Treating Seasonal Changes Through Acupressure
An acupressure treatment can ease the body’s shift into the next season. The most dynamic seasonal change is from winter to spring. This is when the body’s energies are leaving the denseness of the cold and dark months and opening to the lightness and warmth of spring. The change from spring into summer is less dramatic but not less important.
In Chinese medicine each of the body’s major organs correspond to the seasonal energies. Summer corresponds to the heart, late summer to the spleen, autumn to the lungs, winter to the kidneys, and spring to the liver. Each organ is associated with a specific sense, governs a body part, expresses a sound and emotion, and corresponds to a color and flavor.
Five Element Correspondences
Five Phases WOOD FIRE EARTH METAL WATER Season Spring Summer Late Summer Autumn Winter Organ Liver Heart Spleen Lungs Kidneys Orifice Eyes Ear Mouth Nose Anus/Urethra Body Part Tendons Vessels Muscles Skin Bones Sound Shouting Laughing Singing Crying Moaning Emotion Anger Joy Worry Grief Fear Color Green Red Yellow White Black Flavor Sour Bitter Sweet Pungent Salty
Five Elements is a Chinese medicine system of correlating the organs with aspects of nature, representing the belief that the body and nature are unities in which mutual harmony can be maintained.
Summer corresponds to the Heart organ, the color red, the emotion joy, the sound of laughter, the blood vessels and hearing. Summer is the element Fire. In Chinese Five Element Theory, Fire represents increased activity, outward movement, expansion, warmth and dryness, all yang energies. We enter summer with the summer solstice which marks the longest daylight of the year. The sun is considered yang. The plants which first sprouted in spring now bloom and flower and give fruit. This are summer’s energies of growth and maturation, expansion and activity. We see this yang energy in ourselves when we spend more time outdoors, more time socializing, playing, traveling. But the solstice day also marks the beginning of the cycle of growing darkness, or yin , which will peak six months later in the winter solstice.
As the seasons are constantly changing, so too are we trying to stay in harmony with the shifts of temperature and light. We are aware of the signals we see in nature when the plants sprout in spring, then bloom in summer; when the squirrels are frolicking and not stashing away foods; when our pets are shedding their winter coats and want to be outdoors more. Our bodies also signal us of energetic changes. As summer approaches we are aware of heat and sunlight, aspects of the element Fire and the Heart. We dress more comfortably in lighter clothing. We moisten our skins to avoid dryness. We shade ourselves and take precautions to avoid sunburn.
The color associated with the Fire element is red. Red reflects heat as seen in a flushed face when overheated or in sunburned skin. Swollen painful joints are a sign of heat trapped in the joints. Fevers are excess yang heat. Red is the color of blood coursing through the blood vessels. The Heart moves the blood and governs circulation. The temperature of the hands and feet, the facial complexion, the luster of the skin all reflect the circulation and nourishing quality of the blood.
Joy and laughter are the expressions of the Heart. The Heart “opens to the tongue.” In Chinese medicine, it is said that the tongue is the flower of the Heart. Through speech we communicate to the outside world. We express our thoughts and emotions verbally. We laugh and express our joy and happiness. We reach outward to others. Any problem with speech such as aphasia or dysphasia is treated by balancing the Heart energies in Chinese medicine. Anxiety or lack of joy is a disturbance of the shen or spirit. Often when there is too much heat in the body it can rise upward to the chest and disturb the shen of the Heart. When this happens, we may notice irritability, moodiness, restlessness, dream-disturbed sleep, and night sweats. This is an example of too much yang in the body. To balance the yang we must nourish the yin fluids to cool the yang fire. This can involve strengthening the element Water to cool the Fire. In acupressure, we would apply gentle pressure on Water points or choose points on the Water channel to tonify the yin and to balance the Heart fire.
The flavor of the Fire element is bitter. Bitter foods and herbs are thought to strengthen the Heart, although an excess of this flavor can injure the Heart. We should try to maintain a balance of the five flavors in the diet (sour, bitter, sweet, spicy, salty) to keep the body in harmony. One of the Chinese medicine classics, the Nei Jing says:
“If people pay attention to the five flavors and blend them well, their bones will remain strong, their muscles will remain tender and young, breath and blood will circulate freely, the pores will be in fine texture, and consequently breath and bones will be filled with the essence of life.”
In Chinese medicine the Heart is said to house the mind. The mind in this sense corresponds to mental activity, consciousness, memory and intuition. It is the creativity and movement of ideas reflective of the activity of the Fire energy. It is the ability to give growth to the plans that we set in spring. It is having awareness of our inner selves and expressing conscious feelings and thoughts. An example of the injurious effect of too much heat affecting the mind is dizziness, confusion and loss of consciousness that one sees in heatstroke. To maintain clarity of thinking and to nourish the creativity of our inner muses, we should keep the Heart protected, cool and flowing smoothly. The best time to nourish the Heart and balance the Fire element is during this transition from spring into summer. Gentle acupressure can bring the Heart and all its activities into harmony, while helping the body adjust to seasonal changes.
The late Barbara Blanchard was a licensed acupunturist and AOBTA certified acupressure instructor with a private practice in Cambridge, MA and the founder of Acupressure Therapy Institute.
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