Summer is most people’s favorite season. Generally, summer makes us feel better because it allows for spending more time outside. Being outdoors increases our exposure to the sun, which synthesizes vitamin D in our body that is good for our bones, and boosts our serotonin levels (the “happiness hormone”) because we tend to move more. However, there is also a risk of getting over-stimulated by our enthusiasm to do too much, stay in the sun too long, and having too many iced-coffees or alcoholic drinks. This may lead to feelings of irritation and agitation, which will impede your summer joy and make you long for winter. Those feelings are easy to prevent, however, when you know how to balance the Fire Element in you. This way, your summer will become even more enjoyable.
In a previous blog I have shared the Five-Phase Theory: there are five elements in nature that cycle in phases through the seasons and our organs. These elements are: Earth, Water, Wood, Metal and Fire. Fire is the element of passion and connection, and is associated with summer. It directs us to find a balance between spending too much time alone (withdrawal and isolation) and being overly outgoing and loosing ourselves (embracing and merging). The fire element helps us to direct our focus. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) the heart and small intestines are considered to have the same energetic qualities and seen as a pair, and are connected to the fire element. The heart stores our Shen (or: spirit) and anchors our mind. According to TCM the heart rules our blood and blood vessels, and regulates our blood flow, heartbeat and pulse. The heart blood embraces the heart spirit to allow it to peacefully disconnect from the world into sleep. When Fire is quenched it may lead to anxiety, heart palpitations and insomnia.
A healthy chi flow will nourish Fire. If the flow of chi through the heart and small intestines is deficient, we will feel disconnected, lost and depressed. Reversely, if there is excessive chi, we may act excitable, superficial and seductive. When Heart Chi is healthy, we live in a state of balanced joy. We are able to communicate clearly and effectively, and have a good intuition. We sense a passion for life; we are optimistic, enthusiastic and devoted. Smooth flowing Heart Chi allows us to manifest our dreams.
We can nourish the fire element with movement and dance, listening to music, practicing chest opening yoga poses and connection with self-expression through writing, painting, singing etc. The Heart meridian runs (roughly) from the inside of the little fingers up the inside of the arms through the shoulders into the chest and heart. Yoga postures and movements that open the chest and stretch the inner shoulders and arms will stimulate healthy Chi flow through the heart. When there is an excess of chi and the fire element is over stimulated, as can easily happen in summer, we are best supported by a grounding, slow yoga practice and contemplative writing, or walks in the early morning when it is cool(er). The opposite is true whenever there is a chi deficiency in the heart. During such times, especially in the winter, more invigorating yoga poses or workouts are appropriate.
Lastly, a word about nutrition: caffeine and alcohol increase the fire in our system. If you are already feeling (over) heated or irritated, you will benefit more from drinking decaffeinated (iced) coffee and non-alcoholic beverages in order to feel balanced. Enhancing your dishes with cooling herbs like mint and basil is more fitting than eating spicy foods. And did you know that room temperature water cools your body more efficiently than cold water?
May you stay balanced and even-tempered this summer!
Please enjoy this short Yin Yoga sequence that will stimulate the chi flow through the Heart Meridian. Watch it here.