Indian Summer, the Earth Phase in Asian medicine, is the time between seasons. It represents physical nourishment and emotional nurturance, a life with fulfilling endeavors and relationships, and the ability to take in information and think clearly.
The Wood Phase in Asian Medicine goes with Spring, the time of Growth
For those of us who live in the colder climes, February seems too much like Winter to think of it as the beginning of Spring. However, Mother Nature has, indeed, begun stirring in yet unseen ways. Think of the gestation of an embryo. Although it is months before a pregnancy “shows,” an intensely powerful effort of growth is taking place in the womb, unbeknownst to everyone. Typically, even the mother is unaware until her Moontime is late. This formidable potency of life bursting forth is the energy of the Wood Phase. Intense. Powerful. Growth that will not be stopped. Up and out in all directions. Manifestation. The perfect symbol for the Wood Phase is a tree: as soon as Spring arrives, its roots grow down; its trunk shoots up; and its branches stretch out in all directions. Yes, it is intense, but it is glorious!
The Wood Phase in Asian Medicine governs the LIVER and GALL BLADDER as well as the sinews.
In ancient times, the functioning of meridians and organs was explained in terms of political offices, starting all the way from emperor to minister to local officials. The Japanese have updated these explanations with terms used in business from high level leadership to lower management.
In this new categorization, the Liver meridian is the CEO (chief executive officer). This is the person who holds the big vision and is responsible for making sure there are enough resources to keep the company thriving for many years to come. This is the person who holds the vision for the next 5, 10, 25 years. You can understand how this corresponds to the main functions of the Liver meridian, which are storage and planning.
The Gall Bladder is likened to the COO (chief operating officer). This person oversees all departments within the company and makes sure that the correct resources get to the appropriate department in a timely fashion. This corresponds to the main functions of the Gall Bladder meridian, which are decision-making and the smooth flow of Qi, or energy.
The Wood Phase in Asian Medicine also governs the sinews (ligaments and tendons).
The Wood-type Personality
If you are a Wood-type person, you work hard and play hard. You are still on the go when everyone else is on their last leg. When you finally get tired, all you need is a nap or a few hours of sleep and you’re ready to go again.
Because you enjoy working hard, you may not notice when you are overworking until you realize that you have become so easily irritated by by everything and everyone that you are “biting their heads off.” Frustration and irritability are your negative go-to emotions. In the extreme, they can tend toward depression and/or heavy drinking.
However, when your Wood energy is healthy and harmonious, you are quite naturally good-natured, kind, compassionate and generous. The classics say that the virtue that goes with Wood is benevolence. If Wood is dominant in your personality, you are sympathetic, understanding and gentle. At your best, you are organized, practical, independent, challenging and direct. You push yourself to be better at whatever you do. At your worst, you can be stubborn, inflexible, close-minded and prejudiced.
On the physical level, when you are healthy, you have more energy than the average joe. But you can tend to get stiff in your joints. Remember the sinews? Ligaments hold bone to bone, and tendons hold muscle to bone. So, the sinews basically hold your joints together. Achiness and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, hips and ankles are very common complaints. more about the season of the Wood Element
When balanced, the Wood person is a natural leader – a powerhouse of energy and productivity. Wood people tend to be in positions of power and responsibility. Liver-type people are often entrepreneurs or CEOs of companies because they have a clear vision and they see the big picture. They can effectively stay on top of things and tirelessly influence people and events to ensure the realization of the vision. They enjoy working hard and playing hard. They seldom get angry, but when they do, you do not want to be around!
The Gall Bladder type is similar but a little less intense. They make excellent vice-presidents and middle-to-upper level managers, capable of making good decisions and supervising employees.
When Wood-type people are out of balance, they tend to overwork to the point of compromising their health. They commonly overeat and/or drink too much alcohol. Emotionally, they may waiver back and forth between ideas, unable to come to a decision. Anger management may be a problem, as in irritability and frequent bursts of temper that are unpleasant, even if they don’t amount to anything. Common physical symptoms are shoulder problems, stiff or painful joints, headaches, migraines, eyestrain, hyperacidity, constipation, flatulence, prostate or menstrual problems.
Wood-type people respond exceptionally well to bodywork. In the Asian classical texts, the recommended treatment for Wood people is regular bodywork and exercise. People who have a lot of stress in their lives – even if they thrive under it (remember, Wood people like to take on responsibility and work hard) – weekly treatments and daily exercise makes sense. This is also true for entrepreneurs and people in private practice. It is even true for the stay-at-home parent in charge of scheduling all three kids’ after school activities, keeping the home running smoothly, coaching the baseball team and chairing the condo board meetings. If you are this type of take-charge person, self-care means letting someone else take care of you for an hour a week! 🙂 If your responsibilities or your stress are not so pronounced, once a month may be all you need.
Recommendation for the WOOD Phase
Although we typically think of Spring as starting on the Equinox around March 21st, that is really the mid-point of the season. If you look at it from the viewpoint of growth, Spring begins closer to Groundhog Day. In Asian Medicine, Springtime is the best time for fasting and/or cleansing, as the Liver is the main organ of detoxification. As soon as you shake off that winter chill, you can embark on a gentle cleansing of your system. Check out my favorite gall bladder cleanse.
Once that is complete, the other customary recommendation is to add exercise back into your routine (people typically do less during the Winter). Walking, jogging or swimming are the most common suggestions. Pick the activity that gives you the most pleasure and enjoyment.
The Water Phase goes with Winter, the Time of Stillness
Water is a great healer. Think of how peaceful you feel by the oceanside, or soaking at the hot springs . . . and how restored you feel at the end of your stay.
The Water Phase of Asian Medicine represents the ability to flow through life with ease and grace. An easy, graceful, steadiness requires a tranquil nervous system and good quality rest as the ground for enabling that flow.
The WATER PHASE governs the KIDNEYS and BLADDER, as well as the hormonal and nervous systems.
The Asian medical classics say the Kidney energy (yin), which includes the adrenal glands, is that of a strong and capable minister of government who exhibits technical ability and expertise. The Bladder energy (yang) is like a local minister who works to adjust the supply and demand of water in outlying areas. In this way they work together like supervisors over all the various organs and functions.
The Water Phase of Asian medicine regulates the hormonal and nervous systems. If you are a Water-type person, when you are in balance, you are calm and even, you enjoy physical activity and are well-coordinated. You possess the energy, strength and will to persevere in your endeavors. Although you may be tired at the end of the day from working hard, you will fall deeply asleep, waking up refreshed and restored.
When you are out of balance, you may tend to overwork, and yet never finish what you start because you have a hard time finding the perseverance required to stick with it. Or, you may tend to startle easily, be timid or fearful, or exhibit excessive nervous energy. You might even be hypervigilant, over-react to things and appear to be “on your last nerve.”
The Water Phase encompasses the element of water in all its states, from steam to water to ice. The most common complaint associated with the Bladder and Kidney meridians is low back pain and stiffness. Your back “freezes up.” Headaches at the base of the skull or at the forehead are also typical. Shiatsu, or other bodywork, is an excellent remedy for such complaints. Acupuncture and chiropractic may also help. Find out what Shiatsu can do for you here.
In Asia it is common in winter to wear something warm around your belly and low back – called a hara maki – in addition to the scarf around your neck, as the low back is very vulnerable to cold.You can order then from Amazon. Check it out here.
If that does not suit you, try rubbing the area of your back around your kidneys vigorously before going out into the cold and again when you come in, just as you rub your hands together to warm them. Exercise that takes you inward and emphasizes low back health is excellent. Yoga, qigong and Alexander Technique are good choices. Or check out this YouTube instructional video on self-massage for the back.
Recommendations for the Water Phase – In winter it is best to conserve your energy by staying warm, getting good nutrition, and keeping a harmonious balance between activity and rest. And sleep is absolutely essential for maintaining health. It is common to need more sleep in the winter, so go ahead and get that nine or ten hours you’ve been needing. It’s justified!
Two types of rest are important: one is recuperative sleep, as always; the other is just as important, especially at this time of year — it is the type that does not require sleep, but quiets your whole being. It restores your soul so that you can dream the dream your spirit yearns to realize. Winter is the perfect time to read, paint, write or journal, plan your garden, etc. Any quiet creative endeavor that helps you stay “in the flow” of your true self fosters a healthy functioning Water Element. This is a good time to start or give attention to your meditation practice.
Regarding foods that are good during the Water Phase: at this time of year, you can best maintain body heat by eating a diet of mostly carbohydrates and proteins. Hearty soups and casseroles with lots of root vegetables are wonderful. Red beans, black beans, lentils and split peas are also excellent. If you use whole grains, barley and buckwheat make splendid additions that support the Water Element in this cold season. Drink lots of water and avoid too many dehydrating and stimulant drinks. Also, cold drinks (especially cold beer or soft drinks with ice) are especially harmful.
So stay cozy, rest well, eat warming food, incubate your dreams, and cultivate your true self and deep nature. Remember, snow and ice are just water in one of its forms. The thaw is coming, so don’t lose your sense of fluidity, power and freedom. You are the flower blooming through it all!
Shiatsu, meaning “finger pressure,” is the practice of applying thumbs, fingers, palms or feet to pressure points, or meridians, as they’re called in ancient Asian medicine. Aside from the pressing, this type of treatment also focuses on stretching limbs and opening joints. As a type of healing therapy, it produces an effect of deep relaxation, increases energy levels and brings a state of balance to the body, among many other things. As several clients say, it helps them feel more “grounded, centered and self-aware.”
Shiatsu is a practice based on the traditions of ancient Asian medicine. The theory behind Shiatsu is that our bodies are made up of energy, called Qi, and this energy can get blocked and cause suffering within the body and mind. Shiatsu helps to remove blockages by clearing channels and acupoints, which balances the Qi and eases the body and mind. When Qi is balanced, healing occurs. The applied pressure stimulates both the nervous and immune systems, providing relief, while also restoring the circulatory system, improving blood flow.
A current client, named Christina G., has been receiving Shiatsu for approximately 18 months, at a rate of once every two to four weeks. At the start of her treatments, Christina was seeking the following:
- Regularity in her menstrual cycle,
- An increase in energy and stamina,
- A decrease in daily anxiety and stress, and
- An improved awareness and connection to her intuition.
Here are the results she experienced over the course of the first few months working together and then ongoing over the last 18 months:
- Menstrual Cycle: Christina experienced better regularity and less blood clotting in the first few months of treatment. Within four months, she experienced a brighter, healthier color of blood and better flow in general, which she hadn’t experienced in years.
- Energy and Stamina: Christina experienced more energy immediately following each treatment along with a “sense of calm and strength” that would endure for several days following treatment. In conjunction with her bi-weekly meditation and daily supplementation, she has experienced an increase in energy and stamina over the last 18 months and “it continues to improve everyday.”
- Anxiety and Stress: Within the first few treatments, Christina experienced less anxiety and stress in her daily life. She also worked to manage her anxiety and stress on her own based on suggested exercises and regular reassessments, including identifying areas for
- Intuition: After the first year of treatment, Christina wanted to connect to and be more aware of her intuition. In each session we reviewed progress she made, and feedback in the form of exercises was given for further improvement. She now says she “feels more connected to her intuition and is now able to look inside for answers to questions and for direction.”
Christina G. experienced the benefits of Shiatsu in every area that she was seeking assistance and vitality. It is through client experiences like these that Shiatsu proves time and time again to be a viable and effective treatment for those experiencing many types of mental or physical suffering. What once began as a treatment for simple muscular tension when it was first introduced to Western medicine has become something much more integrative. The benefits of Shiatsu have become more apparent, and it is now used for treating a variety of ailments and issues. These include the following:
- Overall Weakness & Fatigue: Shiatsu can restore and maintain the body’s energy, helping those who suffer from overall weakness and fatigue.
- Muscle Pain and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Shiatsu is frequently used to alleviate the muscle and joint pain associated with arthritis.
- Injury Recovery: Shiatsu can aid in the recovery from sprains, fractures and other injuries.
- Migraine Headaches: Shiatsu helps relieve headaches and migraines by relaxing the body and increasing blood flow and circulation throughout.
- A Stiff Neck & Back: Shiatsu can reduce problems with the neck, shoulders and back, including sciatica.
- Stress: Shiatsu can do wonders for a body and mind that is stressed. It can reduce stress and tension as well as anxiety and depression.
- Reproductive Issues: Shiatsu can be used to aid women during their monthly cycles, especially to alleviate menstrual cramps and regulate blood flow.
- Pregnancy: Shiatsu has been known to help women in labor and also to help babies turn in the womb. It can also help ease morning sickness and swelling.
- Circulatory System: Shiatsu can help to improve circulation throughout the body, improving blood flow.
- Digestive Disorders: By allowing food to digest more easily and aid in the elimination of waste, Shiatsu can benefit and improve your digestive system.
- Skin: Shiatsu can stimulate circulation in the soft tissues of the skin, helping to keep skin soft and moist. This can in turn can give the skin a glow and prevent wrinkling.
- Immune Support: Shiatsu can reduce the severity and frequency of coughs and colds, along with other sinus and respiratory problems.
- Combines with other treatments: Shiatsu works well with other treatments like acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, chemotherapy, herbs and supplements.
A shiatsu treatment can last anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. It can be administered on a padded mat on the floor or on a massage table. Typically, the treatment begins with gentle stretching and pressing to relax the muscles and stimulate the flow of energy. Depending on the needs of the person receiving the massage, it can be very gentle and calming or used with high pressure. However, it should never be painful. For more information regarding Shiatsu and to receive a treatment, contact Lindy Ferrigno here.