Waiting for Spring
While the Western calendar considers the season of Spring to start on March 21st, Traditional Chinese Medicine sees Spring as beginning on February 8th. Even though temperatures may still be cold and we may still be getting snow, there is definitely a change in the air during the first part of February. The days are noticeably longer, the birds and squirrels seem a bit more active, and underneath that smell of snow and cold there is a hint of freshness, a prelude to the miraculous changes to come.
For many of us, these four to six weeks can be very challenging. Many of my clients report feeling restless and irritable, yet at the same time fatigued and unmotivated. There is an internal struggle between wanting to move forward and feeling sluggish and heavy. This internal struggle mimics what is happening in nature. It is therefore not unexpected, but it can be managed.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Winter is associated with the Kidney organ and the physical, mental, and emotional processes of storing and restoring. The shorter days and colder temperatures of the winter remind us of the importance of periodic inward reflection, rest, and the need to re-charge in order to function at our highest level. The energy of Spring, associated with the Liver organ, is completely different. Spring calls on us to act and react quickly and forcefully with laser-like focus and determination.
There is an internal struggle between wanting to move forward and feeling sluggish and heavy. This internal struggle mimics what is happening in nature. It is therefore not unexpected, but it can be managed.
So as the energy of nature is undergoing this transition, we feel it in our own bodies and minds. We see daffodil shoots breaking away the crust of snow and know what that energy feels like within us. How can we use these weeks to gracefully manage our own transition from Winter to Spring? Here are a few ideas.
There are, of course, Chinese herbal formulas to help address the transition between Winter and Spring. A very effective (and easily accessible)Western herb that can help is Dandelion Root. This is because Dandelion is said to support the health of both the Kidney and Liver. It has been used for centuries as a gentle diuretic (hence its use in many diet teas and supplements) and as a way to cleanse and enhance the function of the Liver (hence its use in many de-toxification programs). Dandelion root is sold in capsule form as a supplement at many Health Food stores. My favorite way to ingest dandelion is through Dandelion Root Tea. ( I like the Traditional Medicinal Brand, available at Whole Foods and some Safeway and Giant grocery stores). I have found that two to three cups of this tea a day for a month between mid-February and mid-March is a gentle way for me to get rid of the physical and mental sludge of Winter and to begin to clear and invigorate my Liver energy in preparation for the challenges of Spring. The somewhat sour/bitter taste is not unpleasant, and resonates with theliver to astringe and cleanse. I feel that during this time of year, a gentle program such as this is preferable to a dramatic liver cleanse, which is more appropriate for later in the spring. DO NOT use dandelion if you are on antibiotics, blood pressure medicine, or if you have known gallstones or biliary tract obstruction.
February and March is NOT the time to engage in intensive sitting meditation retreats or to begin a meditation practice. There is a current of energy that is present during this time that is simply not conducive to stillness, and it can be incredibly frustrating for beginning meditators. It is, however, a great time to begin a moving meditation practice such as Qigong or walking meditations. There are many on-line resources that can help you explore these options. Qi Elements, in Herndon, offers a series of classes on Monday mornings geared towards supporting the Liver. I offer private instruction as well (classes are coming!) in Walking Medical Qigong and Qigong to support the Kidney and Liver.
Now is the time to re-awaken those under-used tendons and muscles so that you are ready to hit the ground running (or walking) once the weather turns warm. Find a qualified trainer, join a yoga class, or try one of the many stretching videos available to begin to warm up and tone. Taking the time to gently warm up your body now will help you avoid potential sprains, strains, cramps, and muscle fatigue once Spring arrives in full force.
However you choose to prepare for Spring, do it gently and consistently. Your efforts will pay off as the wind and sunshine of Spring take root.