We are part of nature. The seasons and cycles that transform our natural world, also move and create changes within us. Look around and see and smell the burst of vibrant flowers and leaves. Imagine that powerful life giving energy is rushing forth within you. It is your time to bloom! New ideas, visions, plans, expressions may flood you. As much as possible, create space to allow these vibrant new beginnings to take root in your life. Open to the possibilities; create strategies and actions plans to nurture them. Be open to the springs and creeks teeming with life within you. And set clear, loving boundaries.
Through the 4000 year old lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we are a microcosm of nature. We can look to nature to understand the processes and cycles going on within us. In TCM, there are 5 elements that encompass and create life as we know it: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. These elements correspond to the seasons. The season of Spring represents the Wood element and is a time when the energies of the Liver and Gallbladder organs are most active. In TCM, Liver and Gallbladder have slightly different functions than their Western specifications. I will capitalize the name of the organs when I refer to them from a TCM context. Just to be clear: if someone is experiencing symptoms of TCM specified Liver stagnation, it does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with their liver function from a Western Medicine perspective. TCM often picks up on subtle fluctuations and imbalances that would not be detected under a western lens. This sensitivity is what allows it to be a truly preventative health modality. However, it is important to keep in mind that balance is a dynamic process and our ability to tune in and listen at a subtle level empowers us to course correct or seek professional help as needed.
In TCM, the Liver organ stores blood, and controls the flow of Qi (vital energy) throughout the body. If this Liver and Gallbladder energy gets stagnant, we may experience irritability, headaches, redness in the eyes, and/or tendonitis. Many of us are familiar with the complementary opposites conveyed in the yin yang symbol. This balance or lack of balance also shows up in our bodies. For example, if we do not have enough Liver Yin in the body to ground the Liver Yang, we may wake up in the night with our mind racing unable to go back to sleep.
Over the past 15 years practicing Shiatsu, I have seen my clients come in with an increase of Liver related complaints: more headaches, increased irritability, and tighter shoulders and necks are common symptoms. Here are 5 self-care practices that I suggest for balancing the flow of Liver and Gallbladder qi:
- Begin the day with meditation, exercise or yoga. This helps to get your energy moving smoothly.
- Drink a glass of water with fresh lemon (squeeze up to one whole lemon).
- Increase raw foods and add cooling, bitter greens in your salads – dandelion leaves, French sorrel and endives are great additions.
- Hold this acupressure point: Liver 3
- Allow yourself time to be truly present, enliven your senses by spending time in nature and receiving some bodywork or acupuncture.