Everything changes; nothing is permanent. Everything that arises will eventually come to pass – it’s the crux of yoga philosophy. Nothing teaches us this simple truth better than the transitioning seasons. They express the notion of transformation in a charmingly cinematic way.
As the seasons shift, so do our bodies and minds, since we are integrally connected to nature. Consequently, throughout the year, our mood and energy levels will shift, our digestion and weight will fluctuate, and we might become more prone to falling ill at times. Our perspectives on life can flip-flop, and even our mental clarity can diminish or improve depending on what time of year it is.
Much like how the phases of the moon silently tug on us, creating shifts in our behaviour, the more long-drawn-out cycles we refer to as seasons have their own way of affecting us right down to the cellular level.
Even some medical research shows that the seasons do affect us in numerous ways. Here are a few main things they can influence:
- The activity of human genes
- Immune system activity
- How we perceive colours
- Our attention and memory
What Spring Represents
So how does the season of spring affect us, then? What significance does it bear in our lives and how can we learn from Mother Nature so that we can adapt and grow alongside her?
Spring is all about new beginnings and things coming back to life. Having been held under a blanket of frost for several months, everything now begins to thaw out – including us! Winter has a way of “freezing” our progress just a little, as we focus on self-preservation and conservation of supplies.
In contrast, the energy at springtime is dynamic, optimistic, hopeful, vibrant, and buoyant. Fresh green buds on branches inspire us to start new ventures of our own and open ourselves up to novel life experiences. Nature starts to come alive all around us, as do we.
We spring into action in different ways at this time. Mainly, the impulse to get rid of the old and make space for the new takes us over. We become especially attentive to our environment, clearing and rearranging our dwelling spaces to reflect the new vibrant energy of spring.
We do the same thing with ourselves. Springtime is when we usually begin new career paths, end old relationships, and enter into new ones. It’s a good time to employ some dietary changes, switch up our exercise routine and even change our appearance. It’s incredible how refreshing a new haircut can be!
But how do we know what changes we need to make so that we’re on the right track with our health? Traditional Chinese Medicine has much wisdom to offer us in this respect.
Finding Balance with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
In the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is understood that the seasons affect bodily functions. Healing is a holistic process centred around aligning the human body with the 5 seasons: spring, summer, late summer, winter, and fall.
This is supposed to be the most effective way to heal, as it follows in the steps of our wise Mother Nature. And when has she ever led us astray, really?
A big part of TCM involves dietary guidelines about what foods to include seasonally, and what foods to omit. It is mostly what we consume that influences our body chemistry and inner workings, so this is the main focus. We are what we eat!
So let’s start with the basics. In TCM theory, there are 5 elements, each associated with a season, climate, taste, colour, and organ/set of organs.
As you can see, spring is connected with the element of wood, the climate of wind, sour tastes, the colour green, and the liver.
The above diagram doesn’t show it, but each season is also related to a dominant emotion. Spring is anger, summer is joy, late summer is pensiveness, fall is sadness, and winter is fear.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver and gallbladder are the dominant organs during spring.
As a side note, each organ is linked with an emotion. When an organ functions out of balance, we experience an influx of this linked emotion. So during spring, we are more likely to experience anger than usual, as the liver and gallbladder are overworking.
In order to find balance this spring, our main goal should be to balance out the energy of the liver so that it can function in harmony with other organs. Equal focus should be placed on attending to our emotions so we can experience peace and calm within.
We can do this by eating and omitting certain foods, as well as employing emotional healing strategies.
How to Balance the Liver with Diet
Sour is the taste that corresponds with the season of spring. It is affiliated with the liver and gallbladder, as it stimulates their functioning, causing them to produce and excrete bile.
Because these organs are already dominant during spring, TCM advises that we should reduce our consumption of sour foods. Instead, try introducing more sweet and pungent tastes to regulate the liver’s “Qi”, or vital energy.
Foods to Eat
(sweet flavours that neutralize the liver’s Qi)
E.g. Yam, pumpkin, wheat, dates, glutinousrice, milk, peanuts, chestnuts, honey, dates
(pungent flavors that stimulate the liver’s Qi)
E.g. Onions, leeks, leaf mustard, fresh ginger, cilantro, fresh leafy greens, sprouts from seeds.
Foods to Reduce (sour foods)
E.g. tomatoes, pineapple, apple, strawberry, pears, oranges, olives, vinegar
Foods to avoid: Deep-fried and oily foods, processed foods, frozen foods, anything with chemicals, refined sugar, alcohol.
Emphasis should be on eating as clean as possible so the body can adjust to the shift of the seasons. Remember to stay hydrated to allow the body to flush out toxins.
***Dietary recommendations will vary from person to person, based on their biological constitution. It’s best to consult with a TCM professional to understand your body’s needs at this time. This is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.***
Finding Balance with Hatha Yoga and Yin Yoga
Any day of the year is a great time to do yoga, but springtime is even more advantageous. Active yoga practices like Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Modo Flow will help us balance out the Qi in our system at this time, expelling stagnant energy and creating space for fresh energy to flow.
Since the liver is our featured organ for the season, focusing on asanas that boost its efficacy is highly recommended. Include these poses in your sequences as much as possible and hold for 30 seconds each.
Hatha Yoga Poses to Support the Liver
Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
This asana creates length in the Transverse & Rectus Abdominis muscles which bolster your liver in place. Stretching the front cavity of the body in this way stimulates and massages the liver and increases blood flow to the area. Breathe deeply to intensify the effect, specifically focusing on expanding the breath into the abdomen.
Supta Matsyendrasana – Supine Twist
In addition to improving the mobility of our spine, supine twists do the wonderful job of stretching and toning our internal organs. Being a large organ, the liver gets much of the squeezing action here. Supine twists are excellent for the entire digestive system.
Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
Dhanurasana is one of the best poses for treating fatty liver disease. Stretching, activating, and strengthening the liver, Dhanurasana helps push out any fat deposited there, freeing up this blocked energy so it can be used elsewhere in the body.
Yin Yoga Poses to Support the Liver and Gallbladder
There’s nothing like a tranquil yin yoga sequence to wrap up an energizing practice. Focus on poses that target the liver and gallbladder meridians, such as:
- Butterfly pose
- Straddle pose
- Swan pose
- Shoelace pose
Check out this fantastic yin yoga sequence designed especially for the liver and gallbladder, here.
Finding Balance Through Emotional Healing
The liver is responsible for regulating emotions in the body, which means spring is a time when emotions are high. We might find ourselves more easily irritated and sensitive, reacting to things that normally wouldn’t get on our nerves.
Alongside a healthy diet to promote healthy functioning of the liver, it’s important to stay on top of our emotions.
Here are a few ways we can attend to them lovingly:
- Gratitude Journaling
- Meditating on the heart chakra
- Engaging in creative projects
- Walking outside in nature
- Taking your yoga practice outdoors
- Clearing clutter and rearranging furniture to welcome changes
Springtime is all about new beginnings. Everything springs back to life – including us. Let’s make sure we spring back with full force and maintain that integrity!
Attend to your diet at this time, making sure to eat as clean as possible, and place emphasis on supporting the liver and gallbladder function. In addition, don’t forget to give equal care to your arising emotions at this time.
Come join us as we honour the Spring Equinox with 108 Sun Salutations, on Saturday, March 21st! It’s the perfect way to shift into spring. You might also find Amanda, Risa and Katie’s Relax & Renew Workshop, in March, to be the perfect introduction to the season.
Much love and light,
Kyneret has been practicing and teaching yoga for over a decade. She began as a yoga teacher for Modo Yoga Maple in 2012, and has recently set off on a nomadic adventure to South East Asia. She remains active within our Modo community as a blog writer.
When not writing, she is fully immersed in the day-to-day adventures of travel life and actively seeks out as many foreign yoga experiences as possible to further her knowledge and skills! You can follow Kyneret’s travels on her instagram account @planes_trains_autoimmunity