocked, anger soon follows.
Along with anger, stagnant Wood energy can bring headaches, high blood pressure, pain, muscle tension, and PMS and/or irregular and painful menses in women. It can cause insomnia, depression, and lead to severe digestive issues and asthma.
To balance your Wood Element:
- Examine if there are major areas in which you are stagnating: Is there a creative project you keep meaning to start? Is there a major transition you’ve been too afraid to make? Begin taking the steps NOW to put into place all that you need to make that transition over the next few months.
- As opposed to winter when warming foods were in order, you can now start adding more cooling foods: Particularly good are mung bean sprouts, celery, seaweeds (kelp is very helpful for liver stagnation), lettuce, cucumber, watercress, plum, chlorophyll-rich foods (superfoods like spirulina), mushrooms, rhubarb root or stem, radish, and daikon radish. Green is the color associated with Wood, so focusing on dark, leafy greens is very beneficial.
- Do a cleanse: In Chinese Medicine, we rarely recommend intense “cleanses”, as they're composed of harsh cold herbs which are very depleting. But since the liver processes all toxins, a gentle cleanse can be beneficial. Several days of a simple chicken vegetable soup cleanse can suffice for those with low energy or who get cold easily, while a salad cleanse would be appropriate for those who are always hot. (Since everyone is different, being diagnosed first is the best way to know if these any of the above mentioned foods are indeed indicated for you.)
- Practice relaxation techniques and get enough exercise. The liver can be a very stressed out organ! It wants to be the boss, to have its way, and like a stubborn child when something impedes its course, it can become enraged! The more tools you have for relaxation, the more effectively directed your energy will be.
- How do you cope when angry or irritable?: Move the energy somehow! Use exercise, dance therapy, communication if something has been left unsaid, or noise (screaming at the top of my lungs in my car is my personal favorite for moving some big energy!).
- See an acupuncturist: Often just a short series of treatments can correct lifelong symptoms related to liver imbalance.
We always hear it’s important to stop and smell the roses, but now is the time to put the effort into planting the garden that will yield the flowers of many years to come.