FIVE ELEMENTS > WOOD

Spring and the Wood element

Wood is associated with spring. It's a time of growth in nature. Projects augur well in spring after the gestation of winter. If we have seeded them in winter then waited patiently until the new shoots started to grow, our businesses and creative ideas will have natural momentum and the correct energy supporting them. It's a time of mating and rejuvenation; when we can start to realise our potential. We should spring-clean our houses, and clear the ground for the new cycle. Now there's enough momentum and drive for new habits and rules to be formed.

Wood is assertive. A new shoot may look tender and weak, but it needs a lot of strength to break through solid earth, or even stone. The innate drive to exist and to grow are potent energies, which, if harnessed in a person, can create powerful effects. This full-on, even aggressive, energy, needs harnessing to thrive. It shouldn't be repressed. Creative energy is strongly linked to fertility and sexual energy too; there's a basic desire to mate and find a partner.

Above: the Wood element comes into its own in spring, when new shoots push up through the earth,
and trees produce freshly minted leaves again

The liver and gall bladder

The organs in the body that correlate to the Wood element are the liver and gall bladder. In Chinese Medicine, the liver is the "General" leading his army, or the planner; the gall bladder is the "decision-maker". So the ability to plan and make decisions is enhanced by the organ being healthy. We need these organs to be robust in order to strategise well and work consistently towards our goals. Determination and motivation are also key aspects of Wood a plant doesn't give up halfway through growing, unless the conditions aren't right.

Recognising trapped anger in the body

When our liver and/or gall bladder are out of balance, frustration and internalised tension result. We may feel unable to express our energy fluently, or thwarted by outside influences. Our drive can quickly turn to anger, resentment or frustration, if there is no healthy outlet. We're taught to avoid conflict in the West, but the consequences of suppressing anger and irritation are clearly demonstrable in many illnesses. Anger can seep into our own cells and stultify our emotions. Symptoms include a tight jaw, knotted stomach and many digestive disorders, headaches, tense shoulders and muscular aches, eye strain, dizziness and PMS.

So how do you learn to relax again?

Firstly, you need to find ways to express your anger or irritation. If you can't answer back to your boss, just stay neutral and firm with them don't smile while inwardly seething. Or if you can't tell people how you really feel, punch a pillow or shout out loud when you're alone. Even nature has a release mechanism for too much tension: thunderstorms. City life is a challenge: London especially, is the personification of "liver Qi stagnation", with harried people struggling to reach their destinations on overcrowded Tubes and buses, or getting stuck in traffic. This all demonstrates the tension that comes with not being able to flow at one's own pace. Escaping to the countryside, or taking a relaxing holiday helps.

Where possible, go at your own pace, create your own space. This may mean getting up earlier so you can choose not to get onto a crowded train, or walking part of the way to work anything that gives you back a sense of independence and choice. With difficult and demanding bosses, work at creating your own boundaries within the demands of the job. Don't let your boss encroach on all your personal time or space; this will make you resentful. Take your lunch break, stretch your legs and get some fresh air; even if it's only for 10 minutes. It's the little changes that count, and that you're more likely to sustain. Slow-breathing techniques, or pilates or Qi Gong classes can help. If you do a desk job and have pent-up physical energy, do cardiovascular exercise, or play some kind of sport not to extreme, mind! Three times a week is plenty. And have sex. Sex is great for releasing tension. Though again, don't have it to the point of exhaustion: you're trying to create balance in your life, not ricochet from one extreme to another. If you need help in managing stress or anger, click here for my clinic details.

Qi Gong exercise to harmonise your liver and gall bladder

Locate your liver under your right rib cage, a fairly large area tucked under the ribs and dropping down towards your waist. If this area is tender or hot, there's heat in your liver from too much alcohol or accumulated stress. Focus on smiling and breathing into this area, and visualise it as relaxed and spacious. This can go a long way to calming and harmonising the liver generally. Breathe into the liver and imagine it filling up with a bright, fresh green colour. Then let the breath out of the back of your body picture an exhaust pipe expelling the sludgy green muck that's accumulated in the organ. This is a very powerful cleansing tool in Taoist practices. Make a "sh" sound as you breathe out, elongating it for as long as your breath lasts. Feel yourself relax.

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PUSHING UPWARD

Wood energy, which manifests in spring, is about asserting ourselves, our creativity and our fertility, and claiming our place in the world

ANGER & KINDNESS

The liver and gall bladder reflect our more aggressive tendencies. When we become overwhelmed by life's seeming injustices, the way to restore inner calm is to try to access kindness within ourselves, and a broader perspective regarding the situations that have antagonised us

GET IN TUNE

If you would like to book an acupuncture or face-reading session with me to help you tune into the seasonal energy and rebalance yourself, click here

CLEANSE & COOL
YOUR LIVER

Drink hot water with lemon juice. Eat spring greens and sour, pickled foods. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and fatty and fried foods. And keep in mind that drugs, both prescribed and recreational, are processed by the liver, so regular detoxifying helps

YOUR FACE UNMASKED

The liver shows itself in the jaw, browbone and eyebrows. If these features are strong, you have lots of assertive energy and drive (they're usually more prominent in men, as they are signs of testosterone). The whiteness of the sclera of the eyes also show liver health. Vertical lines between the eyes show levels of habitual anger or worry.
See Face Reading