Spring is in the air, you can almost reach out and touch it!
Chinese Medicine teaches us to live in harmony with the seasons.
Each season has areas which help us to change our habits as the seasons change so we can create more balance between our bodies and our external environment.
Spring is universally seen as a time of renewal, regeneration, growth and fresh energy and perspectives. A time of creating, cleansing, activity and movement, growth and expansion.
“I do not chase, I attract”
The energy of Spring is that of expansion and abundance. Seeking out new ways of being, thinking and doing.
This is in contrast to the Yin of Winter whose energy represents slowing down, journeying inward, self-reflection and the qualities of self-care. The winter weather is cold, the days are shorter and we naturally are inclined to spend more time inside embracing the warmth and opportunity to pause.
In traditional Chinese Five Element Theory Spring is associated with the Wood element and the wood element represents the liver and gallbladder. It is a season to plant seeds for the future harvest. To manifest your wildest dreams and hopes for the coming year. It is a time of looking ahead and making plans, creating new ideas, making decisions that help to determine our year ahead. It is a time to take action.
Wood and liver give us a sense of flexibility, enabling us to change and adapt as needed. Liver is in charge of balancing the emotions. The response to challenges when in balance is steady and grounded, and shows confidence and purposefulness. There is a sense of control and an ability to overcome difficulties with ease, even in the most challenging situations.
It is also an auspicious time to focus on releasing emotions that no longer serve us. In particular those rooted in anger, resentment, frustration and lethargy. The emotion of anger or frustration is linked to imbalance in liver and gallbladder, which makes sense if there are blockages that we may experience such emotions.
The power of Spring allows us to brush off the old and welcome in a fresh, beautiful new experience of health, mental clarity, and emotional well-being. Spring is an expression of life at its fullest!
Liver & Gallbladder
The Liver and Gallbladder are at their peak of energy during the spring, making it a perfect time to focus on supporting their function. It is believed that by harmonizing with the seasons you can stay healthier and prevent disease. So Spring is a good time to strengthen the liver (in particular) and the gallbladder organs.
Liver, as the Yin organ in the partnership, is responsible for the smooth flow of blood and emotions throughout the body. It is called “General of the Army” and has the general strategic plan and ability to regulate the movement of Qi to all of our organs. The creation of harmony both emotionally and practically!
If Qi gets stuck, it can lead to Liver Qi stagnation. This may manifest itself as neck and shoulder tension, chest tightness, digestive symptoms, PMS, migraines, poor sleep, irritability, menstrual issues, and impatience or feeling easily frustrated. It will also leave you with a lack of inspiration, or creativity or motivation for making new things come to fruition. A feeling of being stuck, unable to take action or move forward may seep in. A healthy Liver and flow of Qi allows us to plan and dream, and create and both inspire and be inspired.
So take the opportunity to get active, physically and mentally as Spring begins! Help your Qi and blood to flow with ease and welcome in the expanding qualities of energy and revival that Spring invites for our health and well-being!
Start dreaming big and planning and sowing seeds of intention to keep your dreams and goals moving forward. Moving out of hibernation, (slowly, not rushing) into action keeps the blood flowing and the mind healthy and the mindset positive.
The Gallbladder, as the Yang organ partner to the Liver, governs decision making, planning, evaluating, providing wise judgement and assertiveness. It organizes, co-ordinates and helps bring to reality all that Liver starts to plan and manifest. Every goal, every plan, every aspiration that we have. From the smallest decisions, to our highest most complex ones! Everything follows a design. Liver designs and creates, Gallbladder provides the way in which to carry out the dreams.
If you have been waiting for the right time to create something wonderful and new, the time is now!
Spring is a better time to get creative than the New Year intention hype
So often we arrive into January and a new year and expect our energy to be ready to go go go and create and make things happen and wonder why a month later we feel flat, low energy, fatigued and frustrated. January energy is linked to the Winter season which traditionally, according to TCM, is the time to hibernate, r e s t and d i g e s t, slow down and journey inward. It is a time of self-reflection, to notice what worked for us in the previous seasons and recognise what we need to let go of. Without this period of rest we arrive into the Spring energy exhausted and depleted before we even begin. Spring is the perfect time of year to gather all of the Winter self-reflections and start to plan and manifest as a result of those insights how you want the rest of the year to look and feel!
Spring is the New Year energy that we all dream of for January! So have faith in your opportunity to begin afresh now!
The transition from Winter to Spring is a time when Liver Qi can be unstable and needs attending to. This is one of the reasons why I mentioned earlier moving slowly into Spring. Keep warm, in particular your feet, keep your belly covered a little while lnoger and your neck to avoid dampness and cold. Blockages can lead to mental and physical disharmony.
I want to share with you some tools to help you to manage our transition between the seasons, allowing you to step with confidence into the new season energy and embrace your creativity.
While you are in these shapes, start thinking about what you want to embody more of, and where you want to grow and expand on a physical, mental and deeper soul level. Allow this practice to reconnect to how that looks and feels and be one of creating space by releasing tension and self doubt that may be holding you back from your fullest potential.
- Blocks (2)
- Tennis or Myofascial Release balls (2)
How you might experience the practice:
A yin practice which focuses on liver and gallbladder can sometimes invite a little emotion, or feeling of frustration, a desire to fidget or move around (physically or mentally). However know it can also stimulate action, so you may notice your mind a little restless. Use your breath as an anchor for your mind. Perhaps using a simple mantra such as “I am aware I am breathing in. I am aware I am breathing out” to keep bringing you back into th ehere and now.
The practice below will be a perfect welcome into Spring but can also be used at times of change or uncertainty. Think of it as a deep clean of the organs and energy pathways, as a way to step forward or find clarity.
This can be a 90 minute practice or reduce the time spent in each Yin shape a little as needed.
Reclined Butterfly – breath awareness, mantra for mind (10 minutes)
We start the practice in Reclined Butterfly. Lay your bolster behind you running parallel with your yoga mat. Rest a block either side of your mat half day down. Leave a small gap between your lower back and bolster and then slowly lower yourself down onto the bolster. Once comfortable here, bring a bend into the knees, soles of your feet come together for butterfly shape. Gently lowering your knees down onto the blocks either side of your mat, resting them onto the props and adjusting their position and height as needed.
Take a deep inhale through the nose, drawing energy into your lungs and a relaxed exhale as you allow your body to settle into the shape. Allow the shoulders to relax down either side of your bolster, gravity doing all of the work for you. Relax the fingers and toes. Soften the space in between the eyebrows, the corners of the mouth and eyes. Relaxing tongue away from roof of mouth. With every breath allow tension to melt away from your mind and body.
Mantra – “I am aware I am breathing, I am aware I am breathing out”
At the end of the shape, bring hand under thighs and guide them together, gently moving props from left side and rolling to pause on your left side a minute or so.
Temple line ball (1-2 minutes on each side)
Resting on the right side of your body first, bringing the ball to rest either on the mat directly or onto block. Lie down with your temple resting onto the ball. Slowly turning your head back and forth to massage the area between the corner of the eye and top of the ear. You can continue rolling along this area or pause and do little circles in an area before rolling to the next. While you move with the ball let the lips and upper and lower teeth relax away from each other, tongue away from the roof of the mouth. Let the breath slow dow, the eyes close and settle into that place of feeling, noticing and exploring.
At the end of the shape, pause on your back or side body in stillness for anywhere from a moment to a minute or two. Move slowly to the second side.
Jaw line ball (1-2 minutes on each side)
Coming into the same shape as moments before on your right side, placing the ball somewhere between the corner of your mouth and the tip of you ear. Gently turning your head from side to side so that you are massaging the tissues along the area just above the jaw line. Move in a simple back and forth manner or explore how it feels to draw little circles as you feel the tissues need or invite you. Let the mouth be slightly open, teeth apart, eyes close or gaze at the roof of the mouth, tongue relaxed away from the roof of the mouth. Allow the breath to slow down as you settle into the practice.
At the end of the shape, pause on your back or side body in stillness for anywhere from a moment to a minute or two. Take a moment to wiggle the jaw a little and notice how it feels from one side to the other. Move slowly to the second side.
Back of Neck Massage with block (1-3 minutes)
Bring the block onto the second height. With your index fingers trace the base of your skull and find the two sticky out bones either side of your skull. Then rest the area of your neck just below this onto the edge of your block, making sure that all four corners are flat on the mat. Begin to turn the head from one side to the other, noticing the areas which feel a little thicker/tighter/more sensitive. Pause in these areas, either in stillness or roll gently from side to side on these areas until you feel a little bit of release. You may need to come back to this again so don’t over do it all at once!
At the end of the shape, release the block and lie on your back to pause and notice the effect of the work that you have just done.
GB21 accupressure point with balls (1-3 minutes)
Trace from your bottom edge of the ear down the neck to the area at the base of the neck, top of the shoulders – trapezius muscles. Place a ball either side of the spine into the area that feels juiciest, then lie down onto the ball and gently roll yourself up a little so the balls move more steadily downwards into place. Option to be still and enjoy the juicy sensation or move your arms out wide to a T shape and then slowly bring them back across your body like a hug, moving between those two positions slowly. You could also lift one arm overhead and the other alongside the body, and then slowly alternate the arms like you are swimming. You can also add intensity by resting a block under your sacrum on the first or second height. Feel free to move the balls to new positions anytime you start to feel some release.
At the end of the shape, release the balls, and rest on your back to tune into any sensation that you may experience.
Bananasana with balls under skull (3- 5 minutes each side)
Lying on your back, raise your arms overhead. Lift your head, neck, shoulders and upper back and wiggle upper body over to the right side of the back, lowering yourself down to the ground at your edge. Adjust the left arm to a relaxed position. Lift the legs and move them over to the right side also. Legs might be together or apart, both are fine. Make sure your back side of the body stays relaxed towards the mat and tune into the sensation arriving into the left side of the body. Option to put the two balls into a tied sock and place the twin ball set somewhere along the back of the skull.
Pause between the two sides for a minute to observe the effect of the work just done.
Sphinx – Seal (balls in lower belly) (5 mins)
If you are in child pose gently lower yourself onto your stomach, legs straight behind you. Bring your elbows roughly under your shoulders, heart reaching forward. Choice to rest one or two blocks under your forehead, or perhaps a bolster under your ribs. Eyes closed or a soft gaze to one centered area of focus. Spend a few minutes here lingering in stillness, noticing space arriving into the heart and lung areas, a gentle compression in the lower back. Kidneys govern the general health of the lower back so know that this discomfort is ok. Please don’t stay with pain though (short, sharp shooting sensations). Feel free to straighten the arms bringing the hands to the mat for Seal pose, or rest blocks under your forearms to extend the backbend further. If in seal the hands closer to your body gives a deeper bend, hand further away may allow more ease. Explore what works best for you, all ways are valid.
At the end of the shape, release onto your stomach with your arms as a pillow for your head or turn to lie on your back.
Lateral dragonfly (3 minutes per side)
Once upright, begin to move your legs as wide away from centre as you can, bending one knee with the heel of foot coming in towards your groin. Resting a bolster onto your straight leg, thin end touching your side waist. You could swap this for a block on the inside or outside of leg if preferred. Sitting tall on the inhale, and on the exhale slowly, effortlessly leaning over towards the straight leg. Bending your elbow, to rest onto the bolster or block and supporting side of face with your hand. The other arm can come behind your back with elbow bent, or up towards the sky with elbow bent and hand resting on head in this direction. Tune into the sensations that arrive along the outside line of your body, making adjustments as you feel releases through the tissues in your side body.
Full dragonfly (3- 5 minutes)
Once upright, begin to move your legs as wide away from centre as you can. (You can swap this shape for butterfly if you feel as though you can’t roll forward or experience discomfort in the knee or lower back). Have your props within reach. Take a long deep inhale and on the exhale lazily curling forward through the spine and then filling the gaps between your head and the mat. Sometimes it might just be a block or two under your forehead. You may need to place 2 blocks between the thighs on the height that suits you best, resting a bolster on top. Bring the props closer to you to support a more elevated seat or further away to find more depth in your shape. As you feel space arriving feel free to self adjust to where your body needs to be. Nothing forced.
At the end of the shape, gently roll yourself up to a seat. Bring a hand under each knee to bend them and guide the feet out ahead of you and then windshield wiping the feet from side to side for a minute or so.
Glutes & Ball (1-2 minutes on each side)
Lie on your back in a Figure 4 shape with left ankle crossed over right knee. Place a ball under your left hip and lean slightly to the left, moving the ball as you start to feel release. You could stay still in each spot or roll gently from side to side or make small circles with your hips. Release and pause for a minute between sides to notice the effect of the work that has just been done.
Sleeping swan (3-5 minutes each side)
Bring your right shin forward with a bend in your knee, at an angle that feels sensible for your unique body. The left leg is behind you as you lie on the front of it. If there is a gap between the right buttock and the floor fill it with a cushion or block. Gently begin to lean forward over your right shin, either onto the mat or with a bolster beneath your torso to rest down onto.
It can be nice to move into downward facing dog between sides to move a little. Alternatively you could choose to come into child pose or lie on your back.
Simple Reclined Twist/Twisted Roots (3- 5 minutes each side)
Come to lie on your back with your block and bolster on the right side of your mat. Draw the left knee into your center, as you reach your left arm to the left side of the room. Wrapping your left leg over your right leg and foot around opposite shin. Using your right hand gently guide your left knee across your body to the right side of the mat. Fill any gaps with either a block or a bolster or perhaps both, then relax your right arm down to the mat also. Direction of your head is wherever feels comfortable for your neck, try to allow your shoulders to relax down to the mat where possible. Closing your eyes as you arrive into this place of simply being. Noticing where you feel sensation, and as that eases, feel free to make adjustments to how you are using your props.
Between sides, pause for a count of 10 breaths in savasana before slowly making your way to your second side without any expectations about how that might feel.
Come into your version of a comfortable place for our final resting pose, savasana setting a timer for 5-10 minutes.
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