Wellness in the New Year

Happy Chinese New Year friends! This time of year we celebrate and welcome a brand new year but did you know that the Jie Qi, “Li Chun” begins in two days. Literally translated Li Chun is “Spring Begins.” You might be thinking “What? February? Spring?” This is arguably one of the colder months, especially in the Northwest. But in the tradition of Chinese medicine emphasis is placed on where the season is heading (or it’s energetic). The Importance of Jie Qi Since ancient times the Jie Qi (the periods of time within a year correlating to the seasons) have been used to aid human beings attempting to live in harmony with nature. It was considered far more auspicious for one’s fortune, luck, health and psyche to be in harmony with the seasonal energetics of nature. By doing so less energy and effort were expended helping to boost longevity. Each Jie Qi lasts 15 days and has associated behaviors from the natural world. For example during Li Chun, the East wind stirs from it’s icy depths (cold winds), insects begin to stir from their hibernation, and the fish in the frozen lakes and rivers begin to wake and be seen closer to the surface. The presence of these signs from nature confirms Li Chun has arrived. The Rhythms of Our Lives and Our Health The Ancient Chinese recognized a link between the natural rhythms of nature and our own bodies’ rhythms. This is in addition to the cycles we recognize such as menstrual and circadian cycles. For the Ancient Chinese the cycle of the day holds high importance as does the cycle of the year. Why is the first month of the year, the first month of Spring when it is so cold? The explanation is in the energetics of this time of year and the importance of movement. The Jie Qi before Li Chun is Da Han or “The Big Cold” which is the coldest time of the year. At this transition we move from the coldest part of the year into a time of warming and increased activity. Li Chun is the period of the year when heat and warmth begin to return to nature (At least in the Northern Hemisphere). It is still cold but with each Jie Qi, it becomes warmer, until, inevitably in the Summer, the hottest day will arrive and cold will begin returning to the world in a perpetual cycle. How Does this Affect Your Health? The energetic quality of Li Chun can be likened to the early blooming of trees or plants as they begin to show the first signs of buds. Eventually they will open into flowers bursting through the snow or frost teasing us with their first bloom of color and green, promising others will follow. But it is still cold. Temperatures can waffle between extremes and the climate can be in violent transition with windstorms and blustery precipitation. As with nature our bodies can struggle to transition between wakefulness and slumber while wrestling with fatigue and constraint. Have you noticed how many people experience lingering cold or flu this time of year? How much more difficult it is to wake in the morning feeling rested? Do joints and muscles seem more sore and tight? Self-care during Li Chun Activity At this time, we as acupuncturists, encourage our patients to move, but not with rigorous intense exercise. We recommend gentle stretching exercises that help the body wake, and prepare for activity. We have some stretches that we often prescribe, and they are simple, gentle and fast. Stretching warms the muscles while also making them more elastic, reducing the potential for injury. Slow purposeful movements and stretching with exercises like Qi Gong, Tai Ji and Yoga help the body wake from its Winter rest and the constricting tendencies of Cold. This supports the natural tendency of the body during Li Chun. It is also very important to layer clothes, especially outside, in order to be able to adapt to changing conditions commonplace this time of year. Sleep During Li Chun rest and sleep cycles should follow the light of day. The sun goes to bed early and so should we. This means getting to sleep (not to be just in bed, but closed eyed and in REM) by 11pm and waking up early. Diet The best foods to eat to help our bodies wake with the season are those that have a “push through” quality in their flavors and form. For example chives, bean sprouts, pea shoots, sprouted grains, etc. shoot through the earth (or their shells) and stretch out reaching towards the light of the sun. We should increase garlic, onion, radishes, etc in our diet during Li Chun because of their robust fragrant qualities. White Center Wellness can help During Li Chun, which is a season of awakening, it is important to be well rested and to keep your body and muscles flexible, strong and gently moving. If you are noticing your body is already suffering from the ailments that can be pervasive during Li Chun such as cold, flu, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, or aches and pains, schedule an appointment today. We at White Center Wellness Clinic can help return your body to a state of health through acupuncture, medicinal herbs and bodywork. It is the deep breath before waking and the morning stretch from slumber that are critical for one to be in a healthy state of being, not only to start your day but to begin your new year. Consider us your partners in restoring and maintaining a healthy balance.