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Spring is “Shao Yang” Season!

As I made my way this Monday through my ten-block, 2 ½ avenue walk from Penn Station to the office, the 41-degree winds whipping into my face, masquerading as 30 degrees, that lovely sweatshirt-only, spring day of the previous weekend felt like ancient history, only to return like an overdue hug on Tuesday.

Even on these open-air, warm days, I’m cynically aware of what they ares. A tease, a mere foreshadowing of the still relatively distant future, a glimpse into a climate we may or may not experience each year, and for the next several weeks one that will rear its head only sporadically, thereby confusing our wardrobes and forcing us to check the weather app daily.

Spring corresponds with the wood element in Chinese medicine, which corresponds with the gallbladder meridian, or shao yang layer of health and disease.

At their root, “shao yang pathologies,” which can be anything from gastrointestinal to neurological, emotional, autoimmune, or otherwise, are said to be caused by “dry,” or weak guts. Vulnerability in metabolism leads to inflammation that flares upwards, commonly manifesting in symptoms such as chest tightness, throat dryness, eye dryness, most dryness, headaches, etc.

“Heat above, Cold below,” as we call it, which really just means the “cold” or weak microbiome has caused substances that should have descended as stool or urine to rise in the form of inflammation and harass upper portions of the body. One of the most signature symptoms of a shao yang pathology is the experience some have of alternating heat and cold sensations. So, while we can probably blame much of spring’s recently more chaotic, unpredictable nature on global warming, there is systemic logic to it. We might even acknowledge that in spite of our ongoing environmental crisis, spring is still the only season that consistently behaves so erratically. And erratic… is shao yang. Even the “shao yang pulse,” is signified by being ever-changing. One minute it feels wiry and rapid under the clinician’s finger—the next it’s like a slippery little ball. As my teacher would say: “This person is ‘shao yang’.”

How to temper our internal and external shao yang challenges? Simple and same as always really: Warm, easily digestible foods, and early bedtimes.

Soups and stews, congees, eggs, and steamed vegetables are light on the gut. They should generate healthy metabolic fluids and are less likely to create inflammation. This will address the “cold below.” As for the “heat above,” early bedtimes will modulate neurotransmitters and maximize the kind of organ recovery that can be attained only through a good night’s sleep (and/or Chinese herbs).

Err on wardrobe for the calendar more than the forecast, obviously within reason. Our bodies are still considered “cold” from the half year of cold, so all the youthful “heat pathologies” walking around outside in cut-off belly shirts cut low again on top will be more vulnerable to viruses.

Exercise should be consistent, but moderate. Regular enough to quell the heat above, but mindful to not sweat so much as to weaken the cold below. If you’re aiming to have the beach body ready for summer, the best way is by avoiding gluten, dairy, sugar, and raw foods, along with mild core workouts.

Finally, the wood element of spring is most supported by the sour flavor, so this is a good time of year to add foods like lemon and vinegar to your daily intake. Although they are uncooked, pickled foods, such as sauerkraut or kimchi are good to have alongside your warm meal, as they help to prevent the “shao yang stomach.”

 

Happy Shao Yang Season, everyone!

This article was posted in Allergies, Herbal Medicine, Hypertension, liver, Nutrition, Self-Care, Spring, Traditional Chinese Medicine. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are closed.
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