health tips for spring
Along the northern hemisphere, March 20th marked the Spring Equinox and the dissolve of winter into spring. As winter offered a time to reflect and conserve nascent energy, spring is a time of regeneration and renewal.
Change weaves together the seasons, and each season reflects unique qualities of nature, the cosmos, and our place within it. In spring, verdant buds appear on bare branches, seeds begin to sprout, the earth is warmed by an expansive light of the sun. A thrill is in the air, in our hearts, with each step.
In East Asian traditions, spring is associated with the wood element, the color green, movement and wind. In Chinese medicine, spring is also associated with the liver and its complementary organ, the gallbladder.
The health of the liver is reflected in the tendons, eyes, and fingernails, and is essential to a balanced reproductive system. The liver system engenders the smooth flow of mental and physical lifeforce energy or Qi throughout the body and mutually supports all the other organ systems. Liver qi facilitates the easeful movement of emotions, and is particularly linked with feelings of anger and frustration. When the liver is healthy, our physical, mental and emotional activity is also easeful.
Like a young shoot or the wise roots of a weathered tree, wood exemplifies growth, change, and the moving through of obstacles. It’s an active/yang expression that encourages evolution, in the world and within. When this outwardly spiraling energy is thwarted or suppressed, it can revolve into frustration, anger and stress.
While spring often illumines winter’s doldrums, the evolution of spring can also exacerbate imbalances related to Qi stagnation. It’s not uncommon to experience depression, muscular tension and pain, digestive issues, headaches, and menstrual disharmony. If these issues surface or seem worse in spring, don’t fret. The opening and active qualities of spring allow for profound transformation and remind us how to intuitively take care. With a sense of revolution and new beginnings, spring is the ideal time for cleansing health regimens and physical activity.
To optimize our health and harness the blossom of spring’s light:
Exercise and Stretch – the liver system is deeply connected with the tendons of the body. Holding and releasing rich stores of oxygenated blood to the tendons and sinews is one way the liver supports movement and change throughout the body. Stretching and exercise maintain tendon health and flexibility. Inadequate activity can also take it’s tole, resulting in tightness, tension and irritability. To counteract qi stagnation and other frustrations, take long walks, incorporate a daily practice of yoga, qi gong and/or tai qi. Get down: dance, make music and art, play!
Enjoy Nature – fresh air encourages the easeful flow of qi throughout the liver meridians and all energetic pathways or nadis. Take deep breaths, inhaling the spring air and take a hike, a walk amongst trees or along the seashore. Cultivate a garden and pot plants for indoor growth.
Eat Green and Well– fresh, leafy vegetables and sprouted greens (kale, chard, dandelion, watercress, asparagus, pea shoots, alfalfa and bean sprouts, wheat grass) invigorate the liver’s functioning and enhance the smooth movement of qi throughout the body. Lightly steaming or sautéing vegetables and greens help retain their nutrients and facilitate digestion. Sour flavors, in small amounts, also stimulate the liver’s qi. Consider a slice of lime or lemon in your water. Pickled vegetables are great this time of year. Herbs like basil, dill and rosemary are also recommended.
Clear and Cleanse – Spring clean! Let go of anything you haven’t used in the past year. Clean out that kitchen drawer, closets, and storage spaces. Donate clothes, books and household items to a charity or shelter. Consider a full-body cleanse with vegetable and fruit juices and plenty of water. Irrigate the nasal passage with salt water and a neti pot – this is especially helpful for those suffering from seasonal allergies.
Layer – During this time of transition, it’s hard to read how the day’s weather will unfold. Best to wear or carry extra layers and adjust as needed. Balmy mornings often evolve into blustery nights. Remember that the neck, throat, back and chest are the most vulnerable to invading pathogens like wind and cold, so keep rockin the free world and wear a scarf!