In Chinese Medicine, it is the time of the Wood element with the color green and the climate of wind; hence, be mindful of the cool wind when you go outside to get sunlight. The organs that are associated with Wood are the Liver and Gallbladder. They govern the sense organ of sight, the eyes, and the tissues are the sinews. Interestingly, the emotion related to this time of year is anger/ frustration and the sound of shouting. I say "interestingly" because one would imagine after a long, cold winter, it feels like a relief to have sunlight and warmth. Which it is, if we are allowed to grow outward. But if you imagine yourself as a plant breaking through stone to come out to the light but being restricted when you have all that powerful energy in you, you would become frustrated and at some point, angry. It is a time of movement. All that storing of qi inward in winter needs to start to move outward. As the Yellow Emperor Inner Classic or Huang Di Nei Jing, Su Wen Chapter 2 states:
"The three months of spring,
they denote effusion and spreading.
In heaven and earth everything comes to life;
the myriad beings prosper.
Go to rest late at night and rise early.
Move through the courtyard with long strides."
It is the time of the year to move our bodies and minds. This is why many of us feel like beginning new projects or starting to exercise. It is not just us humans but the energy of the season that inspires us to movement. The reference to "move through the courtyard with long strides" arouses in me the feeling of stretching.
I like stretching. I began formal dance training at the age of 5 and continue movement training even till the present. I feel blessed when I can move and stretch. It is like breathing for me, existential and essential for life. When the Chinese say "sinews," they refer to tendons, ligaments and fasciae. This is fascinating as I realized that being flexible has more to do with our connective tissue, which are made up of collagenous, elastic and reticular fibers, than to do with our muscles or bones. More and more scientific research into the body is revealing that we do not know everything about the body. For the longest time anatomists thought that they discovered all there is to know about human anatomy. Then not so long ago, they realized that fasciae are not just "junk" tissues around organs and muscle, but a deep network of tissues that connect the whole body. Currently, more connective tissues are being discovered and they are realizing that stretching is a very important component to having a healthy body. In The Science of Stretch, Dr. Helene Langevin describes her research with stretching connective tissue with acupuncture and how deep the effects of this stretch are on a person.
For me, stretching goes even deeper than connective tissue; stretching my physical body brings me deeper into my mental, emotional and spiritual being. This is why I like practicing Tai Ji Quan, Qi Gong and Yoga. These practices incorporate breath, movement and stretching of my body, as well as the awareness of Qi. I have learned to focus and discipline my body-mind, being aware of sensations in my being as well as the environment that envelops me. I have learned to distinguish between a beneficial, stretching sensation and the sensation of ripping, piercing pain when I have overstretched; in other words, I have come to know the healthy boundaries of my body. This does not stop at the physical body, it extends to my awareness of the other aspects of my being, be it emotional, mental or energetic.
If you are sitting in your chair right now reading this blogpost, begin by opening your chest to the sky and lifting your arms above you. Feel how good that feels. It is now the time to move, turn off your digital device and get stretching!
Unschuld Paul U. (2003): Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen - Nature, Knowledge, Imagery in an Ancient Chinese Medical Test. London: University of California Press, Ltd.
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