By Cathy Keenan
Our 3rd article brings us to the WOOD element (as it pertains in Chinese Medicine). I think this is a fitting time symbolically (the start of a new year) because Wood is associated with vision, imagination and dreams. For many people the beginning of a new year marks a time of reflection and a creation of new intentions and resolutions for the year to come.
The Wood element is associated with the Liver (and Gallbladder) and connected to the Spring season. In ancient China (and many other places on the planet) people observed that the environment changed during the seasons and took note of how animals, plants and the earth adapted themselves accordingly to live more in balance with the cycles of nature. The human body was seen as a miniature reflection of the cosmos. An entire universe working inside of us. We too have seasons that cycle through. Sometimes we have an exuberant amount of energy like the summer and sometimes we need to rest and recharge like the winter.
Wood is associated with Spring because it is a time of growth, expansion and buoyancy. Like the seed that has been lying dormant in the earth during winter conserving its reserves, in springtime it bounds forward with new intent to bring life to our planet. The wood element is about renewal, awakening and rebirth. The spirit of the Liver helps us organize and coordinate our ideas and visions into actions and change. The Liver is in charge of the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) (emotional/physical) and the emotion associated is anger. When we allow our anger/frustration to go unexpressed we stagnate and are unable to move forward. This inability to properly express oneself can manifest as either being under assertive or overly aggressive, headaches/migraines, menstrual and/or gynaecological issues, PMS, inability to adapt to change, depression….
The virtue of Wood is forgiveness and benevolence which is the opposite of anger unexpressed. Wood allows us to be well rooted in the past, to stand tall in the present and have the vision and foresight to move ahead in the future.
Tapping into the energy of spring (even if it’s the middle of winter) encourages us to stay in touch with our creativity. imagination and dreams. We can look to the trees for a lesson in standing tall by staying rooted, yielding to the winds of life by being flexible and agile and keeping our gaze upward and forward so we don’t lose sight of our life true purpose. The winds of Life can change unexpectedly and our flexibility can be a strength when needed.
In your (yin) yoga practice this month try approaching your practice with a sense of curiosity and playfulness. Give yourself permission to experiment with new and different postures or approaches to your practice. Try practicing with music, or with your eyes closed, chant, light a candle, try a new posture, do more twists (great for the liver) and incorporate more balance postures as you reflect on the strength and grace of the Wood element. Try spending more time outdoors (well dressed of course) and observe the trees in your neighbourhood. Watch how they move and sway with the winds.
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