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what does traditional chinese medicine say about spring?

With spring swinging into full effect, we can collectively experience the days growing longer, the temperature rising, and all living beings moving out of hibernating states. We spring clean (literally or figuratively), clearing out the stagnancy that once was in order to make space for what is yet to come, re-organizing our mental and physical spaces for productivity. And if you're in Toronto, you'll see folks dining out on every patio at the very first signs of spring (our summers are short and we're desperate, okay?).

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), spring time is the time for expansion, birth and action. Governed by the wood element which symbolizes energy, change and growth, this element thrives with movement and actionable change. On the flip side, the wood element can be thrown into emotional charges like anger and frustration if stress is unmanaged. We can use the image of a tree - flexible and adaptable as it sways freely with the elements, able to withstand winds and storms - a well-balanced, go-with-the-flow kind of quality. At one extreme end of the spectrum, a tree that stands too stubborn or rigid appears strong and stable, but can snap at an unexpected hit. On the other extreme end, a plant consuming excess water without proper light and drainage can experience root-rot, stunting its grow and falling apart beneath the surface. Interesting how relatable our human experiences are, huh?

Corresponding with the wood element are the yin + yang organs, liver + gallbladder. One would hope that this season would allow these organs to thrive, but in actuality, these are the organs that are most susceptible to the elements, especially by wind, which is known as one cause of many diseases, according to TCM. Because wind moves quickly and freely, it is believed that this yang phenomenon can interfere with the liver's ability to directly process and move nutrients and blood flow within our bodies.

To balance the wood element and encourage good flow of qi in the liver, we want to nourish our bodies with lots of greens, sour tastes and movement practices. We also want to prioritize managing our stress, developing tools for support when frustration or anger come up, and practicing strength and non-rigidity, so that we're open, adaptive and equipped to weather the storms as they come from a balanced manner rather than either extremes.

Inspired by these philosophies, here are a few ways I am actioning the above this season:

  • picking up therapy again so that I can better-support myself through emotional flare-ups, especially when it comes from stress (for me, stressful situations almost always lead me to anger and frustration)

  • decreasing group offerings by -2x in order to make space for 1:1 offerings, which will ebb + flow

  • setting a maximum of open slots for 1:1 clients on a weekly basis so that I can practice boundaries

  • setting a regular movement practice schedule in (you'd think that I'd already have this set, but nope!)

  • inviting in more greens + pickled recipes into my meals to honour the sour taste of spring, according to TCM (I love a good pickled radish!)

I would love to hear from you! What do you notice about yourself or the world around you as this spring season unfolds?

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