March 20 2016 04:30 GMT - This is exactly when the spring equinox is this year. This is a subject I covered last year with the run up to the equinox. I have covered it again this year as it still always catches me off guard, seemingly suddenly, coming out of the colder winter months and I thought it might you too. It's a great time to prepare our bodies for the warmer months ahead, even though it still feels pretty chilly here at the moment in the UK. I've included some easy tips that you can do now to make a big difference.
The spring or vernal equinox is one of the 2 times of the year, (the other being the autumn equinox) where our bodies go into a natural detox. If we harness this time to properly detox then the 6 months ahead through to the autumn will help us towards having roaring good health.
The name equinox comes from the latin terms aequus and nox meaning equal and night. On March 20th night and day will be of equal length. Energy is starting to emerge from the ground where it has been dormant in the earth since the winter solstice; like the plants and animals we are coming out of hibernation and just like the changes in nature, our energy starts to change from an introspective state and become more open and expansive. Also like nature, we have the potential to flourish in this season - it is the time for new growth in our lives, relationships and work.
This is nature’s birthing season – the time of creation, new starts, shifting of old patterns and the opportunity to take advantage of this increased time of energy, be they from the winter months or going back longer. There is a renewed feel to the air and a great time for new beginnings in all areas of our lives. You may notice already that areas of your life are changing.
The transition into spring is a big opportunity for us to clear out old toxicity. Having an illness around this time is very common and not necessarily a bad thing, in fact I can feel myself coming down with a cold today. Think of it as the house cleaners coming in to clear up debris, just as we spring clean our homes. The only time we are likely to get into trouble is if we suppress any illness or emotions, for example, through the use of pharmaceuticals, and stop nature doing its work.
Many people will have an acute illness. Acute illnesses are those that will resolve with ease without any intervention, like a cold. Whereas chronic illnesses are more serious illnesses that require intervention, like cancer, and have formed over a longer period of time. If a recurrent acute illness is repeatedly suppressed then it will be pushed deeper and is likely to become chronic and a lot more debilitating. It is therefore wise to let nature take its course, with the assistance of natural measures if needed, and resolve any acute ones without suppression.
Provided there is energy in the body (for those with conditions like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome this can be a tough time), and the routes of elimination out of the body are working well, the changing of the season can be a smooth transition. For those that are already struggling with their health, then extra support may be needed moving from a low to high-energy season.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses a system of elements to look at health in a multidimensional way. TCM looks at the body and the time of year in relation to the 5 elements; wood, fire, earth, metal and water. As we move into spring we also move into the time of the wood element and the organs associated with it are the liver and the gallbladder. The shift in season is therefore more difficult for those with a very strong wood element imbalance.
The liver has many important functions one of which is detoxification of the body. The gallbladder helps digest fats, which are essential to healthy skin, nerves and glands. It also serves as an avenue for eliminating certain types of toxins. In eastern medicine these organs are also associated with emotions. The different elements show us connections between the physical, the mental and the emotional and the wood element is associated with morning, action, and the ability to plan, control and our ability to assert ourselves. Wood gives us vision for the future and the energy, determination and motivation to move forward. it also ensures the ‘free flow’ of chi-energy around our bodies which in turn promotes movement and adaptability. Wood element people are happy and relaxed and emotions will be freely expressed. If this sounds like you then the next few weeks should be a breeze.
The liver likes to flow during the day, which means that any obstruction or stagnation in creativity or action will be experienced as something frustrating and cause tension within the body. If you find you are more prone to anger, tension, frustration, bitterness, agitation, nervous tension, resentment, over-stubbornness and inflexibility then there is most likely to be an imbalance in the wood element. These emotions and symptoms indicate chi stagnation in the body. This can also manifest itself with rigidity of movement, muscular aches and pains, headaches, or digestive problems and in more severe forms it can lead to chronic stiffness. Other outward signs are problems with the eyes (as these are the sense organ of the wood element), a liking for sour foods (as this is the flavour associated with the wood element), and the need to shout with a tendency towards being controlling and angry.
When there is an excess or blockage, the person will be easily upset, feel frustrated, and perhaps be unable to restrain feelings or shift to the other extreme of not being able to express emotions at all. Violence or erratic and impulsive behaviour may also be extreme symptoms. When the wood element personality becomes weak due to exposure to or overuse of, for example, toxins, drugs, alcohol or inability to express anger, the results show as depression, indecision, mood swings, poor judgment, impulsiveness and an impaired ability to plan and organize.
While the blood is in the liver, it is purified and changed. It plays a major role in the detoxification process. Therefore, it is very important to support the liver to facilitate the detoxification process at times when the body may have accumulated toxins. The liver nourishes the tendons and ligaments, so losing ones flexibility is often a sign of stagnation of the liver. If we look at the body like a tree then we need a certain amount of flexibility without being too stiff.
People who’s livers stagnate may experience symptoms like pain underneath the ribs, painfully swollen breasts and genitals, or pain in the lower abdomen. Bloating and congestion in the digestive tract are other typical symptoms, as are muscular tension, allergies, headache, and menstrual problems, including PMS.
A person with a stressed and overworked liver will tend to feel irritable and cranky. They may be restless and unable to get to sleep at night, but feel groggy and ‘hung over’ in the morning. This results in an inability to move forward in a constructive manner and possibly with a feeling of discouragement and depression. Physically, this chronic weakness of the liver and gallbladder energy would result in fatigue.
People with vital livers are calm; they also have unerring judgment and can be naturally effective as leaders and decision-makers. When obstructed, stagnant or overheated, the energy flow in the liver and throughout the body is hampered resulting in a myriad physical and emotional problems as outlined above.
Rest is extremely important, around eight hours of sleep per night, and adequate time for us to wind down after busy days is key. The liver stores blood at night, so we want to make its job easier by letting ourselves recover so that our entire body starts to recuperate when we are at rest.
On a practical level start choosing foods that are faster growing, generally those that grow above the ground rather than the root vegetables of the darker months that give a different kind of energy to the body. The spring diet should be the lightest of the year. Salads and greens are great choices along with introducing more raw food and juicing to help cleanse the intestines. Eating a lot of raw food and even a juice fast will give your digestive system a much needed break, allowing it to clear out waste that has built up over time. When food is cooked it is best cooked for a shorter time but at higher temperatures - sautéing, stir-frying, light steaming and minimal simmering is ideal. Eating seasonally is always a great choice as it gives the body what it needs at different times of the year.
It is also a good time to look at your water intake and its quality, (not tap water) to help with cleansing. Try to eliminate other drink stimulants, processed food, colourings, flavourings, preservatives, sweeteners, table salt and sugar. Eating organic will also reduce your pesticide load. The immune system will be under much less stress by simplifying your food, and decreasing your toxic load will make it better able to cope.
Dry skin brushing and hot and cold showering are great ways to wake the body up and help stimulate lymph and blood. At cellular level there will be a large sodium shift into the lymph so we don’t want to be stuck with a sore throat, swollen glands or congested breast tissue. Other naturopathic techniques can be used to help the liver and bowels with guidance.
Start moving around; take up a sport, start slowly; do not try to do too much, too quickly. It is important to get the energy moving in your body again after the colder months. Exercising releases endorphins (natural pain killers) into the bloodstream, which lifts your spirits and eases aches and pains.
If you are sitting at a desk all day, make sure you get up every 20 minutes and stretch a little, go and pick up a file from the filing cabinet or make a photocopy. Sitting all day causes chi stagnation and muscular aches and pains.
What you can be doing now to prepare for the equinox:
- Check you're drinking enough water and limit drinking stimulants like alcohol and coffee. The body is not able to detox without being sufficiently hydrated. Around 8 glasses of good quality drinking water a day is a good guide.
- If you're not already exercising then now is the ideal time to start. Start slowly and gently. Yoga is my preferred form of exercise and taking 5 minutes on waking to do 5 sun saluations each day is going to help with any morning stiffness.
- Start dry skin brushing before you shower to really get the lymph moving and help to push toxins out of the body.
- Start to eliminate more challenging, processed foods and look to add in more fresh green vegetables, salads and juices.
- Ensure you're getting adequate rest and sleep. The liver can't efficiently detoxfy the body if it's not well rested at night.
If you feel you may benefit from some extra help or guidance on moving into the next season, or want to try my 7 day detox ready for March the 20th, then here is a link to the form where you can contact me for an enlightening conversation around your health:
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