The Chinese associate the springtime energy with the natural force of wood—of growing things—plants, grass, trees rising up from earth to sky. This is the rising pulse of creativity and the force of birth and rebirth. It is like bamboo—growing upward—strong but flexible—able to bend in the wind.
This energy also exists in our bodies. At a body level it helps us move during the day and detox at night. It is responsible for energy moving smoothly. It nourishes our tendons, eyes and our liver and gallbladder. At a mind and spirit level, it’s this wood energy that enables us to have a vision of the future, plan, and find creative ways around the obstacles that life throws at us.
One of the key principles of Chinese medicine is that when energy in our body is blocked we can develop pain or other symptoms. These symptoms can be both physical and emotional. We may feel it as tightness and constriction in our body—around our ribs or diaphragm but also in our limbs, neck, shoulder or back. Sometimes it may be accompanied by an upward rushing of energy—headaches, flushing, feeling suddenly warm in our face When our wood energy is stuck it may show up as a simmering feeling of irritation, frustration or resentment that build to an emotional outburst. Or it could manifest as a crankiness, where every little thing seems to bother us. We might feel stuck—unable to move forward in life or move through difficult emotions.
What causes the wood energy to get stuck? Imbalance around rest, our emotions and movement can create stagnation. Finding balance in these areas can help keep things moving and promote wellness. Here are 4 great ways to support the healthy movement of wood energy in your body.
Find the middle ground between work and rest. Exhaustion and overwork can deplete our energy creating a situation where it can’t flow smoothly. Think about a river during a drought. With less water, it moves more slowly and it gets stagnant. If we have depleted our own energy reserves this kind of stagnation can happen to us too. The Chinese medical classics say that rest is critical. Staying up late (past 11 pm) or waking up very early (before 3am) puts a strain on our wood energy (as well as other parts of our energetic system) and over time can really wear on us.
However too much leisure can be equally challenging. As human beings we are meant to create and contribute to the world. Lying around all day, without focus or a motivation, can stagnate our wood energy just as much as overwork. While operating without a plan can feel like a relief on a vacation, if it becomes our norm for too long it can cause our qi to get sluggish and stuck.
Find balance in our emotional life. Another way we can get stuck is when we repress our emotions. If we are swallowing our feelings all day long, this can throw us our whole system out of wack. Finding healthy ways to express and move our emotions can keep the energy flowing smoothly. Using our emotions as a signal that we need to make a change, make a request, or can keep things moving along.
On the flip side allowing ourselves get stuck in our anger, stewing in the feelings or stoking our rage can also hurt our ability to dance smoothly with life. Sometimes we get stuck IN and emotion and find it hard to move through it. When our emotions rage, doing something physical can often help to smooth things out. Exercise, cleaning, or even a brisk walk can help unstick this energy.
Have a moderate exercise program. This may seem obvious but not moving our bodies enough can cause our energy to get stuck. Exercise is not only important for our cardiovascular health but it keeps our whole system flowing smoothly. We don’t have to go to the gym and work out for hours but some movement keeps things moving. A 15-30 minutes walk may just be enough. On the flip side (and I am sure you are noticing a pattern here) over-exercise can be just as damaging. Hours and hour of hard work depletes the body of resources and creates strain. (Remember that image of the river without enough water…)
While this stuck wood energy is just one reason people feel unwell, it is a common one in our culture. Finding balance is no small or easy task in our “go-go-go” 24/7 culture. It is hard for us to hit the stop button. I used to have two speeds: “Full speed ahead” and “full on collapse”. Both patterns left me cranky and ultimately sick. While my doctors all told me that in order to heal I needed to find balance, I had trouble resetting. It was like I had forgotten what balance felt like and I needed to be reminded.
Acupuncture is a powerful tool to help reestablish balance and an easy flow of qi in the body, mind and spirit. In the treatment room, we will work together to identify where things get stuck. Together we will get things flowing again and I will give you practices you can do on your own to help keep things moving. My goal is to empower you to move your qi on your own—to not only relieve the symptoms (whether it is from stuck wood energy or another issue) but to give you what you need to notice where your qi get stuck and to keep things flowing with ease.