Chinese Medicine - How the Seasons Impact Us.
Humans are in a constant state of flux through the changes in our bodies and the environment. According to TCM, we are healthy and alive because our body is in a state of harmony. That is our Yin and Yang is balanced. When our bodies are in harmony any disruption to our health is quickly restored and balance is maintained. It is when this balance is broken and not restored that we feel ill and disease occurs.
In TCM the causes of disease into four general categories:
External Causes - the external climate
Internal Causes - emotional distress that impact the internal organs
Neither Internal or External Causes - other facts such as diet, trauma and sexual activity.
Physical Constitution - Genetic strengthens and weakness in our body chemistry inherited from our parents.
The Features of the Seasons.
The external causes are linked to a specific season where they are seen to be weakened. These external factors and seasonal linkages are:
Wind associated with Spring
Heat/Fire associated with Summer
Dampness associated with Late Summer
Dryness associated with Autumn
Cold associated with Winter
You may have noticed that there is an extra season in listed above called Late Summer. This is a specific period of high humidity that affects the body as we transition to Autumn.
In turn, each season is linked to an element, which impacts particular body organs and tissues, emotions, colours and tastes. The below table summarises each of these for each season.
Since this article is being written as Australia moves into winter we'll focus on this season as an example of how to apply the TCM seasonal approach.
Winter Time Story
In the winter the water is cold and I don't feel like drinking it so my bladder is empty. The things I hear make me fearful so my bones ache. The fear makes me see black. I want to hide and eat salty chips.
The above story outlines how we can be impacted during the winter season. To maintain the sense of harmony, mentioned at the beginning of this article, during a specific season TCM outlines how to support the organs directly affected, nurturing the body by eating healthy foods and nourishing ourselves mentally and emotionally.
In winter we do this by:
Resting, Replenishing and Relaxing by sleeping and having "me time"
Keeping the lower back warm and covered and, getting acupuncture for back issues
Wearing socks for cold feet and using foot soaks
Walking and doing yoga (particularly those practices based on clearing the energy lines associated with the organs called meridian lines)
Eating cooked neutral foods with warming spices like rice or fresh ginger and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
This is a very basic summary of how to maintain harmony in the body during winter. It is important to note that any external climatic conditions can affect us during other seasons like cold hail in the summertime which may bring imbalance both our fire and water elements. The key is, to begin with, the basic principles then increase your knowledge and application of TCM over time to obtain the full benefits.
In the next edition of Robyn's residency, we'll look at physical body balancing through understanding your physical constitution, understanding energy centres (meridian lines) and steps to take to maintain balance in your physical body.