If you’ve been reading my blog, following me on social media or coming along to any of my classes/workshops/events then you might have heard me talking about the 5-element theory. So, I thought it was about time I wrote a blog about this to offer some explanation and more information.
I first learned about this during my initial 200 hours Yoga Teacher Training, and honestly, I didn’t get it. Then when I was working on my Yin Teacher Training, we spent a bit of time going through each element and things started to click.
This is where the cycle begins and ends – water. Water is associated with the winter season, and it typically starts at the winter solstice in December, taking us up to the spring equinox in March. This time of the year slowly morphs from the depths of yin where the nights are darker, and the weather is cooler into the more yang of spring and the wood element.
The water element is associated with meridian pair of the kidneys and urinary bladder – it’s all about flow, keeping moving and not becoming stuck. With each season there are associated emotions which can demonstrate if we are in balance or not. Fear and it’s opposite, wisdom are the emotions associated with winter and the water element. Wisdom and knowledge help us to overcome whatever we are afraid of, whereas fear can leave us stuck like a frozen lake in the depths of winter. Too much fear might be a sign that we are out of balance and need to create more flow (like water) in our lives.
Having a balanced water element allows us to head seamlessly into the next season.
Wood is associated with spring and an uprising of energy, as we leave behind the more yin seasons and begin the build up towards the height of summer. The days are longer, flowers and leaves are returning, and nature is waking up all around us. The wood element is all about expansion and we can feel this explosion of energy within ourselves as we throw open the windows and set about some spring cleaning.
The liver and gall bladder are the associated meridians with the spring season, and the related emotion is anger. Working with these meridian lines we can find a healthy way to manage and process anger without allowing it to consume us. Spring is also associated with the eyes and vision. If we are out of balance here, we might not be able to ‘see’ our way forwards, which could lead to us being unable to embrace the joy of the summer season.
The summer solstice welcomes in the fire element and the peak of the yang seasons of the year. From this point we begin to slowly experience more yin as nature creates its endless balance by heading towards the more yin seasons again. The fire element is about socialising – heading out to meet friends, going on holiday and having some adventures. By being balanced in the previous elements we are in a good position to be able to enjoy the summer and all the opportunities it presents.
The fire element is associated with the heart, pericardium, small intestine, and triple burner. These meridian lines run along the arms and the upper body. An imbalance would see a lack of joy which would impede the ability to fully get involved in this season.
TCM adds a 5th season into the mix with the earth element taking the fore from the August new moon up to the autumnal equinox at the end of September. This is a very short season, but it is vitally important as it acts as a buffer between the more yang seasons of spring and summer with the more yin seasons of autumn and winter. The earth element sees energy drawing in as we enjoy the fruits of our labours from the rest of the year. Nature is in abundance, and we can enjoy the multitude of fruits and vegetables available. The earth element is also encouraging us to create some more structure and focus on self-care.
As this season is all about food, the meridians associated are spleen and stomach. This is all about nourishing and nurturing ourselves so that we can then do this for others. An imbalance here would see the emotion of worry or anxiousness come to the front. We should take time to nurture ourselves during late summer so that we are ready for the next season.
Autumn sees the metal element begin and this may be considered to be the most yin of the elements, as it sees us head into the darkest and coldest days of the year. Metal is all about solid foundations and releasing all that no longer serves us. During this season we focus on boosting the immune system by eating warming foods and our salad recipes back in the cupboard for next summer.
The large intestine and lungs are the associated meridians with the autumn and metal element. These organs are all about elimination, releasing toxins from the body to allow us to move forwards. This places a focus on the breath at this time of the year, as it allows us to release tensions while supporting the full use of the lungs. During this season the emotion is grief and we may find that we are grieving the end of summer and the darker nights. Taking time to create a good routine which incorporates focus on the breath can help us move through grief and allow us to head into the water element from a place of balance.