Wood Element in TCM

The Wood Element in Traditional Chinese Medicine is both Yin & Yang. When Wood expresses masculine yang energy, its color is green and is symbolized by a pine tree-sturdy, upright, and enduring. When Wood expresses feminine yin energy, its color is blue and is symbolized by the flexible bamboo that gently bends with the wind.

Wood’s season is Spring, the time of new beginnings, and new growth. It's a time of upward and expansive movement, of creativity, planning a brighter future, vision and perspective. Spring is the time that the Liver flourishes and its energies are at their peak. Spring is a time of new life and the growth and activity of plants and animals after a long winter hibernating. Spring is the best time to support the Liver, eating fresh green foods and being mindful to express our emotions. Wood is our assertiveness, our purpose, our ability to yield and adapt.

Wood types can be more competitive in nature. They tend to stay busy, with an over-active mind; planning sometimes keeps them up at night. They are quick witted, bold and competent.

The Wood Element is associated with the Liver & the Gall bladder.

The emotion associated with Wood is anger. Other Wood emotions are tension, criticism, discouragement, regret, excitement, dislike of self and others, negative judgment, and repressed anger related to thwarted affection. Wood qualities are bold actions, planning, initiating new projects, idealism, imagination, compassion, and competition. Wood types possess decision-making skills and the ability to create change. The challenge for a Wood type is to learn to control anger and channel it into positive work that benefits all people.

The positive emotions of the liver are compassion, patience, acceptance, benevolence and honesty.

The liver stores the blood and creates the menstrual cycle. The liver opens into the eyes, thus our ability to see clearly is dependent on strong liver energy. The liver also governs the ligaments and tendons and manifests in the nails. It is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (lifeforce energy) in the body.

Spring is the best time of year to expand and grow. It is a time for awakening, of expanding upward & outward to create new life & new growth. Even if the temperature is cooler, it's best to get the body moving & the blood qi flowing, to shake off any residual Winter sluggishness. Find an exercise routine that you can enjoy. The Spring time is the perfect time for a Liver detox, including sour foods in your diet, and possibly starting the morning with warm lemon water to flush out the system. The diet should consist of light, fresh foods, with leafy greens.

From tcmworld.org:

  1. Stay calm! Take a nice long walk in the park or do other gentle exercises to relax your mind, body, and spirit.

  2. Drink alcohol in moderation to preserve your Liver’s energy and give it a break.

  3. Stimulate your Liver meridian by hitting your legs up and down the insides of your thighs and calves, starting at the ankles, for about five minutes.

  4. Rub the acupressure point called “Taichong” (Liver 3- see above for a visual) every day to stimulate a key point on your Liver channel. It’s on top of your foot where the big toe bone meets the second toe bone. Press and massage this spot on both feet with your thumb. If it’s sore, you’re hitting all the right spots!

Wood Element in deficiency (not enough Wood): blurred or weak vision, deficient immune response, passive behavior, scanty menstruation, dry skin, tremors or numbness, low self esteem, cold hands & feet, incomplete individuation, inability to make decisions, lack of creative interest, severe depression

Wood Element in excess (too much Wood): moodiness/ irritability/ depression, high blood pressure, anger, stress, PMS, menstrual cramps, rigidity, allergies, inflammation, pounding headache, gas/ constipation/ diarrhea/ nausea, red or itchy eyes, lack of energy, shortness of breath, difficulties bending or stretching

To Balance Excess Wood, bring in some Metal Element (see the 5 Element Wheel here).

Balancing Foods: Sour foods, foods that are green

All sour foods and many green, fast growing foods, especially those with green stalks and sprouts. Also, wheat, leafy greens like bok choy, chard, broccoli rabe and spinach, asparagus and celery, citrus fruits - especially lemons, oranges, grapefruit - sour plum, pineapple, starfruit, sourdough bread or crackers, vinegar, yogurt, kimchi, pickles of all kinds, sauerkraut and olives are Wood foods. These foods can obstruct movement and function as astringents. They most benefit changeable, erratic and scattered people. (From 5elementfood.blogspot.com)

Yoga Asana for the Wood Element will involve the meridian lines from the drawings above, so think twists, side body, and hip openers- these can be done standing, seated, or reclined. Bring in a sense of play for your practice and a clear intention of where you want your practice to go. These pictures are some of my favorite postures for the Liver and the Gall Bladder.

For more information, check out my reference page here, plus any of these great books... "Wood Becomes Water" by Gail Reichstein, "Power of the 5 Elements" by Charles Moss, "The Five Elements" by Dondi Dahlin, and "The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription" by Lauren Walker.

Information is compiled from my training, along with various web resources.

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