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It’s hot hot in the Bay Area.

I was up early (for me) to volunteer at an energizer station for Bike to Work Day.  We handed out goodie bags, fruit, coffee cake, and WATER!

It’s a reminder for me to STAY HYDRATED.  This is a frequent mantra of mine, in person and on this blog.  But I think it merits repeating, a lot.

  • Are your lips dry?
  • Do you have a headache?
  • Are you feeling spaced-out?

Could be that the heat or dry air is affecting you more than you think.

If it helps to use some visual reminders from the Five Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine, imagine this.  In the Five Elements, the relationship between the Water Element (associated with Winter, flexibility, energy, kidney, bladder, etc.) and Wood Element (associated with the Spring seaon, growth, creativity, planning, gallbladder and live, etc.) is not surprisingly, that water helps wood grow.

So if you’re feeling wilted, give yourself some water.

In addition to the tulips, the longer days tell me it’s really Springtime.  And while this makes me wnt to increase my activity, I find that I need to boost my energy levels.  What better time to talk again about energy-boosting.

When thinking about how to address low energy, it can be helpful to consider what is causing it. 
  • Is your ability to fuel your energy–for example, with nutritious food and water, restful sleep,  healthful exercise, or a favorite hobby–affected? 
  • Or is your energy being depleted in some way, for example with unhealthy foods and alcohol, allergies, stress or pain? 
  • Or a combination of factors?
Paying attention to how and when your energy flags, during the day and week, is the first step to addressing lowered energy.  Read this post for some tips to see if any of them works for you.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Springtime is associated with the Wood element and the gall bladder and liver meridians.  It’s a season of cleansing and renewal, as new movement and growth start.
 
I think of “cleansing” my body by making an effort to cut back on sweet and heavier comfort foods, like my beloved almond croissants, and increase greens and fruits.  Check out Staying Healthy with the Seasons, a book I’ve written about before, for more information on cleansing.
 
Also, cleansing my physical space with a de-cluttering, is a part of spring cleaning
 
As you move into this new season, consider these questions:

  • What new movement do I want to create in my life? 
  • What energizes me?
  • How can I clear out the blocks to growth?

Today (February 7, 2008) is the first day of the Chinese Year of the Rat.

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, and the Rat won a race to become the first in the line. chinese zodiac 

So, not only are we starting a new year, but it’s the beginning of the cycle.  So the beginning of the beginning.A great time to begin anew.  (Again, if you want to hit “restart” after Jan 1.)

Also, why a brown rat?  Brown because this particular Rat Year is associated with the Earth Element.  And by the way, the Rat him/herself is associated with the Water Element.  So we’ll have an extra reason to examine these Elements throughout the year. 

(image from http://www.chineseastrologyonline.com/2008.htm)

The thing I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it’s based on nature and the world, so just about anything in the world can relate back to its principles.

Last week, I went to see (again) my favorite parts of an exhibition by the Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson, at the SFMOMA. (Exhibit info here.) I didn’t know of this artist before this exhibition. They are big pieces. Color. Angles. Curves. And all kinds of materials, including water.

In one installment, (called Beauty), you walk into a darkened room where you see light passing through a misty “curtain” of fine water droplets, cascading down from above, onto the absorbing floor. The water drops reflect the light, so it appears like a wall, but really, it’s an illusion. We can walk through that “curtain”.

In another room is Notion Motion.  When we walk on squeaky floor boards in front of a screen, the screen shimmers in different patterns. Depending on the location of the floor board; the amount of squeak. It turns out there’s a shallow water pool on the other side of the screen, and the shimmering is a reflection of the ripples on the water.

Another work which I only peeked into was an ice-sculpture. Actually an ice-covered car. Both times I passed by, my inner-cozy won out over my experience-adventurer.

Anyway, I’m writing about these water-related art objects, because they got me thinking about the Water Element. Since Winter is the season associated with the Water Element, how a propos, I thought, that I was drawn to water in different forms.

The cool thing about water, is its flexibility. It can take so many forms. From fluid liquid water to solid frozen blocks; from refreshing cooling mist to dangerously scalding vapors. In each form, it has a beauty and a power.

So, when our Water Element is in balance, or doing well, flowing, as it were, then our flexibility should be good. Physically, especially along the spine. Mentally and emotionally. Being able to flow with the ebbs and flows that are natural in our daily lives.

By the way, boundaries are also an important aspect of this. Think of it: A river that is healthy is full and flowing within its boundaries. But one that gets out of bounds can wreak all kinds of havoc, as has been experienced in many parts of the world.

To support the Water Element, here are a few wellness ideas:

  • Support your energy. We know how grouchy and inflexible we can be when we’re running on too little sleep. Get enough rest whenever you can.
  • Keep your spine supple. Do some simple stretches.
    • Sit on the edge of a chair, with feet flat on the ground. Stretch your arms up alongside your ears, high overhead, and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, stretch forward and down as low as you can go with a nice stretch along your back. (Only go as far as is comfortable. Don’t strain if you have lower-back pain.)
    • Do some simple twists. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, and swing your arms back and forth. Or, sit on the side of a straight-back chair (the back of the chair should be at our side), and raise your arms overhead, with a deep breath in. On the exhale, twist toward the back by placing one hand on either side of the chair back to help you get some leverage. Don’t yank into the twist!
  • Hydrate! Drink water. I hear/read so many conflicting reports/study findings about this. So I just tell people to pay attention. Most of us don’t drink enough. Are your lips dry? Do you get headaches? Is your mouth dry? Is your skin dry? Try increasing your water intake. Replace some other fluids, like coffee/tea/juice/cola, with water.

I’ve seen signs for flu shots already. It’s that time of year again.

And according to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Autumn is the time of the runny nose, since the Nose and Mucous are associated with the season.

So, a couple of common sense ideas to stave off getting a runny nose (and catching cold):

  • Wash your hands: before you eat; after you get back from work or school; after you get off the bus or train (read this post)
  • Make sure you are hydrated. Especially in areas of the country where the heating is already drying out the air. Drink regular water. (read this post)

Your breath is your friend.

In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are associated with Autumn, so this is a great time to focus on breathing.

Acu Point: Letting Go

Is your breath shallow? Are you holding your breath? Discomfort in your upper chest? Hold this point on the lung meridian–it’s a few fingers under your collarbone near the top of your upper arm bone–and Let Go. Take long deep and slow breaths. Learn more about this.

Meditation

Meditation can be a powerful source of health and wellness, for both body and spirit. Even when we don’t have the time or inclination for a full meditation “practice,” a few moments of deep breath and holding acupressure points can be calming and relaxing. Try this mini-meditation.

Every season, I check in with the excellent resource book, Staying Healthy With The Seasons.

Dr. Elson Haas says this about Autumn:

“Autumn days bring inspirational ideas, school activities, and an increasing awareness of inner processes.  Now is a good time for finishing projects begun in spring and summer, and beginning more inward and home-oriented projects.  Autumn is the period of preparation for winter’s resting time until the rebirth of spring.” 

Read my post on winter in this book.

Happy October!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we’re now in the season associated with the Metal Element. It’s a time of getting things in order.

Well, then, it must be the season of my mouth, or more accurately, my teeth, since I’ve been wearing braces that are working hard to get my teeth in order. I wonder if my braces will be more comfortable during the Autumn, since they are aligned with the season…? Well, I can only hope.

Here are a few posts related to the jaw and braces comfort, and also a blog where I’ve been chronicling the braces journey: What’s In A Smile?

I grew up in the Midwest, so I associate summer with hot sticky afternoons, melting ice cream cones and hearing the buzz of the cicadas at night. Now that I live in San Francisco, summer means I need to pull out my winter jacket to warm myself against the chilly fog that rolls in off the ocean.

But it’s all still summertime, the daylight hours are longer, and regardless of how hot or cool your summer experience is, it can be helpful to know that in Traditional Chinese Medicine, summertime is associated with the heart. So summer is a great time to think about things associated with the heart:

  • passions: dedicate yourself to your favorite hobby or sign up for that Spanish class you’ve been wanting to take for a long time
  • intuition: “follow your heart”
  • relationships: nurture your friendships and laugh with your friends and beloveds

Summer is also associated with the fire element, and the time to bask in the sun (with a good sunscreen lotion) and exercise and sweat. In other words, time to play and have fun.

Don’t forget to drink water to stay hydrated, and eat light, by enjoying the abundant summer fruits and veggies.