March has finally arrived and Spring is just around the corner! One of my favorite times of year, Spring is abundant with growth and renewal. It’s a time to gently shake off the cob webs of Winter and release old habits or patterns that no longer serve us. In Chinese Medicine, Spring is a reflection of the Wood element and is intimately connected with the Liver and Gallbladder organs. Wood symbolizes new life – it’s strong, flexible and always seeking new opportunities to ascend and expand. When functioning properly and in energetic harmony with the rest of the body, the Liver and Gallbladder organs align us with these properties. We feel calm, compassionate and patient. Stress is well managed, decisions are made with ease and visions of the future are clear and unencumbered.
Unfortunately, the world we live in prevents most of us from feeling this aligned. The Standard American Diet (SAD) puts a great deal of strain on our Livers and Gallbladders as many of us are consuming highly processed, refined foods with an excess of poor-quality fats, topped off with intoxicants like alcohol and consistent exposure to chemicals in our personal care products. Together with high stress and little sleep, the Liver becomes overworked, underpaid and can’t keep up. Symptoms like irritability, depression or headaches start to creep in. Tendons become tense and inflexible leading to pain or injury. Digestion and/or menstruation can become compromised and lead to chronic conditions.
Sounds dismal, I know, but there’s hope. Especially at this time of year.
Our bodies are brilliantly designed to heal themselves. The liver is especially adept at not only protecting us from the onslaught of our modern lifestyles but also at regenerating itself once damage has occurred. It simply needs a little help and the best time to care for it is now. Here are some suggestions to get you inspired…
Get outside. Spring is an ideal time to be present in nature. The buds are bursting, birds are singing and new life abounds. Go for a walk in the forest and soak in the magic around you. This practice is often called Forest Bathing, or Shinrin yoku in Japanese, and numerous studies have demonstrated that it can lower blood pressure, improve mood, reduce stress, deepen sleep, increase energy and significantly boost the immune system. All this, simply by putting ourselves back in our natural habitat.
Put a spring in your step. Now is the perfect time to get moving. The liver is responsible for regulating the smooth flow of energy throughout the body. When taxed, energy stagnates and leads to a number of painful conditions like headaches, menstrual cramps or even anger and irritability. To soothe the dis-ease simply commit to moving your body a bit each day. Go for a walk outside, turn on some tunes and shake your tail feathers when you wake in the morning and/or wind down before sleep with some gentle stretches. Side bends and twists gently detoxify and support the liver and gallbladder. Try one of the Spring Cleanse Yoga classes on Glo.com for a more targeted approach.
Eat your greens. In Chinese Medicine, staying aligned with the natural rhythm of the seasons is of paramount importance. After spending the Winter indulging in heavier foods, Spring is a time to lighten up. Focus on foods that emphasize the expansive and youthful nature of the season. Cook with more herbs like basil, fennel, parsley and cilantro. Gradually introduce more lightly steamed or raw vegetables into your diet (though use them sparingly if you feel weak or struggle with digestive issues). Increase vegetables that will stimulate energy flow and gentle detoxification like dandelion greens, turmeric, lemon balm, citrus peel and brassicas like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Integrate sprouted grains and seeds if you can tolerate them. And before reaching for your morning coffee, start each day with a mug of warm lemon water (with a little local honey for extra immune support).
Rest. If left unchecked, stress will significantly impair the liver’s ability to function properly. If you find yourself in a moment of overwhelm, simply taking a few deep breaths can be very nourishing to your system. For a more substantial practice, start or end each day with a brief meditation or body scan. The brilliant meditation teacher, Tara Brach, has many offerings on her website. One of my favorites can be found here.
See your acupuncturist. Acupuncture and herbs are a wonderfully effective way to weather the transition between seasons. Your acupuncturist can develop for you a personalized treatment plan including diet and lifestyle recommendations that will support your unique constitution and overall wellbeing. If you are local to the Bay Area, we would love to see you here at Double Happiness Health.