Chinese Medicine- Summer- Fire Element- Heart & Small Intestine meridians
Chinese medicine and the various meridians are still relatively new to me, but the more I learn, the more excited I become. There are so many ways to tap into our body's energy systems, from Chakras to Chinese medicine & meridians, to Ayurveda and so on. By concentrating on any (or all) of these traditions, we can learn better ways to heal ourselves- body, mind, and spirit.
While each of the 5 elements corresponds with a season, we can bring together more than one element to find balance or strengthen a weak element. While I mostly incorporate the 5 elements into my Yin classes, I've recently been inspired to include them into my Yang flow classes, which has been a lot of fun! The Fire Element works with the Heart & Small Intestine meridians, which run along the arms, so lots of arm variations within poses, heart openers, shoulder openers, arm balances, and inversions. When I practice and teach these poses, I feel more joy, more openness. These 2 meridians also connect with our Heart Chakra.
Summertime means more sunshine and warmer temperatures, a time when most of us come out of our hibernation and find more time to be social, to connect with others.
I've compiled some basic info on the Fire Element and the Heart & Small Intestine meridians below, including ways to keep ourselves healthy during the warmer Summer months.
Zang Organ- Heart (Emperor)- Zang means "firm" or "solid". The heart is the Yin organ (Yin organs are more solid in nature & lie deeper inside the body. They are responsible for regulating & storing the body's vital substances). The heart controls mental activities, circulation of blood, the tongue ("sprout of the heart"), speaking from the heart, one's complexion, rules & protects the body, oversees organ's
functional activities, has an important role in the body & mind, should be protected at all costs
Fu Organ- Small Intestine (The Magician)- Fu means "hollow". The small intestine is the Yang organ (Yang organs are hollow- tubes or bags, closer to the surface of the body. They are responsible for receiving, separating, distributing, & excreting all the vital substances). It receives & processes water & food, "sorts out" what's usable & unusable, emotion & interpretation
Process- Managing Relationship- Confusion & vulnerability to Calmness & openness
Elemental Shen (spirit)- Shen "Revealing", the lead spirit, residing over the other elemental masters.
Direction & energetic flow- south, upwards
Connecting to blood vessels, tongue, face
Attributes- emotions, strength, assertiveness, dominance, pure YANG (most active, lively, & warming of the elements)
Aromatherapy- stimulating & invigorating fragrances, can be spicy. Examples- amber, cinnamon, nutmeg
Creative cycle- created by wood, gives birth to earth
Destructive cycle- extinguished by water, melts metal
Yang characteristics- extraverted, warm, dynamic, tough, forgiving, irascible, selfish
Balanced- feeling of joy; enthusiasm for life; vitality; passionate; peaceful mind; radiant facial expressions; engaged, alert and clear eyes; sense of spirituality, warmth, charisma, discernment, curiosity, humor, courage, generosity,connected, content, intuition, sense of intimacy with the world, speaks from the heart, emotionally well protected (healthy vulnerability), sincerely caring & expressive of support, ability to surrender to feelings & emotions
Physical balance- how does the Fire Element get weakened? too much heat (too many stimulating & thermal drinks, too many stimulating & hot spices, exposure to extreme hot environment, too many rich foods), too much cold (too many cold foods putting out the fire), heart organ dysfunction (overworking mentally & physically, not enough relaxation exercises, consistent exposure to stressful situations) and emotional trauma & imbalances (habits that scatter the mind, over thinking, too much mental exertion, emotional trauma or difficulties)
Weak Fire Element Symptoms "Heart Qi Deficiency": pale face, dull complexion, poor blood circulation, sadness, depressive mood, spiritless, fast heart beat, heart palpitations on exertion, tiredness, extreme and excessive joy, fatigue, spontaneous sweating
Unbalanced- dislike hot weather; high blood pressure; red face; restless; blood circulation issues; feeling gloomy/spiritless; mental/physical fatigue; "burnt out"; overactive mind; no laughter or too much laughter; pale, lifeless facial expression, emotionally cold, ungrateful, easily over-stimulated, greed, disconnection, addictions, dogmatic, insomnia, extreme mood swings, speech problems, heart disease, leaky gut, overstimulated excitement (no boundaries), confused, vulnerable (clueless), get taken advantage of
Heart rules the circulatory system. When the heart flower is closed (hurt, feeling alone), the body can feel/be cold. When the heart flower is open (in love, happy, energized & open) the body is warm/heated.
In Chinese medicine your spirit, emotions, and consciousness "reside" in the heart, which is why it's so important to work equally on your mind as it is your body. Balance the excitement, enthusiasm & need for intimacy & love with an inner calm rooted in the Heart & the spirit energy of Fire, the shen.
Finding balance- Mind Body Connection- calm & focused mind in all areas. Take notice of your depressing thoughts & self talk. (Catch yourself & try to change them.) Getting anxiety over future events that may never happen? Holding grudges or obsessing on past events that aren't allowing you to move forward in your emotional life? Overworking? Over thinking? Not enough rest? Constantly stressed?
Dietary Habits & Exercise (Body)- Stay away from cold foods & drinks, limit overstimulating & hot spices & foods (especially if you tend towards anxiety & heat symptoms), limit mucus forming foods that will clog the ability of the heart to circulate smoothly, choose warm & neutral foods. Drink more liquids (vegetable soups, berry teas). Eat more salads, fruits, citrus, melons. Avoid meats, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds on very hot days. Bitter foods to balance the heat- alfalfa, asparagus, beer, broccoli, celery, chicory, coffee, grapefruit rind, lettuce, radish, raspberry leaf tea, turnip, vinegar, watercress
Find an exercise routine that you like, pay attention to your environment- are you being constantly exposed to extreme hot temperatures?
Acupuncture- Needles are inserted into points, which are on channels/meridians. These are the pathways on which the Qi flows. Points are carefully chosen to disperse blockages and to bring a patient's Qi into balance.
Chinese Herbal Medicine- a Herbalist will use a tailor-made prescription which consists of a combination of herbs to treat a patient's symptoms. Bitter- this taste cools & travels downward though the body. It will remove heat. It's used to stimulate digestion, to cool fevers & to clear bowel problems during heat. It purges the body, so shouldn't be used in large quantities when energy is deficient. Common bitter herbs & foods- rhubarb root, dandelion, chicory, bitter oranges.
Qigong- these exercises stimulate the circulation of energy in the body to improve our health. Some exercises are specifically designed to improve the functioning of different organs of the body.
Yoga poses for the Heart & Small Intestine meridians- There are many different ways to access these meridians but I've only included a few examples (focusing mostly on the Yin side of the asana family). You can check out the pictures below (click on each for description & better image). Eagle arms (can be with any leg variation from sphinx to caterpillar...), Sphinx pose (traditional arms or adding variations like resting wings), Thread the Needle, Shoelace or Half Shoelace with arms, Childs Pose with Prayer arms, Melting Heart, Saddle with arms raised or elbows clasped