It’s already Spring time, and we love it… because the grass is green again, the sun is shining, the days grow longer and it feels like a fresh start ahead…
At this time of the year, I feel an urge to clear my cupboard of any unused items or clothes, and I usually realise, with a lot of shame, how much unnecessary stuff I have accumulated. Once I have gone through the process, it always feels better, clearer. I clean every corner of my home and I might even ‘smudge’(1) the place to remove old stagnant energy. Spring is a time of renewal, an opportunity to start again and give birth to our true nature. By letting go of old stuff, we can bring new energy into the light. Still, there is a feeling that the job is not quite yet done and that I need to go deeper… much deeper. I had no idea until a little while back that I had to pay closer attention to what the Taoists call the ‘General of the army’ , or the liver (the leading organ excelling in strategy planning in the Body)…
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season corresponds to different organs and meridians (subtle energy channels) through which Chi (vital force, also referred to as Prana in the Yoga and Ayurveda traditions) flows. The liver and gall bladder are connected to the season of spring.
The liver is the primary chemical factory of the body, the main organ for detoxification. It takes care of any substance which cannot be broken down and used for energy. Any wastes the liver cannot use are converted and either carried out by bile (produced by the liver, stored by the gallbladder, it helps us digest food, especially fats) into your small intestine or carried by the blood to the kidneys. The liver was considered by the ancients in Chinese medicine as the seat of life, hence naming it “the liver”. It is the largest gland in the body. It stores vitamins A, D, K, and B12, minerals and glycogen which is converted in glucose as needed to provide energy. Keeping the liver healthy, strong and stress free is very important in our overall health, longevity and fitness. The liver is also responsible for the overall metabolism of the body, controls muscular strength, movements and coordination, strength of vision, clarity of thinking, helps to detoxify and re-energize the blood during sleep and creates important cholesterol. It also controls sexual energy and vitality, and is associated with the opposite emotions of anger and kindness.
According to the Taoist tradition, each season corresponds to an element(2). Wood is the one associated to Spring, ruling liver and gallbladder chi. The wood energy of the liver helps to feed, control and energize the heart. Just as wood keeps a fire going, the wood energy keeps the heart going. When we get angry, the amount of “wood” energy sent to the heart increase considerably. This is why the heart rate speeds up when we experience strong anger.
The main role of the liver meridian is to regulate the energy in the body, and to create a harmonious internal atmosphere. When out of balance, we may physically experience fatigue, migraines, vertigo, dizziness, tight hips and back pain, general stiffness. Emotionally, we may experience a fluctuation of emotions such as irritability, anger, frustration and impulsivity. When liver and gallbladder meridians are balanced, it brings a sense of relief and fulfilment, we feel more compassionate, more adaptable to change. We feel more connected and harmonious inside. The liver has a huge impact on the overall health of the body, but also on the mind and emotional state. A healthy liver and gallbladder Chi allows us to see more clearly. Our ability to devise plans and implement them smoothly increases. Just like water, we can flow around obstacles, bouncing off from what is in our way, to move towards fresher goals. We become more adaptable to changes and more open to opportunities coming our way.
Simple steps to look after the liver and empower the changes within our body and mind in Spring:
- Become more mindful of what we eat, perhaps do a gentle detox by favouring lighter, drier and less oily food.
- Eat your greens, especially green leafy vegetables, which are full of anti-oxidant.
- Reduce heavy dairy products, like cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
- Eating warm food.
- Drink herbal teas such as artichoke, milk thistle, sage etc. which support liver detox.
- Mix a few drops of liquid chlorophyll to your bottle of water. It tastes so good and refreshing. I find it boost my energy levels too.
- Ayurveda suggests to eat more food with pungent (cayenne pepper, onions and garlic, ginger,etc.), bitter (like endive, chicory, romaine lettuce, spinach, turmeric, fenugreek, etc.) and astringent (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower etc. ) tastes. Eat fewer sweet, sour and salty tastes.
- Seize this time to spring clean and declutter your living and working space, as they are an extension of your energy field. Be ruthless, and let go of any unused or unwanted stuff. You may observe the difference straight away and feel great about the space you have created!
- Another great way to embrace the Spring energy is to adapt our yoga practice accordingly: alternating Yang dynamic practices which are more stimulating, energising, increasing circulation in the Body, and Yin restorative practices with supported postures, held longer, which help to reach deeper layers of the body, releasing tensions, knots and old energy, to create spaciousness in the bodymind (3).
Once our sacred space has been cleared inside and out, inspiration will arise and we are ready to embrace new fresh energy. We have a fresh canvas and can allow ourselves to play with the colours of creativity, while considering what truly makes us happy and fulfilled, and welcome fresh opportunities in our lives… Most importantly, don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself and see how it feels.
(1) Smudge : Smudging is an ancient ceremony in which you burn sacred plants, such as sage, to allow the smoke to clear and bless a space. It helps clear the energy at home, and to start anew.
(2) The five element theory : the ancient Taoists studied Nature to observe and determine how it relates to our health and well-being. The five elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element is associated to a season : Wood to Spring, Fire to Summer, Earth to Indian summer, Metal to Autumn, and Water to Winter.
(3) Bodymind : is an approach to understanding the relationship between the human body and mind in which they are seen as a single integrated unit. In the fields of psychology, therapy and alternative medicine bodymind implies that the body, mind, emotions, and spirit are dynamically interrelated. Experience, including physical stress, emotional injury, and pleasures are stored in the body’s cells which in turn affects one’s reactions to stimuli.