The end of summer, when it is not quite fall yet but there is a definite change in the air, is an actual season in traditional Chinese Medicine: Late Summer. When we are moving back into some sort of a routine after the freedom of summer – even though in these times of the pandemic nothing may feel truly free or like a routine – we need to take care of ourselves to stay grounded and nourished. Late summer is associated with the Earth Element, also referred to as: The Mother.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”) is based on the Five-phase theory (sometimes called: Five-element theory). This theory suggests that there are five elements in nature that cycle in phases through the seasons and our organs: Earth, Water, Wood, Metal and Fire. The five elements represent energies that succeed each other in a continuous cycle. Being aware of this cycle and recognizing the relationship between the elements is essential for maintaining (or creating) optimal balance in our physical body as well as for mental and emotional health. In order to maintain this optimal health we also need to support an unobstructed flow of Chi through the meridians in our body, and keep a generative balance between the elements. This is why it is helpful to have an understanding of how the seasons and the elements are related.
The characteristics of the Earth Element are those of the archetype of the Mother: grounding, caring and nourishing. When our Earth Chi is strong and fluid we are able to take good care of ourselves and others. It fosters clear thoughts and a capacity to create a peaceful atmosphere in both our inner and outer world.
The organs related to Earth are the Spleen and the Stomach. In TCM the Spleen is considered the primary organ of digestion. The Spleen rules transformation and transportation: it extracts the essence from the food we ingest and transforms it into Chi. TCM also suggests that the Spleen governs our blood and keeps it in its proper path. It rules our muscles and is responsible for their tone and strength. Moreover it regulates the moisture under our skin. Muscle aches and other muscle related issues, indigestion and difficulty with fluid balance may be a sign of imbalance in the Earth element*. The Stomach is the organ of receiving and ripening. It is like a cauldron in which we create a nourishing meal.
The emotion associated with the Earth element is worry; the unending stream of thoughts about anything and everything that could go wrong. When Earth is present in excess – for example after a prolonged period of relative quietness and introspection, or after being stuck at home for too long as is the case for many of us nowadays – we become overprotective, meddlesome and overbearing. On the other hand, Earth deficiency – which could be the result of too much planning, being too assertive – will lead to clinging, wavering and a sense of being scattered.
In general, finding stability without stagnation is an effective way to support the Earth element. Taking into account a balance between giving and receiving. Nourishing practices like Yin and Restorative Yoga are very grounding. Writing about the questions: “What do I need?” “How do I nourish myself?” can help to bring more balance. Practicing Loving Kindness towards yourself to enhance self-worth is equally supportive.
A simple Yin Yoga pose that affects the Spleen and Stomach meridians, and so enhances chi flow into those organs, is Dragon Pose:
To get into the pose:
- Start on the hands and knees;
- Bring the right foot forward on the inside of the right hand, so the knee is stacked over the ankle and the foot is flat on the floor;
- Place your hands on blocks on either side of the front foot, so you can come more upright;
- Slide the left knee back until there is enough (not too much, not too little) sensation in the front of the left hip;
- Relax the inner thigh muscles to allow the pelvis to come forward and down.
To get out of the pose:
- On an exhale, move the hips away from the front foot;
- Place the right knee next to the left, and notice the effects of Dragon Pose.
Recommended hold time:
- 3 – 5 minutes
Repeat on the other side
The use of essential oils** is also an effective way to support our emotions and overall wellbeing. Myrrh essential oil is the Oil of Mother Earth. It is especially beneficial for grounding. Myrrh helps eliminate doubt and worry when you are faced with chaos and/or confusion, writes Margaret Ann Lembo in her book The Essential Guide to Aromatherapy and Vibrational Healing. Apply a drop under the feet in the morning and/or before meditation.
Vetiver essential oil is “the restorative stabilizer”. This oil reminds us to grow our roots deep down in the earth, like Vetiver grass does. Apply a drop under the feet before going to bed for a restful night’s sleep.
Understanding what your body – and mind – need during this time of year will allow you to stay balanced and healthy. Take 5 minutes a day to sit still and notice your breath, or just practice one Yin Yoga pose. Spending some time journaling, taking a hot (foot) bath with Vetiver oil and Epsom salt (add 5 drops of oil to 1 cup of salt before putting it in the bath), or quietly drinking a cup of your favorite tea without doing anything else, are simple ways to support yourself and keep the Earth element nourished.
* This article is not intended, nor should be used, to diagnose or treat any discomfort or disease.
** Always make sure you use essential oils that are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade. I love working with dōTERRA oils for their purity and the humanitarian work this company does. To order your oils, and learn more, click here.