The long winter is over, days are lighter for longer, trees are blossoming, spring flowers are singing their bright colours, and glimmers of sunshine bring a renewed sense of hope and excitement. Springtime really does seem to put a spring in my step.
All this activity and vitality can get things moving on all sorts of levels. This is perhaps one reason why people so often get colds this time of year, or flare-ups of skin complaints, digestive problems, headaches, joint problems and more. Sometimes emotional issues can come to the fore too. As uncomfortable as all of this can be, whatever is going on may well be an opportunity to clear or resolve things that have been lingering around too long already.
Spring and the Wood Element
As always, Chinese 5 Elements Theory provides an understanding of seasonal shifts that can be really helpful. Springtime relates to the Wood Element, and so the liver and gallbladder, the eyes and the tendons. During the winter the energy has been calmer and below the surface. Trees seem almost lifeless above ground, as the activity is all in the roots, and still waters run deep. Then everything literally springs to life, and suddenly everything is pushing upwards towards the light. Such a dramatic shift can be seen and felt everywhere, not least in our own bodies.
Spring Equinox – the tide turns
I sometimes describe the time around the Spring Equinox – when this shift happens – as a turning of the tide. The waters can suddenly get very choppy for a while before things settle down again. The difference between sinking and swimming at this time can sometimes be a matter of how well you are taking care of yourself.
Whatever gets dredged up from deep in your cells needs to find a clear path out, or may end up overloading your lymph, skin or the hub of your detoxification processes, your liver. Overloading in this way will be a key contributor to those skin breakouts (e.g. rashes, spots, eczema, psoriasis, itching etc.), achey and inflamed joints, headaches, nausea and blood sugar crashes. You may also experience more feelings of anger or frustration than usual – these being the emotions related to the liver and gallbladder. Or depression, a symptom of suppressed anger.
How to stay afloat
It may be tempting at this time to do more: cleanse, push, detox it all out. Sometimes the results can be amazing: clearer, brighter, happier, more focussed, more creative, more energy. Sometimes, however, this approach can feel too relentless, perhaps even aggressive, and it can be wiser instead to create calm and space, and a sense of being nurtured and held. From there, you might find that your body feels safe enough to unfurl, let go and gently skip into the summer months.
How do you know which is more appropriate for you right now? Find a quiet space, settle into your body and ask it. Get a sense of whether it wants to be held, or whether it’s up for playing. If you find it difficult to settle into yourself and listen, then perhaps try a gentle approach.
Five Elements Theory teaches us that the Wood Element resonates with the colour green, and sour flavours. Limes are a perfect combination of these, so if you’re feeling your liver may be a little stagnant, a touch of lime in your salad dressing or smoothie might be just the ticket. Squeezing half a lime into every glass of water or flavouring every meal you eat with limes would probably push your Wood Element to an uncomfortable extreme, however. Health is about balance and flow. It can be far more powerful to use foods as gentle suggestions, rather than the usual approach of “louder, harder, faster, more!”
You may naturally be more drawn to green foods as the days get lighter, and there is certainly more green around in nature already. Below is a spring stir fry recipe to help you respond to that while keeping the other flavours and colours in harmony too.
The same can be true of naturopathic techniques, such as enemas, dry skin brushing and seaweed baths. Sometimes a programme of frequent and even daily techniques can really help you to clear stagnation and stay buoyant in choppy waters. At other times it can be more appropriate to do one, and then allow your body a few days to respond to it. Then check in and see if that’s enough for now, or whether something additional would feel helpful. Supplements, too, can help to provide the nutrients you need right now, or overload your liver and irritate your digestion, depending on which and how often and how your body feels right now.
Putting the spring back in your step
Springtime is such a lovely opportunity to practise working in this way. Throwing out the books and instead following your body’s cues and wisdom.
If you’d like some personalised guidance to help you along your way, that’s what I do best. Book a one-to-one consultation, or come on one of my courses or retreats. So you can feel the spring in your step again.
Spring Stir Fry
1 onion (red or white) or leek
large handful of romanesco cauliflower florets (pictured) or broccoli florets
large handful chopped spring greens (or cabbage, kale or spinach)
1 inch fresh ginger
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2tsp turmeric (ground or grated)
chilli (ground or chopped) to taste
2tsp ground coriander
1/4-1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
tamari (wheat-free soya sauce) to taste
1 tin coconut milk
Short grain brown rice (soaked overnight and cooked for around 40-45 minutes till soft) or brown rice noodles (cooked for around 5-10 minutes till soft).
1 handful fresh coriander
Chop vegetables, garlic and ginger.
Stir fry the onions/leeks in a little coconut oil until they start to soften and go tranlucent.
Add the ginger, black pepper, corainder and chilli, stirring well.
Add in the carrots, cauliflower/broccoli and coconut milk. Simmer until the vegetables start to soften.
Add the greens and garlic, and cook till greens have started to soften.
Stir in the tahini to thicken the sauce, and add the turmeric, nutmeg and tamari, plus the zest of the lime, and a little of the juice. Taste to see if you need to balance the flavours.
Serve with the brown rice or brown rice noodles and garnished with chopped fresh coriander.