Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring has Sprung

Can you feel it? That feeling of not wanting to, but NEEDING to go outside and become one with the beautiful weather? Spring has sprung. Unlike the internal energy of Winter, Spring's energy moves outward and encourages us to do the same. The period of hibernation is over people, shake off those cobwebs and start moving. Remember those New Year's resolutions that I suggested putting aside (see my previous post Resolution or Reflection)? Now is the time to start implementing them. Let the energy of the season support your desire to quit smoking, soda and sugar (just suggesting here). Go with that feeling of going outside and exercising! Go for a walk with your kids or a friend or by yourself! Play in the park, go for a swim, a run, or a bike ride. Dust off those rollerblades and get out there! Name your activity, go do it and do it often.

If you are not feeling motivated by the season, chances are your Qi is stuck and that stuckness is slowly building as you (unintentionally) resist the movement of Universal Qi (the Qi --or energy-- of the environment around you). When you don't "go with the flow," so to speak, a little stagnation becomes a lot over time. Think of it like a clog in the drain--the clog is preventing the free flow of water through the pipes. The pressure builds up from water trying to get through and not being able to. As soon as the clog is cleared, the pressure is released and water can flow freely. The same goes for your Qi.

The organ of Spring is the Liver (the Gallbladder is its Yang counterpart). One large role the Liver plays is to move the energy smoothly through the body. When the Liver is not functioning properly it can't do this job and the Qi stagnates. Because of this, certain conditions related to the Liver "spring up" in this season: migraines, menstural problems (cramps, breast tenderness, irritiability) and depression just to name a few. When energy doesn't flow right it often causes pain; the amount of stagnation dictates the amount of pain. When you can get yourself moving, it helps the Qi flow; unfortunately when you are emotionally stagnant, like with depression, it is often hard to get yourself moving, so start small. You may also need a little assistance from the food you eat, acupuncture or Chinese herbs.

Even in this season of outward movement, the best changes are made a little at a time. You want changes in your life to be permanent. Rather than dieting, make changes to improve your overall diet so that eating well is not a finite thing. It is great to give something up, like soda, for lent, but try to keep that going even when lent ends. Good eating habits should continue through your life. I always like to make changes by adding things, rather than taking them away. For example, in honor of Liver's color being green, add some green vegetables to your diet. If you already eat them (great!!) add some that you don't normally eat. Broccoli rabe, kale, asparagus and collards (all organic of course) are all wonderful greens that support the Liver Blood and Yin. You can steam them or stir fry them and they complement chicken, fish or tempeh very nicely. Once it becomes "normal" to eat more green veggies, then you can make other changes, like trading soda for water (1 can at a time); coffee for tea (or at least for organic coffee); artificial sweeteners for stevia; cooking in rather than eating out; things like that. Every small change will have large positive consequences for your health in the long run.

In terms of exercise, try to do some form of enjoyable exercise once a week for a couple of weeks. When that becomes "normal" add a second day. Eventually you will look forward to moving your body on a regular basis and you will find that you miss it when you don't. The key is to do something you enjoy doing. I recently had this talk with a young patient of mine, an 11 year old boy who would roll his eyes and emotionally shut down at the mention of exercise. When I told him it didn't have to be in a gym to qualify as exercise, he perked up a bit. I asked him what he liked to do. He wasn't interested in sports or walking or riding a bike, but he liked to swim. I suggested that he go swimming. He didn't even need to do laps, just play in the water for awhile. With the pressure of "exercising" off of him, he agreed. Now, a few months later, he is swimming laps consistently 2-3 times per week, for about 30-40 minutes each time, and actually enjoying it. When it isn't laborious, you will look forward to moving, you just need to find something you like and go do it.

Small changes are good. Let the movement of Spring inspire you to make positive changes in your life. Clear some clutter, both externally and internally to encourage your Qi to flow freely.  Some "Spring cleaning" for your mind, your body and your health!

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