Yin yoga, one of my first real loves, is a fairly modern style of yoga developed in the last 50 years or so built upon the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and five element theory.
Based on stimulating different energy channels within the body through long held stretches, each of these energy channels is paired with a couple of different organs in the body - one yin and one yang in nature. These pairings not only correspond with different organs but also seasons, elements, emotions, colours - a whole wealth of things!
Here in the UK we have finally transitioned into spring, which is associated with the liver and gallbladder meridians or energetic channels. This season is associated with the element of wood, like the beginnings of a tree sprouting from the seedling that has drawn the nutrients and water from the earth, germinating slowly through the soil.
Liver & Gallbladder Characteristics
In TCM the organs each have characteristics (physical and emotional) and the liver "is like the general, courageous and smart.”(The Neijing Suwen). It is a vital organ that helps us to neutralize environmental toxins and prepare nutrients for transport through the bloodstream.The gallbladder also helps to filter out toxins and digest fats which the body needs for healthy skin, nerves and glands and emotionally is linked to effective decision making.
Emotionally when the liver is in balance we are calm, have good judgement and are able to see the bigger picture, have excellent vision. When the liver is under or over active, however, we can be prone to more irritability & anger.
Nurturing Yourself using TCM Principles
In the transitions between seasons (thought of as 'hinges' in the year) it can be common to feel a little under the weather/catch a cold as our bodies begin to acclimatize to the new season. There are a number of ways we can support ourselves in the transition to spring using the TCM framework though, which I'll share with you here...
To help support your body
~ Move away from the heavy baked meals that sustained us during the winter, opting to stir fry and steam where possible instead. Stock up on leafy greens and try to get mint, dandelion & collard greens. When eating try to do so calmly and mindfully without distractions (easier said than done, I know!).
~Great additions to your diet also include: alfalfa, algae, asparagus, basil, broccoli, celery, citrus, cucumber, fennel, fermented food, ginger, kale, lettuces, radish, seaweed, pickless, spirulina, sprouts, watercress & wheatgrass.
~Opt for the following teas: Lavender, Lime Tree Flowers, Milk Thistle and Dandelion.
~ Try to avoid toxicity in your foods & environment, e.g. chemicals, alcohol, refined sugars, processed foods, caffeine, large portions of meat, greasy and rich foods. All of these are toxicities and can impact and congest the liver.
~ Move your body more! Time to break out a sweat and begin more vigorous physical activity. Whether it's a dynamic vinyasa flow or a quick jog outside, get your heart rate up and move your body to blow away those winter cobwebs.
~ Not only does the liver control the tendons, the liver meridian links to the eyes, so make sure to take breaks when working at a computer regularly.
~ Get a massage or start acupuncture - spring is one of the best times for body work to help support all of your systems and encourage the body to open and relax ready for more movement and energy in the more yang parts of the year, when we have longer days.
To help support your mind
~ Keep a notebook and pen handy at all times! This is a powerful time of year to embark upon new projects and have the will and drive to follow them through.
~ As well as avoiding toxicity in our physical diet avoid toxicity in our environment by limiting exposure to stressful situations as much as possible - leave yourself space and time when you can. Our diet does not only consist of the food we eat but everything we consume from our outer environment.
~ Meditation and yoga practice can help us to ground during this seasonal transition and find a place of refuge and stillness within, even when our outer environment is full of change. Yin yoga is particularly great for helping to anchor ourselves in the present and process any emotions we may not yet have addressed.
~ Have a spring clean - tidy house tidy mind! Having a clutter free environment makes working from home so much more pleasant, and has a knock on effect with everything we do.
Do you have any additional tips for helping make the transition from winter to spring a smoother one? I'd love to hear in the comments below.