Today is the astronomical beginning of spring. As the days begin to lengthen, new life bursts forth with a renewed energy and we intuitively feel the need to shake off any excess or sluggishness developed during winter.
Spring is traditionally a time for clearing out the old to make way for the new. We should set aside time to cleanse the body of toxins and extra pounds gained during winter, declutter our homes and set new goals for the year ahead.
Anne Ledbetter of Horizon Yoga gives us some key tips for a smooth transition into the new season, but firstly let's look at the role the liver plays in the detoxification process from a Chinese perspective.
Traditional Chinese Medicine pairs organs and their associated energy lines (meridians) to the elements and seasons. Spring is associated with the wood element and its organs the liver and gallbladder.
From a western perspective, the liver plays a vital role in cleansing and filtering the blood, detoxifying chemicals and metabolising drugs from the body. Similarly, Chinese medicine teaches us that the liver is responsible for controlling the smooth and even flow of Energy and blood.
TCM also links a particular emotion with each of the elements and organs. The emotion of the liver is anger. If you experience frequent anger, irritability, frustration, PMS, depression or mood swings, it may be an indication that your liver needs a little bit of TLC.
Even if you don't fall into this category, it is a good practice to cleanse and support your liver as we head into spring.
Eat plenty of dark leafy greens which cleanse the liver such as collards, kale, mustard and chard. Dandelions, nettles, watercress and other young green leaves provided by nature now are perfect balancing foods for the liver as they cleanse the blood and release toxins. Adding lemon juice makes iron more available from the greens and clears liver heat.
Drink green tea or dandelion tea instead of coffee for energy and chamomile in place of alcohol to relax.
Go to sleep by 11 pm. The liver peaks between 1 pm and 3 pm, therefore directing the liver's energy into other activities during these hours diverts it from cleansing and renewing the blood causing tiredness, toxicity and stagnation.
Physical movement and exercise frees stagnant liver energy. Make time for daily yoga practice and brisk walks to help move any stagnation. Incorporate yoga poses into your practice that will help to stimulate the liver and gallbladder meridians such as the Butterfly pose, Reclined Twist and Banannasana.
Use appropriate channels to express pent up emotions. When emotions are blocked or hidden, they fester causing stagnant liver Qi. Writing in a journal provides a safe outlet for expressing these feelings, allowing the release to occur before it builds and adversely affects the body. The journal should be for your eyes only, so describe your feelings, thoughts or ideas desired — get them out and expressed! Purchase a blank book which is attractive to you so that you will want to open up the book and write more often.
Fasting the traditional ritual of spring, cleanses the blood and assists the liver in releasing stored toxins and winter's accumulated fat. For a gentle liver fast, eat Kicharee for four days (or add into your regular diet), add some dark leafy greens and shiitake mushrooms and season with lemon juice.
Spring is an important time for cleaning and harmonising the energy of your home. Clearing out any items that no longer have a use or purpose will reduce clutter and create a feeling of space/lightness and a new invigorated atmosphere.
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