Spring is a wonderful time when the days get longer and everyone steps out of the shadows of the dark days we’ve had. As much fun as the festive holidays and the New Year brought us, seeing daffodils in bloom do wonders to help shake the mental cobwebs.
With the warmer weather, qi and blood flow freely and towards the surface of the skin. Just like a bear coming out of hibernation, our yang qi is also coming out after having gone deeper into the ground during winter. This is a time of growth and development as the yang qi flows easily through our bodies.
Cast your mind to the first spring bank holiday – the great British Easter escape. Encouraged by glorious weather and a few days of rest, many choose this time to have a well-deserved break. Like yang qi, everyone flows along towards the main arteries of the country via cars, trains and planes. The extra surge of people (and possible engineering works and other delays) results in traffic jams and crowding. It’s all very frustrating.
In our bodies, traffic jams and crowds mean stagnation or obstruction of qi. Qi stagnation can cause pain and the organ in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) that detests stagnation the most is the liver. Liver qi stagnation can cause irritability, a sense of frustration or just simple crankiness. Add on additional lifestyle stresses like relationships or work, and it’s a sure-fire recipe to lashing out or feeling overwhelmed.
Physically, you may experience headaches (especially behind the eyes), dizziness or hypochondriac pain (tightness or sharpness along the side of your ribcage). You may feel thirstier than usual and occasionally have a bitter taste in the mouth.
Acupuncture can help “soothe” or “smooth” the qi in your body just as you would smooth out the creases when you make your bed.
In the spring you should aim to give your body’s qi full rein to flow freely so that it can support the growth it needs. To help your body awaken from its deep sleep (a gentle alarm is better than cold water in the face) try these tips to have an enjoyable spring:
1. Go outside and get some fresh air. If you’ve been cooped up indoors all winter only to brave the underground, now is the perfect time to get off one stop early and walk to your destination. The weather can still be a bit temperamental though, so do make sure you don’t under dress and end up feeling chilly.
2. Smile, de-clutter and plan. Just as you would spring clean your home now is also a good time to dream and plan for what you want in your life. Think about things you want to rid (physically or mentally) and do it! Organising during this time of year gives it a great sense of adventure – it’s no coincidence that many high school teachers prepare their students for university decisions during these months. Have a moment and think about what you would like to change.
3. A whole array of fruit and vegetables are in season again. Get in your dark leafy greens such as spinach and sprouts, but also have fennel and rice which are mildly warming. Just as you would start to put away your winter wardrobe, lamb, ginger and hot spicy foods should also give way to fresher, greener meals. The changes in the weather (chilly then warm then windy) mean you shouldn’t abandon warming foods completely and spring onions (and some ginger) are good to have in your kitchen.
4. Do some gentle stretching to keep the joints and tendons supple. Now is also the time to take up your favourite exercise again if you had been disheartened by the cold, dark days.
5. If you’re prone to seasonal allergies, take care of them now instead of waiting till the symptoms arrive.
6. Take care of yourself. Some people have a tendency to give it their all when spring comes around and then overtax themselves. Just remind yourself (because you do know yourself best) that you don’t have to take on the new hobby and marathon training and start that new class just because it’s the season of birth and growth. In the same token if you feel like you do have a little more to give, then definitely go for it.
7. Get a maintenance acupuncture tune-up. Even if you only have acupuncture a few times a year, a new season is a great reminder to have one to help rebalance little niggles, address existing issues or adjust your body with the outside environment.
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