The Earth Element and its Meridian stretches

We have now covered Water, Wood and Fire elements in previous blogs, and the Earth element is the second last element that we will discuss. In Chinese medicine theory, the Earth element houses our intellect or ‘Zhi’ in Chinese, ‘智‘. One with a balanced Earth element will have a clear mind. On the other hand, one with an imbalanced Earth element might have muddy thinking. In the element chart shown below, Fire supports Earth, Earth feeds Metal, Wood controls Earth, and Earth controls Water. They are inter-related; should one be out-of-balance, it will greatly affect the other elements.

earth-element

The Earth element consists of the Stomach and Spleen organs, its meridian channels and vital pressure points. The functions of the Earth element are transformation, assimilation and satisfying needs. The Earth element acts like a Reserve Bank and a defence department of the body; it supplies nourishment, energy, Qi and blood to the body and also the body’s immunity system. The roles of the stomach are to break-down foods that are consumed by the body so that it can be transformed into useful energy or blood that circulates throughout the whole body.

The Earth element meridian channels covered most of the front of the body, and the tissue it governs are muscle and flesh. The sense organ for earth is the mouth, the sense is taste, physical manifestation is flesh, the body skin colour is yellow or brown when it is out of balance, its body odour is fragrant, and it produces sticky saliva when it’s out of tuned. The weather season for the earth element is late summer, the damaging climate for earth is humidity or dampness. The direction for earth is the centre. The spleen occupies the time of day from 9am to 11am. The stomach covers the time of day from 11am to 1pm; these are the prime time to nourish one’s Earth element. The Earth element likes sweet flavours, but too much sweet will damage the spleen. Negative emotions for the Earth element are worry, cynicism and jealousy; positive emotions for earth are sympathy, compassion and groundedness. Belching occurs when earth element is not running smoothly. The body parts that related to Earth element are knees, elbows and mid back. The Earth element also controls the lymphatic system of the body.

The Earth element can be damaged by the overeating of raw vegetables, oily fried foods, iced drinks, cold foods from the fridge and over-consumption of green or black tea. In wintertime, one might think that having raw salad is healthy and fresh diet, but according to Chinese medicine dietary theory, one should consume well cooked meals in winter instead.

Over consumption of raw cold foods can cause the development of fluid stagnation and dampness in the body system. The Spleen is responsible for transforming and transporting fluids, and congestion of fluids develops in the body when the Spleen energy is down. When the Spleen is low in energy, the organ is not producing the right amount of enzymes to break down the foods consumed and also weakens the body’s immunity due to lack of energy circulation and nutrient supply.

As mentioned before, the Earth element also looks after our intellect. Overthinking or paying too much attention to details can result in a compromised Earth Element. Cluttered thinking or fixated thinking would be an indication of an Earth imbalance. Lack of focus and foggy minds are caused by spleen energy deficiency. Spleen Qi deficiency is caused by excessive accumulation of dampness or phlegm in one’s body system.

A well balanced earth element has the ability to take in nourishment, to transform fresh food energy into Qi and Blood to supply to the body and to maintain good health and balance.

Physical and emotional symptoms that indicate an out-of-balanced Earth element are, overthinking, worrying, obsessing about details, lack of sympathy, lack of grounding, carving for sweets, clinging, nausea, diabetes, unexplained weight gain, fluffy muscles, submissive behaviour, low body immunity, stomach problems, irritable bowel syndromes.

The Stomach is the yang organ and the Spleen is the yin organ in the Earth element. The Spleen meridian consists of 21 pressure points. The first point of the spleen meridian Sp 1 starts from the medial side of the big toe nail, then it travels up on the medial side of the ankle. Sp 6 is a point where the three yin meridians meet which is located four fingers’ width above the medial malleolus. Sp 6 harmonises liver, nourishes kidney and regulates the menstrual cycle. Sp 9 is located on the medial side of the leg and below the knee, a diagnostic point for dampness accumulation in one’s body. Sp 10 is located 3 fingers width just above the medial edge of the superior border of the knee cap, and is an important point for treating knee problems. Then it ascends on the medial side of the leg, then through the crotch area to the floating rib, then continues to travel up to the 2nd rib. Sp 21 finishes up on the side of the body about 4 finger’s width down from the crease of the arm and the chest.

The stomach meridian starts from below the eyes at St 1, then travels down to the side of the mouth at St 4, and through St 6 located on the side of the jaw at the prominence of the masseter muscle. The meridian then travels up to the side of the forehead at St 8, then descends down to the clavicle bone at St 10 and through St 12 which is located in the middle of the clavicle bone, 4 fingers’ width from the mid-line of the body. Then there are 7 pressure points descending down the chest on top of the rib cage in line with the nipple, and 12 pressure points travelling down the abdomen about 2 fingers’ width from the mid-line. St 30 is located on the upper border of the pubic bone, then travels outward to the top of the leg. There are 4 pressure points on top of the thigh, and 6 pressure points on the lower leg along the shin-bone. An important pressure point here to note is St 36, about 4 fingers width down from the kneecap; it regulates the digestive system, menstrual cycle, strengthening the body’s immunity and overall energy flow. Then 5 pressure points travel down the middle of the foot to the last point St 45 on the second toe nail. There are 45 pressure points all together, making it the second longest meridian channel in the body.

Nourishing foods and drinks for the Earth element are millet, root vegetables such as carrot, potato and sweet potato, pumpkin, apple, apricot, banana, beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, cherry, corn, cucumber, eggplant, fig, ginger, grapefruit, kelp, lettuce, lychee, orange, parsley, parsnip, pea, pear, peach, pineapple shiitake mushroom, strawberry, barley, oats, peanut, rice , soya bean, green tea, cider vinegar, and mineral water. Animal based nourishing foods for the Earth element are beef, butter, catfish, chicken, duck, lamb, milk, rabbit and veal.

Exercises that can help to strengthen the Earth element are singing, Karaoke, swimming, walking, Tai Chi, meridian stretches, Pilates, walking meditation, weight-based workouts, cycling and yoga.

Regular shiatsu massage can promote blood circulation and energy flow to release physical tension and emotional stress within the body and harmonise the organs and its meridians in the Earth element.

Benefits of the Meridian Stretches

Regular practice of Meridian stretches can increase your muscle tone, body flexibility, immunity, blood circulation, promote the smooth flow of energy in the twelve meridian channels and nourish each of the internal organs.

Spleen Meridian stretches (9am-11am)(yin)(earth)

Stomach Stretch

Sit like a Japanese Geisha with your bottom touching the floor

Spleen Stretch Spleen Stretch 2

Lift your right leg outward and use your big toe knuckle as the pivot point and repeat the same for your left leg as shown above. You should experience the stretching sensation on the interior side of your leg through to your groin.

Stomach Meridian stretches (11am-1pm)(yang)(earth)

Stomach Stretch

Back to the Geisha sitting position.

Stomach 1

Use your arms and elbows to support your body as you lower your back to the floor.

Stomach 2

Advanced position (Please note, this is a very strong stretching position, not recommended for people with a bad back)

The Fire Element and its meridian stretches

What is the Fire Element? The Fire Element is one of the five elements in the Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory (TCM). As we discussed previously, the five elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood, as shown in the diagram below. They are inter-related; they support each other in a clock-wise direction. Wood controls Earth, Earth controls Water, Water regulates Fire, Fire controls Metal, and Metal controls Wood. Therefore, if one element is out of balance, it will affect the other four elements; and when one element is out of balance, others have to compensate for the losses.

fire-element

In the last blog we talked about the Wood Element and its meridian stretches, Wood supports Fire, and Fire supports Earth. The Fire Element is the biggest element amongst the five. It consists of the Heart organ, Small Intestine, Pericardium and Triple heater. The functions of the Fire element are integration, assimilation, circulation and protection. The Heart is the centre and the engine of the body. It pumps oxygenated blood and nutrients around the body through a network of arteries and veins. It also removes unwanted waste products and carbon dioxide. It is the driver of the whole circulatory system.

In Chinese Medicine, the heart is the housing of “Shen” or “神“ in Chinese, which means our spirit, mind or consciousness. The heart is also known as the Emperor of the body; the Pericardium is the Emperor’s guard, and the Liver is the Emperor’s Commander.

The Pericardium is the outer layer of the heart. It consists of an inner serous membrane layer and a structural fibrous outer layer to keep the heart in the right place. The small intestine works with heart as the ‘yang’ pair organ. It absorbs nutrients from the food we eat and it completes the chemical digestion of the food we consume. The Triple Heater or triple warmer works with the Pericardium to aid in warmth circulation.  The body is divided into Upper warmer, Middle warmer and Lower warmer. Upper warmer consists organs such as the heart and lungs. Middle warmer consists of liver, gallbladder, stomach, and spleen. Lower warmer consists of small intestine and large intestine, kidney and urinary bladder.

The Heart meridian is relatively short, and only consists of 9 major acupressure points starting at the deepest part of the armpit Ht1. It then travels down between the biceps and the triceps towards the elbow Ht3, then the medial part of the anterior of the arm towards the wrist Ht7, and it finishes on the small fingernail’s base Ht9.

The Heart is the yin organ, and Small Intestine is the Yang organ in the Fire element. The Small Intestine meridian consists of 19 acupressure points. The channel starts from the ulnar side of the little finger nail base SI1. It travels along the edge of the hand to the wrist SI5, and up along the edge of the ulnar to the medial part of the elbow SI8, then it travels up in the middle of the triceps to the shoulder just above the crease SI9. It then zigzags through the scapula to cervical vertebra 7, SI15, then travels through the side of the neck to behind the jaw, to the cheek bone SI18, then back to the ear SI19 between GB2 and SJ21.

The Pericardium is also a yin organ. Its meridian starts from the lateral side of the nipple PC1 and travels up the chest to the same level of the axillary crease, then it descends along the interior side of the biceps to the inner elbow PC3, then it travels down the middle of the medial side of the arm to the wrist PC7, through the centre of the palm and finishes on the radial side of the middle finger nail PC9.

The Triple Heater meridian regulates body temperature and water passages within the three warmers. Its meridian has 23 pressure points. It starts from the ulnar side of the 4th finger TH1, travels up through the centre of the dorsal side of the wrist TH4, then travels up the middle of the forearm to the elbow bone TH10, and continue ascending through the back of the triceps to the back of the deltoid TH14. It then travels along the back of the shoulder just above the scapula TH15, then it ascends to the back of the ear TH17, and wraps around the back of the ear to the front of the ear just above SI19 and it finishes at the end of the eyebrow TH23.

Psychological impacts of fire element imbalance include jumpiness, nervousness, oversensitive, anxiety, lack of concentration and forgetfulness, paying too much attention to details, cautiousness and avoidance of social life. Physical symptoms of fire element imbalance are tension between scapulae, shortness of breath, palpitation, sweaty hands, tension around throat area, neck and shoulders tension, lower back pain due to blood stagnation in abdomen, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, restless, high blood pressure, cold extremities, itchy skins and swollen glands.

The tissues that fire element governs are blood vessels. The sense organ for fire element is tongue and the sense is speech. Good communication skills and speech indicates good heart energy. Its physical manifestation is complexion. When the element is out of balance, the skin colour might show red or purple, body odour is burnt smell, and body might have excessive sweat. The season for the fire element is summer; hot summer days are damaging weather for the fire element. The Fire element prefers a southerly direction to prevent excessive heat or hot weather. Colour preference for fire element is Red, and the element likes bitter taste. The negative emotions for this element are panics, excitement and nervousness.  Its positive emotions are joy, calmness and love. Laughing is good for the element, and talking too much will deplete the element’s energy. The body areas for the fire element are the chest and between the scapulae.

The time of day for fire element is between 11am and 3pm during the day, and 7pm to 11pm during the night. The yin organs of the fire element, heart and pericardium occupies the time between 11am to 1pm and 7pm to 9pm respectively. The yang organs of the fire element, small intestine and triple heaters occupie the time between 1pm and 3pm, and 9pm to 11pm respectively.

Nurturing foods for fire element are sweet corn and round leafy veggies. The heart houses the mind, spirit or consciousness. Foods that can calm the mind or Shen are lotus seed, red dates, oyster, lemons, adzuki bean, buckwheat and wheat. Foods that can nourish the heart blood are red grapes, rice, steak, chicken breast, beetroot and sweet corn. Foods that can reduce heat in the fire element are soybeans, asparagus, lettuce, celery, cucumber, rhubarb, seaweed pears, watermelon, pineapple and green tea. Foods that can regulate blood flow in the fire element are vinegar, radish, cinnamon, oats, red wine, eggplant, watercress, turnip, cherries and apple cider. Herbs that can invigorate energy flow in the fire element are Chinese Ginseng, angelica root, and water lily bulb.

Exercises that can help to strengthen the fire element are singing, Karaoke, swimming, walking, Tai Chi, meridian stretches, breathing meditation, chi-gong, Pilates, group exercise, and group dancing.

Regular shiatsu massage can promote blood circulation and energy flow to release physical tension and emotional tension within the body and harmonise the organs and its meridians in the fire element.

Benefits of the Meridian Stretches

Regular practice of Meridian stretches can increase your muscle tone, your body flexibility, your body’s immunity, blood circulation, smooth flow of energy in the twelve meridian channels and the nourishing of the internal organs.

Heart Meridian stretches (11am-1pm)(yin)(Fire)

Heart Stretch Heart Stretch 2

Place your feet sole to sole; breath-in as you rock your body from side to side and bring feet towards your groin. Breath-out as you bend your head forward as far as you can until your head touches your toes. Repeat the sequence six times. Be mindful with your breath, imagine that your heart meridian channels in your arms and legs are filled up with fresh energy and revitalise your heart.

Small Meridian stretches (1pm-3pm)(yang)(Fire)

Small Intestine Stretch Small Intestine Stretch 2

Place your feet sole to sole, hold your ankles with your hands, rocking your body from side to side and try to maintain your centre of gravity. Repeat the sequence six times.

Pericardium Meridian stretches (7pm-9pm)(yin)(fire)

Heart Protector StretchHeart Protector Stretch 2

Cross your legs, breath-in as you crisscross your arms and place your hands on your knees; breath-out as you bend your head forwards. Then, swap your arms, and crisscross your arms and place them on your knees, breath-out as you bend your head forwards. Repeat the sequence six times.

Triple Warmers Meridian stretches (9pm-11pm)(yang)(fire)

Triple Warmer Triple Warmer 2

Stand with your legs shoulder width apart and with your arms crisscrossed over your chest, breath-in and turn your waist to one side and breath-out; back to starting position, breath-in and turn your waist to the other side and breath-out. Repeat the sequence six times.