by Colleen C.
When I was a competitive athlete I always liked to follow the Chinese philosophy throughout the seasons. It all made sense to me and kept me healthy as well as fit. Below are the guidelines that I would follow in the Spring
Spring Chinese Philosophy
Spring is the season of rebirth and in the Chinese tradition it is the first season of the annual cycle. Spring is the season of budding plants and leaves, so not surprisingly, the color of the season is green. The element of spring, wood, is also related to growth and reflects not just the roots, trunks and limbs of growing trees but also the equivalents in our bodies,muscles, tendons and ligaments. Care should be taken in the spring to nurture these supportive tissues with stimulating and flexibility practices such as yoga, tai chi and gyrotonics, especially focusing on stretching and lengthening the sides and mid section of the body. Symptoms of a wood imbalance include poor judgment, planning, or organization and the inability to make decisions. More importantly, the wood element provides our spiritual foundation and gives us our inspiration and spark for life. It is said the liver, one of the organs of spring, is the home of the soul. If wood is out of balance and weak, we may lose some of our zest for life. And the key to creating wood balance is the liver.
As provided above, the organs of spring are the liver and the gall bladder.
The liver is one of the body’s most important organ and its largest. With over 100 known functions, the liver does everything from aiding in the metabolism of the foods we eat, to helping with the formation and filtering of blood, to removing toxins, to helping clot our blood. The liver is also the organ hardest hit from our modern lifestyle. Stress, high fat diets, environmental toxins, drugs and alcohol and processed and impure foods all depend on the liver to make things right with the body. So when the liver is overstressed by our lifestyle, it can become stagnant and or out of balanced. Some of the physical symptoms of liver stagnation are allergies, swelling of the abdomen, chest or breasts, menstrual problems, neck and back tension, eye problems, fatigue, slow rising in the morning, and muscle and tendon pain. While the physical signs are important, most liver imbalance is recognized by the emotional symptoms which include, anger, frustration, impatience, edginess, depression, poor judgment, inability to make decisions and overall negativity. These are all common for spring when the liver is out of balance. So not surprisingly, the emotion of spring is anger which should be avoided to the extent possible as your mind and spirit might be easily agitated this time of the year. However, it is also important not to ignore or repress these volatile emotions as they can lead stress on the spring organs. Find a safe place to release these gremlins and let the world know you are alive with a roar of your own.
To support and restore balance to the liver, the spring diet is very important. Spring diets are less complicated and include foods that are lighter in contrast to heavier winter foods. Raw foods such as greens, vegetables, sprouts, and shoots are emphasized in the spring as are minimal cooking methods. With sour being the taste of spring, lemons, limes, sour plums and vinegars are used as well to help stimulate and detoxify the liver.
The Chinese direction for spring is east, the direction from which the sun rises giving birth to a new day. The sense organ of spring is the eyes, which it is said nourish the body and soul by the visual splendor of the season. Another indicator of spring is your nails. If your eyesight is a little off and or your nails are cracking or dull, these also can be due to liver imbalance in the spring.
Spring is the season of rebirth. It is the season of movement from yin towards yang, from inner to outer. Chinese tradition suggests this is the season to rise with the sun and drink in the renewal around you. Spring is the promised gift of winter; drink it in.
Spring is green and new and our foods for the season reflect it. Our spring diet is the lightest and simplest of the year and is also designed to support the liver and gall bladder. Our diet this season should reflect the expanding energy of the spring and focus on what is available; fresh greens, sprouts and young plants. This is also the time of year to leave the sodium rich sinking energy diet of winter behind. The heavier diet of the winter can overtax the liver at this time of renewal.
As provided in the Chinese Philosophy section, spring’s color is green and its taste is sour. In keeping with this, our spring diet includes more raw and sprouted foods as well as sour foods. Salads made of spring greens with lemon based dressings are ideal this time of year. Cooking styles also change with spring. Very fast sautés, stir fries and quick streaming are best to get the digestive benefits of cooking while leaving the raw nature of the foods in tact.
Perhaps one of the best examples of spring is the humble dandelion. This little wonder is one of the first new plants we see blooming in the spring and can just about take over lawns and open fields with their beautiful yellow flowers if we need a not so gentle nudge to remind us it is spring.
While the flowers nourish the eyes (the Chinese sense organ for spring), the leaves are one of the best foods for spring. Dandelion greens are young, green and sour; all of the qualities of spring foods, and an excellent detoxifier for the liver.
With this in mind, look for simple ways to present greens, salads with lighter proteins, bitter or sour vegetables and just eating less. This should provide you with more time to go outside, breath in the new air of spring, count dandelions or watch the clouds drift by in the golden afternoon light.
by Colleen C.