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The Five Phases can represent the change in seasons
Spring In Your Step:
Chinese Customs for the Winter

Celebrating his control over his environment through technology, modern man has unfortunately forgotten how to live in harmony with the natural world. In putting himself above the natural order, he has lost his most intrinsic understanding of health. This is evidenced in the growing number and pervasiveness of lifestyle-related diseases and other "modern" mental-emotional disorders.

Contrary to the trend toward controlling the nature, Chinese Medicine believes that humans must live in accordance with it. Within this view, spring is ostensibly seen as the first in a cycle of five seasons. It is when the active Yang energies of the world start to emerge from the dead of the winter season and ebulliently spring outward with a burst of life. Plants germinate and flower, animals come out of hibernation, and the temperature warms as the day lengthens. Accordingly, people should start to gradually increase their physical and mental activity. In doing so, we prevent our increasing energy from becoming pent up and stagnating: imagine a covered pot of boiling water - unless the heat is reduced or the steam allowed to vent, the water will boil over.

While the cold of winter gives way to balmier temperatures, spring weather is highly transitional and changeable. The Chinese believe that it is windier in spring, and that wind can induce all kinds of sicknesses - from common colds to allergies to rashes. In addition to this external wind, we are also susceptible to internal wind at this time, manifesting as tremors, muscle twitching, and itching. Therefore, it is the utmost importance to minimize exposure to the elements while still keeping yourself from getting overheated.

Further, following the "Five Phases View" of Chinese medicine, our Liver system is easily influenced during spring. Highly involved in the maintenance of our emotional well-being and our overall health, Liver energies should be sufficient and flowing smoothly. Some Chinese customs include:

  • Getting up early, going to be late. With our energy rising, we should prevent it from stagnating through increased activity throughout the longer day.
  • Do light exercise. Yoga, swimming, Taiji, walking, deep breathing, and similar exercises all help to disperse excess Qi and maintain a smooth flow of energy throughout the system.
  • Dress accordingly. Due to the transitional nature of spring, it can be hot one day and cold the next and many people catch colds. Be sure to dress appropriately and prevent excess exposure to wind.
  • Avoid sleeping in front of an open window or fan. While sleeping, when your defensive yang energies circulate more deeply, you are more prone to catching colds. It is best to keep covered with at least a light sheet.
  • Eat foods that nourish and harmonize the Liver system. Since the Liver system is especially active during the spring, it is best to adjust your diet so as to strengthen it without causing stagnation.
  • Make a "Chinese New Year" resolution. Following the Lunar calendar, Chinese New Year is also a celebration of the anticipated arrival of Spring. During spring, seeds germinate, animals emerge from hibernation, and flowers begin to bloom. It is the perfect time to start a new activity or to motivate yourself to accomplish a goal.