Seasons & Rhythms
Chinese Medicine does not separate mind and body – life situations and emotions are all considered in a treatment plan for health. Excessive emotions are seen to adversely affect the organ systems responsible for the creation and regulation of Chi or Prana. As a yogi, I see how my Yoga practice has a strong effect on the physical body, yet I feel it has an even stronger effect on regulating the emotional and subtle energies of the body.
Seasons have specific rhythms and each season represent parts of the body, and is tied into Nature’s cycle, corresponding to one of 5 Elements. I love the system and language of Chinese Medicine and it resonates with my own history and understanding.
There is an extra season in Chinese Medicine – Late Summer. It begins late August through Autumn equinox. Chinese Medicine believes Late Summer belongs to Earth element. This is when Earths luscious fruits and vegetables are bursting for harvest.
Earth is a point of stillness in the cycle of seasons, with the lush tranquil energy of heat, ripening and full. This is a time of slowing down. Earth season acts as the transition from Yang to Yin energy, supporting the space between the cycle of Spring growth (Wood), active Summer abundance (Fire) and the inward, cooler emotions of Fall and Winter (Metal & Water). Earth element is associated with the stomach, spleen, pancreas, muscles, and is related to the mouth.
Earth = Color – Yellow, Nature – Yin/Yang Balance Organs – Stomach, Spleen, Emotion – Worry/Pensive Taste – Sweet, Condition – Damp
Late Summer Earth is a time of transition and a good time to relax, eat fresh food, and enjoy family and friends. Earth is a short, languid and still season, and it rests at the center of Natures cycles. You may struggle with bouts of fatigue as a response to this season, and this low energy and/or motivation is usually triggered by over-exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep from the activities of Summer Fire. Make sure you get proper rest, exercise, stress reduction and nutrition to boost your energy in this Earth time.
5 seasons in Chinese Medicine
- Spring – begins Spring Equinox – March
- Summer – begins Summer Solstice – June
- Late Summer – begins third week of August
- Fall – begins Autumn Equinox – September
- Winter – begins Winter Solstice – December
5 Element Theory Seasons
- Wood – Spring: Liver/Gall Bladder
- Fire – Summer: Heart/Small Intestine
- Earth – Late Summer: Spleen/Stomach
- Metal – Autumn: Lung/Large Intestine
- Water – Winter: Kidney/Bladder
Yoga for the Seasons
Yoga poses can be used to target Kidney, Spleen and Lung areas to release, tonify and regulate these energy centers. Over-exertion can deplete energy and fatigue muscles, while Yoga can help regulate, nourish and replenish energy. Poor circulation can lead to fatigue, and Yoga can increase the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, helping cells produce energy.
Yoga is especially effective to treat fatigue, combining movement, rest and stress reduction as it cultivates Chi (life force energy) and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (Rest and Renew response). Practicing Yoga can address the physical, emotional and energetic causes of fatigue, and facilitate self-observation and self-inquiry.
Flowing sequences of Surya Namaskar – Sun Salutations, twists and inversions can effect and improve circulation. The calming and regulating effects of Restorative Yoga can facilitate healing and provide a deep sense of rest to the body.
The Earth Element – Spleen
In anatomy, Earth is represented by the organs of Stomach and Spleen. They build and maintain the entire body: Stomach is where food is prepared for absorption, and Spleen helps absorb nutrients, feeding muscle and blood. In Chinese Medicine, Spleen is not viewed as the anatomical spleen (main function to filter blood), but is responsible for digestion and nutrient absorption. Its primary function is converting food into energy, and it is the transporter of Chi, Life Force.Organ tissues assigned to Earth are muscle, fat, and connective tissue.
Earth is nurturing; providing nutrients to build blood and muscles, and creating energy for organs to work efficiently. Emotionally, Earth is nourishing, and grounding when healthy and balanced, and filled with anxiety and worry when out of balance. If we do too much and feel not nourished, or if we cannot stop worrying, the stomach rebels, becoming weak and tired, with loose stools, ulcers or pain in upper abdomen.
The Spleen helps generate white blood cells in bone marrow, to support the immune system. Spleen converts food into energy, but excessive worry and over thinking weakens its ability to transform nutrients, resulting in fatigue. It transforms nutrients and transports moisture, controlling the lymphatic system. Swollen legs, edema, poor lymphatic drainage, fatty tumors, and obesity relate to an unhealthy Spleen.
In Late Summer, there is rising strength in Earth energy, creating stability, settledness, and a sense of “home”. Earth corresponds with nurturing, the Mother, a sense of self-worth, bonding and formation of trust in relationships.
When Earth is happy and nurtured, the Spleen is healthy with good digestion and elimination. The mind is balanced and secure, with a sense of belonging, grounding and connection. When Earth is imbalanced, we worry or have excessive mental agitation, lack of concentration or memory loss. We feel needy for food or attention, seeking sympathy or distraction. An imbalance in Earth can manifest in exhaustion, loss of appetite, poor digestion or loose stools and diarrhea, easy bruising, excess menstrual flow or other bleeding disorders.
During harvest we store foods to nourish through the winter ahead, and it is time to harvest and reflect. Emotionally and spiritually we begin to consolidate memories and experiences through Autumn and Winter. Much as we harvest and preserve the fruits of summer, Earth provides the impetus to contemplate and reflect.
Taking care of Earth reaps an inner harvest : energy to complete projects and fulfill needs, contentment and love of Life. With a healthy Earth, you feel at home in all situations, enjoying your efforts and have the space to love, relax, and nourish self, family and friends.
Yoga for Earth Season
As the organs function in good health, digestion improves, blood sugar regulates and overall good health is promoted. Yoga can provide renewal and rejuvenation to the body’s energy centers, and a meditative and mindful practice brings awareness into an inner world and sharpens self reflection and insight.
Quieting the body mind with space to explore and experience physical, emotional and spiritual transformation is a deeply healing personal experience. Try Restorative poses like Balasana – child’s pose, Supta Baddha Konasana – supine bound angle, Simple Supported Twist and Savasana.Te Liver and Spleen sit on the sides of the abdomen, so lateral bending and twisting can activate these meridians. Liver and Spleen energy travels up the inner legs, so hip opening poses like Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana – Pigeon, Baddha Konasana – Bound Angle and Upavista Konasana – Wide Angle Seated Forward Fold activates these meridians.
The Liver is responsible for the free flow of energy through the body, but anger, frustration and irritation can constrict and stagnate the flow of Liver Chi. Physical movement helps the Liver move energy, so flowing in vinyasa sequences are beneficial.
Kidneys are the foundation of all energy in the body and are the source and storehouse of Chi. nut Fear can constrain Kidney energy, creating dysfunction and draining energy reserves. The Kidneys are in the back body, so uplifted back body bending can activate and tonify Kidney energy. Simple back bending poses are helpful like Setubhanda Sarvangasana – Bridge, Bhujangasana – Cobra, Salmbasana – Locust and Dhanurasana – Bow
Lungs transform the air we breathe into energy and circulates it through the body. If deep sadness or melancholy depresses the Lung, it can manifest into fatigue. To activate and tonify Lungs, use chest opening back bends of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward-Facing Dog, Ustrasana – Camel, Matsyasana – Fish, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana- King Pigeon, Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana – Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff
Eating for Late Summer
Orange and Yellow are the colors connected with Late Summer, following the fiery reds of Summer and preceding the white/off-whites of Autumn’s healing foods. Don’t combine too many ingredients and keep your flavours moderate.
This season is associated with sweetness, to balance the bitterness of Summer and before Autumn’s pungent quality. Sweets and processed/refined foods can aggravates the pancreas and spleen, irritate the stomach, and create excessive acid and “dampness”, resulting in feeling more anxious, tired and unwell. Resist icy sweet drinks, as the cold and sweetness put stress on the digestive system and Earth organs.
Eat fresh, nourishing foods. Fresh, local foods and don’t combine too many ingredients Be moderate with sugar, fried foods, and dairy. In hot, humid weather, avoid overeating. Lightly cooked food on moderate temperature is easier on digestive system. Eat sour or pungent flavors to help disperse dampness and regulate digestion. Get exercise as dampness tends to settle in and make you feel lethargic.
When Earth is off balance, internal cycles may suffer – Earth energy can be over stimulated with hot spices and caffeine. Earth thrives on routine rhythms, which settles the nervous system, stabilises blood sugars and lowers blood pressure. Balancing work, socializing and self care is essential for healthy body, mind and spirit.
Earth is where we are rooted…where we go to renew…and from which we can grow, blossom, and live life. Everything stems from the Earth…and Late Summer is time to harvest the fruit.
May we ALL Bloom wherever we are…
Om Mane Padme Hum
ओं मणिपद्मे हूं ༀམཎིཔདྨེཧཱུྃ།
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Re: Workshop at Yoga in the Middle 8/28/11
You are one amazing yoga instructor and I feel honored to have taken your workshop and have met you personally. God Bless you in your travels and teachings.
Thank you for refreshing my mind about the short season between summer and fall.