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.

 

The Wood Element and its Meridian Stretches

What is Wood Element?

The Wood Element is one of the five elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory (TCM). 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. Therefore, if one element is out of balance, it will affect the other four elements; and when one element is weak or imbalanced, others have to take on the extra load to compensate.

Five Elements

In the last Blog, we talked about Water Element and its meridian stretches. Water supports wood. Now, we are in the Spring Season which belongs to the Wood Element. Our Liver organ and Gallbladder organ belong to the wood element. The functions of the wood element are distribution and storage. The liver purifies and stores blood; it also distributes blood when the body needs it. The gallbladder produces and stores bale; it releases it when the body needs the bale to break down oily foods that we consume in our diet.

Liver is the Yin organ and Gallbladder is the Yang organ, and their meridian channels run on the side of the body. Most of the liver meridian line runs on the interior side of our legs, and most of the Gall Bladder meridian line runs on the posterior side of our legs and sides of the body.

The Liver meridian consists of 14 major acupressure points starting at the lateral side of the big toenail and going up between the big toe and the second toe to the medial side of the ankle. It runs on the posterior side of the tibia bone to a point two third of the way up the leg, then it curves away from the bone towards the medial end of the knee crease. From there, it runs up the inside of the thigh through the genital, the groin and the lateral abdomen to the fourth inter-costal space counting from bottom of the rib-cage.

The Gall Bladder meridian channel starts at the lateral corner of the eye and travels down to the jaw and the side of the head, wraps around the ear, then the occipital ridge. From there, it travels down the upper border of the trapezium to the midpoint of the shoulder and goes underneath the outline of the scapula to the armpit and travels side of the ribcage to the waistline and hip. It keeps travelling down the lateral side of the buttock and descends through the midline of the side of the upper and lower leg and then through the front of the lateral malleolus, then along the 4th metatarsal and finishes on the side of the 4th small toe. With 44 acupressure points in total, the Gall Bladder meridian is the third longest meridian line.

The tissues that wood element governs are our tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles. The sense organ for the wood element is our eyes. Its physical manifestations are the finger nails, hands and feet. The skin colour for the wood element is green or yellow when the organ is out of balance, body odour is a rancid smell, and the body fluid for the wood element is tears. A damaging climate for the wood element is wind.

The time of day for the wood element is between 11pm at night and 3am in the morning. The yang organ ‘gall bladder’ occupies the time between 11pm and 1am, and the yin organ ‘liver’ occupies the time between 1am and 3am in the morning. The favourite colour for the wood element is Green and its favourite taste is sour. The positive emotion for the wood element is humour and patience; the negative emotion is anger and impatience. When ones wood element is out of balance, the person tends to shout and have clipped voice.

The body areas that associate with wood elements are joints, knees and especially the right shoulder. In general, the wood element looks after the muscular system of the body.

Nurturing foods for the wood element are wheat, leafy green veggies such as broccoli, spinach, celery and cabbage. Foods that can activate Liver energy are basil, bay leaf, leek, onion, coffee, cabbage, black pepper, garlic ginger and peppermint. Foods that can calm liver yang energy from rising are celery, lettuce, seaweed, rhubarb, watercress, spinach, lemons, apples bananas and yogurt. Foods that can relax or soften liver are black sesame, celery, lettuce, plum, tomatoes and apple cider vinegar. Foods that can nourish liver blood are plum, kiwi fruits, cherry, grapes, apples sesame seed, sunflower seeds, beetroot and small quantities of red wine.

Exercises that can help to strengthen the wood element are gardening, swimming, walking, Tai Chi, meridian stretches and meditation.

Regular shiatsu massage can also help the body to invigorate the flow of liver energy, relax the liver organ and brings the wood element back to harmony.

Benefits of the Meridian Stretches

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

Gall Bladder Meridian stretches

Gall Bladder Stretches 1Gall Bladder Stretches 2

Sit with your legs flat and straight on the ground. Cross your right leg over your left knee, with the left elbow resting against the outer side of your right knee to create a restraint. Turn your body to look over your right shoulder as far as you can until you can feel the stretch on your right hip and thigh. Repeat on the opposite side.

Liver Meridian stretches

Liver stretches 1 Liver stretches 2

Spread your legs far apart as possible, like performing a 180 degree split. Reach your arms on one side all the way until you can touch your toes and feel the stretch in your inner thigh and the side of your ribcage. Repeat on the opposite side.

Meridian Stretches for Water Element: Kidney and Urinary Bladder Meridians

Winter has arrived a month earlier than usual. It is now time to strengthen our ‘water element’ for the winter months. The water element in Five element Chinese Medicine Theory consists of the Kidneys, the Urinary Bladder, and their associated meridian channels.

The Kidney meridian consists of 27 major acupressure points starting at the soles of our feet and finishing just below the clavicle bone on our chests. The Urinary Bladder meridian channel starts between the eyes and finishes on the side of the little toes. With 67 acupressure points in total, the Urinary Bladder meridian is the longest.

A well balanced water element requires a good flow of Qi (energy), and blood circulation in the meridians just mentioned, and has an impact on ones emotional and physical wellbeing. When the water element is out of balance, a person may feel depressed, fearful, insecure, and lacking in confidence. In contrast, a person with a balanced water element is likely to display courage and determination. Physical effects of imbalance include insomnia, trembling, lower back pain, frequent urination, thinning of the head hair, hearing loss, ankle and wrist pain, and feeling cold all the time.

Foods that are good for the water element are sea vegetables, sea weed, fish, oysters, mussels, tuna, pork, boiled eggs,  black sesame, eggplant, sweet potato, celery, cucumber, lettuce, adzuki beans, red kidney beans,  lentils, apple, banana, grapes, raspberries, chestnut, pistachio, and walnuts.

Exercises that can help to strengthen the water element are swimming, walking, Tai Chi, Qi Kong, meridian stretches and meditation.

Shiatsu massage and oriental therapies such as moxa and sliding style cupping can also help strengthen the water element, restoring balance and activating the body’s self healing power.

The first two photos demonstrate Urinary Bladder Meridian Stretches, and the last two photos show Kidney Meridian Stretches.

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Sit flat on the floor, with your toes pointing up, take a deep breathe and breath-out as you stretch your arms towards your toes with your thumbs pointing down. Reach as far forward as you can, hold in that position and breathe naturally to feel the stretches under your legs. Remember not to push beyond your own limitation.

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Stretch your right arm forward and retract the left leg by moving your left heel inward. Repeat the same on the other side. Breathe naturally to feel the stretches in your inner thighs. Remember not to push beyond your own limitation.

 

Tips for healthy eating

Tips for healthy eating

I can remember when I was a kid, I always got told off for eating too fast, for eating cold meals, and for being picky with my foods. Well, it makes sense to chew your foods in your mouth properly and enjoy the taste of your food. By doing that, you have already completed 70 percent of the digestive work for your stomach and avoided food stagnation (energy blockages caused by undigested food in the digestive system).

Avoid eating cold meals because your digestive system will use extra energy to bring the food up to body temperature; that means less energy available for your stomach to process the food. Therefore, try to have well cooked meals, especially in winter time. Avoid cold raw foods in winter, such as salad; it’s just too cold for the body to heat up and digest easily. It is also a good idea to avoid cold drinks with your meals because they too will need to be warmed in the stomach, and can dilute the acids necessary for digestion. Drink warm jasmine green tea with your meals if it’s a bit dry; green tea can help your digestion, but do not flood your spleen by drinking too much.

Avoid eating your meals when you are in a rush, stressed or angry, as your body releases toxins into your digestive system. When you are agitated and your heart beat increases, energy is being diverted to the liver to filter and supply blood. Insufficient stomach and spleen energy in your digestive system will create food stagnation, unburned fat, dampness and phlegm in the body system. Rule of thumb: eat your meals in a relaxed manner, and enjoy every mouthful.

Avoid strict food regimes, or fad diets, and ensure that you eat a balanced diet that includes seasonal fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables produced ‘in season’ are superior to those kept for months in cold storage because they are fresh and full of life force and nutrients. Eat more fruits and raw vegetable in summer, and well cooked meals in winter.

Rich foods, especially those high in sugar, provide too much stimulation to the spleen and affect the body’s production of insulin. Excessive consumption of sweet foods increases the risk of diabetes.

Regular exercise is vital, as it helps your digestive system to burn off any excess fat and sugar; tone up your muscle and strengthen your spleen. Regular exercise can also increase your appetite and bowel movement for a healthy digestive system.

It is better to eat several small meals a day than one or two large meals. Consuming large meals can over work your digestive system, and you may feel tired afterwards because your body has used up lots of energy to digest the food. Small meals make it easier for the digestive system to process and absorb nutrients.

Enjoy your food and eat healthy!