Revive the body with these TCM tips and iDEAL Yoga
By Zhang Qian
Spring is on the way. The temperature will rise and yang, or hot, energy is surging in the universe. It’s time for a new health regime, including a new diet and more exercise.
Traditional Chinese theory states that yang energy grows rapidly in spring as the universe revives. And according to the theory of coexistence between humans and the universe, this energy naturally increases in the human body. Thus people need to make adjustments to ensure their bodies stay in balance.
According to TCM, yang energy in the liver grows more vigorously than in other organs in spring. If it grows too quickly and upsets the balance, this excessive yang energy in the liver will disrupt the normal circulation of energy and blood, and hurt other organs, especially the spleen, which makes up part of the immune system.
“Reinforcement with food is still recommended in spring, but a different strategy should be adopted — a mild diet that nourishes the liver while controlling the yang energy and reinforcing the spleen,” says doctor Zhang Zhenxian, director of the Special Medical Care Department of Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM.
Yang energy foods such as mutton and hotpot are too strong for spring. Milder foods such as pork, carp and weever fish are more suitable.
Too much yang energy without sufficient nutrition will weaken the liver. People may often feel thirsty and find they have a dry throat and lips. To restrict over-active yang energy in the liver, certain pathogenic-heat-repelling foods are recommended in spring. These include pears, pearl barley, eggplant, loquat, chufa, shepherd’s purse, spinach and celery.
“Eating less sour foods and more sweet foods is appropriate in spring as this can help reinforce the spleen,” Sun Simiao, a famous TCM doctor during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) wrote in his masterpiece “Qianjin Yaofang” (“Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold”).
Sweet foods in TCM do not refer to cuisine with a lot of sugar, but foods that are naturally sweet and can help benefit the spleen and stomach. Yam, jujube and honey top the list of sweet foods.
Though most people feel invigorated as the weather warms up, there are some who feel tired and listless. It is common when the body fails to adjust to the warmer weather. These symptoms are more common among the elderly, the sub-healthy and those who suffer from chronic ailments.
Fresh vegetables, especially those that are red and dark green, can help accelerate metabolism and reduce fatigue. These include spinach, cleome (spider flower), pumpkin, tomato and carrot.
Vegetables in season are often most recommended as they are believed to contain the proper energy for that time of year. Xiang chun (Chinese toon), bean sprout, pea sprout and lettuce are all good seasonal foods that can help the body adjust to spring.
The TCM classic “Huang Di Nei Jing” (“Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor”) recommends going to bed late and waking early, wearing loose clothes, and going for walks in spring. It also recommends being relaxed. All this is supposed to help us absorb the essence of the universe and foster yang energy.
Too much sleep will block the growth of yang energy. Still, don’t go to bed much later than 11pm if you want to be true to TCM. Ideally, you should get up when the sun rises, but almost no one does that.
Viruses also spread easier in the warmer weather and pollen in the air can trigger allergies.
Boosting immunity and guarding against pathogenic factors in the environment is important, says Dr Zhang. Do not shed warm clothing too soon in spring as temperatures can change quickly and cause problems. Drops in temperature can cause respiratory ailments such as colds and bronchitis, as well as vascular problems and thickened blood, leading to high blood pressure and heart problems.
Maintaining a good mood and doing regular exercise is important in enhancing immunity. A bad mood is said to aggravate unbalanced energy in the liver, which disrupts normal energy flow and undermines immunity.
Regular exercise is recommended in every season to strengthen the immune system, but heavy exercise that exhausts you is to be avoided.
Spring and autumn are the best two seasons to start yoga or commit to a new level of practice if you are already practicing, according to Bernd Windhofer, yoga teacher at Karma Life Yoga.
Doing yoga regularly can help people become more aware of the seasonal changes within the body and make necessary adjustments.
“I often found my students got tired more easily in the winter, while they had more energy when spring arrives,” says Windhofer, “I found some of them capable of holding certain postures longer or capable of more difficult postures in spring.”
Still, Windhofer warns against over doing it.
Flow yoga practices are recommended in spring as they help build energy effectively.
For beginners, it is important to learn under the guidance of a yoga instructor to avoid an injury.
iDEALShanghai Spring Fitness — Yoga
Shanghai Daily is teaming up with Karma Life Yoga to bring readers a hands-on yoga session. An English-speaking yoga instructor will coach you through an introductory class that includes proper breathing methods, spinestretching and power-building postures to remove tension caused by long hours at the desk and revive your body for spring.
Date: March 16, 2:30-4pm Venue: Karma Life Yoga’s Laoximen Branch, 2/F, 758 Xizang Rd S. (near Jianguoxin Rd) Class size: 30 persons Admission: 88 yuan
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: FREE for the first 15 applicants. SIGN UP Now!