The Principles of the Wu Hsing (Five Phases or Elements)
The principle of Wu Hsing describes the flow of Qi and the balance of Yin and Yang. According to this principle, all change in the universe (macrocosm) and in your body (microcosm), occurs in five distinct phases. Each of these phases is associated with a particular time of year, a specific phase of energy in nature, and specific organs in your body. Change links together all aspects of nature, the seasons of the year, and your body’s organs and bodily processes. A practitioner of Ba Gua Zhang links together the state of the Qi whether stable, in excess, or in deficiency, to get an idea for physical, energetic and mental progression. This includes specific movements, breathing and meditation practices, specific foods and herbs, acupuncture or acupressure and body work to restore and balance the state of Yin/Yang and Qi.
Spring is the time of new birth and new growth. It is the long awaited change of winter to a happier more upbeat time. It is the time for seeds to sprout, flowers to bloom and the sun to begin to warm the earth anew. While winter was a time to conserve energy and reduce activity, spring is a time of regeneration, new beginnings and a renewal of the spirit. Spring belongs to the wood phase of the five elements or phases (Wu Hsing) and as such its two organs are the Liver and the Gallbladder. Now is the time to begin cleaning out the accumulated internal stagnation and garbage and beginning to build, save, and balance your own internal Qi. This is not a time for a physical detox effort, but it takes place at our energetic level. We will clear out and cleanse stagnating Qi. This is something that you will do each day with Qi Gong movement, food, and control of emotions.
The Mysterious Land of the Hun
According to Chinese Medicine the Liver is the Yin organ of the two wood organs. The liver’s job is to keep the flow of your body’s Qi and blood, as well as your emotions, running smoothly. Yet all too often, the villain of modern life — stress — causes Qi to stop flowing freely and to get stuck, or stagnate, in your body, and it prevent the liver from functioning properly. A poorly functioning Liver can have a profound negative effect on your other organs. The Liver is the body’s largest organ. It is considered to be the its master laboratory, in which nourishment for the entire body is stored and distributed. The Liver literally has hundreds of functions, including the formation of and the cleaning and filtering of the blood to help the body eliminate toxins and ensure its continued vitality. In the idea of Chinese Medicine the functions of the Liver go far beyond its physical functions and embraces its emotional and spiritual qualities as well.
It is said to be the home of the Hun, or ethereal soul. According to the Nei Ching the land of the Hun is the seat or “the soul, or spiritual faculties.” Its psychic faculties allow us to carry out our functions and responsibilities. Its psychic abilities and activities are like the Ziran, which causes a little seed to sprout and push its way through the dark soil and to finally emerge into the light, growing towards the life giving warmth of the sun. The Liver is often said to be like a general that leads an army and excels at strategic planning. It is the role of the Liver to make sure that all the body’s troops are working together for the benefit of the whole. Its main role is to keep everything flowing and thereby avoid stagnation and friction. The Liver rules flowing and spreading, which means that the Liver is responsible for keeping the free and easy flow of blood, energy, and emotions throughout the body, mind, and spirit. The Liver controls the Spleen. Therefore, in order to have good digestion, the liver must exert the proper amount of control on the stomach. Too much or too little control causes problems. You may suffer from abdominal distention or indigestion. You may burp a lot and have a sour taste in your mouth, which is the taste that is associated with liver. Or, you may gain weight. What then presents itself or appears as a stomach problem is really being generated by a liver dysfunction.
The Gallbladder is the Livers Yang partner in the wood phase of the Wu Hsing. The Gallbladder is a small organ that stores and intensifies the bile that is created in the Liver. It then pumps it into the body and bowls as needed. The Gallbladder plays the role of the wise decision maker occupying the position of an important and upright official who excels through his decisions and judgment. The Gallbladder helps to utilize the Liver’s vision and make the proper judgments and decisions to bring those visions to fruition.
The eye is the sense organ related to the liver,. So if you have eye problems, it may be a sign that deep down your liver is not functioning smoothly.
The tendons are the “tissue” or “sinew” associated with the liver. Chinese Medicine says strength comes from tendons, not muscles. It you want to be truly strong for your whole life, take a page from the cat’s book. It has strength, agility and flexibility, but it does not have a huge muscle mass. A cow is an animal with giant muscle mass, but little real strength. Do you want to be like a cat or a cow?
Anger and frustration are the emotions associated with the liver. Therefore, if you often feel irritable, have trouble unwinding from the day’s activities, are easy to anger, have trouble “going with the flow” and letting things go, or have difficulty with your ability to reason, your ability to reason, you are experiencing a liver function problem. Likewise, these negative emotions, especially if chronic or excessive, can seriously unbalance the function of your liver.
Wind is the environmental factor associated with the liver. Spring is the season of the liver.
East is its direction (so face East when you are doing the Qigong movements if you are having a problem with liver.)
Green is the color connected to the liver, so wear green in the liver’s season or when the liver is in deficiency. Even better wear blue or black because they are the color of Kidney and Kidney nourishes Liver.
Sour is the taste associated with the liver. If you have a sour taste in your mouth all the time or crave sour food, your liver is talking to you and asking you to rebalance its function.
There are so many things that we can learn from the Five Element Theory. Lets look again at liver. You will see that the season related to this organ is spring. Spring is an exciting time for most people. It is when nature awakens from winter’s rest and a sense of renewal fills the air. You and everything else are bursting with energy. Yet quite often people get allergies, elevated blood pressure, or other ailments appear with the arrival of spring. Why? Because when a season’s energy or Qi changes, your body must also match with these cycles of Universal energy change. If you can not, you will become sick. Therefore, if your life is always very stressful it has an affect on the amount of Qi you have available to deal with these changes, and health problems will appear in the season of the liver. Though your liver would like to pursue its natural course of “going with the flow” unfortunately, it just can not. Its Qi gets stuck (stagnates) and needs to be freed up.
So, in spite of the good feelings that this season fosters, you must learn to stay calm during the spring. Take things easy. Go slow. Take a nice long walk in the park or do other gentle exercises. Do not get caught up in spring’s intense energies.
Also, do not be fooled by the burst of change. Often the weather fluctuates in the spring so that it is cool one day, and then hot another and then cool again. To keep up with these weather changes, we wear less clothing or dress in layers, removing jackets and sweaters because it feels warm. While this seems like the logical thing to do it is really a problem because the true essence of spring is cold, and even if the temperature rises, you must use up your Qi to stay warm. Remember that Chinese Medicine is a holistic medical system whose foundation is Qi. Everything is about Qi or energy. Be smart and do not deplete your energy especially if you are trying to lose weight.
Here are some common signs that the liver is not functioning properly. Please understand that I am not speaking of your physical organ, I am referring to the way your liver performs the tasks that are ingrained or programmed into the organ itself and the energetic meridian.
- Brittle finger nails that break easily and have little or no half moons.
- Blurred vision; eyes that are dry, red, swollen, burning or tear easily. Chinese Medicine considers tears to be the fluid of the liver.
- Tendon problems. It also works the other way; problems with the tendon affect the liver’s ability to function properly – which is why I tell everyone to stay away from hard exercises that overwork or overstretch tendons, causing them eventually to lose their flexibility.
- Migraine headaches especially if they are on the sides of the head.
- Indigestion and bloating.
- Excess weight.
- Angry Moods. Outbursts of anger.
- Constantly, being stressed out.
- Yeast infections
- Any menstrual/PMS menopausal problems.
- Cold hands and feet. Remember, it is the liver’s responsibility to keep your blood flowing smoothly, and it’s not doing the job. Your circulation is compromised.
- Bruises easily (blood circulation is compromised).
- Bad breath.
- Shaking disorders such as Parkinson’s etc.
- Arthritis that moves throughout the body. This condition is caused by over exposure to the wind.
How To Keep Healthy and Happy During Spring
- Movement: The Liver needs movement especially at this time of year. Ba Gua Zhang provides just the right mix of physical, energetic, and mental exercise.
- Create Order: Go through your home and office and get rid of the stuff that you do not need. This can allow new things to enter your life. Imagine what you would like to create in your life and find ways to make plans to actuate those dreams.
- Food: See below.
- Let go of old grudges and resentments. Practice forgiveness.
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated
FOODS THAT HELP LIVER
|Bamboo Shoots||Bee Pollen||Broccoli Rabe|
|Lotus||Safflower oil||Scallions, onions and leaks|
|Vinegar||Leaf Mustard||Chinese yams|
Uncooked, frozen, and fried foods should only be taken in moderation since theses are harmful to the spleen and stomach if consumed in large amounts.
Enjoy plenty of Milk Thistle Tea. Milk thistle helps protect Liver cells from incoming toxins and encourages the Liver to cleanse itself of damaging substances, such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins, and even heavy metals.
Other Liver Associations
The color associated with wood is Green. Eat green to improve the liver’s overall function.
The Liver controls the tendons. According to Chinese medicine the Liver stores blood during times of rest and then releases it to the tendons during times of activity, maintaining tendon health and flexibility. Practice Wuji exercise to release tension and elongate the tendons.
The direction is East.
Extreme Emotions are Anger and Frustration.
Synergic feeling is Assertion and Will.
Sense organ is the eye. The old saying is, “the eye is the window to the soul” and in this case, is the Hun. The Liver opens to the eyes. Although all the organs may have something to do with the health of the eye, the Liver is connected to the function of the eye. There are many good eye exercises to perform at this time. Remember to give your eyes a break from the computer, television, and the phone once in a while.
The taste is sour. Foods and drinks that have a sour taste are thought to stimulate the Liver. Put lemon slices in your water, use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing.
The associated body fluid is tears.
Liver’s time is 1:00am until 3:00am.
Gallbladder’s time is 11:00pm until 1:00am
The odor is rancid.
The sound is shouting. Go out to your car. Put the radio on loudly and shout to your hearts content to get rid of anger.
By Shifu Glen Moore