Embracing Early Summer: According to TCM
It is the custom in North America and Europe to break the year into four seasons, but if we truly think about how many changes take place from spring to summer to fall, you could consider the summer months, as much of the Eastern world does, as split into two: early and late summer.
We talk about eating with the seasons with many of our patients at Elevate and feel it’s important to really think about the difference between them, in line with Chinese Medicine theories, availability of produce and what your body really needs or craves during these different months according to climate, activity and emotion.
Each section of the Five Element theory corresponds to a color, a compass direction, an emotion, a specific bodily organ, an element, a season. Early summer is the heart, small intestine and the element of fire. The emotion is joy, with laughter as a sound. The taste is bitter.
Early summer, that glorious time period we’re just entering, is a time of bright, hot sunshine, long days and vibrant greenery. Staying healthy and maintaining joy during the summer often means making time for play, relaxation and lots of fun. It’s easy to engage the senses at this time of year, with new colors, fresh scents and sounds all around.
Try going barefoot when you can, take an early morning dip in the lake or sit outside with your morning coffee. Head to the farmers market for an abundance of new season fruits and vegetables complete with their refreshing smells and flavors.
The endless days of sunshine sap the moisture from our pores so take the time to rehydrate. Lots of water, or mint tea is beneficial. Sweating helps cleanse the toxins so consider upping your exercise routine slowly, or just do something to energize your body and break a sweat. Cardiovascular exercise is ideal during summer because fire rules the heart, your small intestine and circulatory system. The small intestine absorbs nutrients from food and transports them into the bloodstream, which takes them to the heart. The heart then circulates this to the rest of your body.
Fire deficient individuals tend to be inactive, with a poor diet that lacks nutrients. Their blood cannot supply the body with nourishment if the food they consume isn’t providing them with it. Warming foods like citrus, basmati rice, ginger and peppers may help counteract the lack of fire.
When cultivating the fire element (or yang energy) during summer, be careful not to overdo it. Too much exercise, too much joy, too much excitement or social involvement can cause an excess of fire. Living in the mountains up here, in a hot, dry climate (at least during the day), usually means we can benefit from cooling and hydrating yin foods: cucumber, strawberries, watermelon, apples, lemons, and sprouts help to keep fire energy in check. Iceberg lettuce, radish, celery, and pears all help hydrate. Bitter greens are in good supply during these early months of summer. Adding in endive, spinach, chard, kale, dandelion greens and arugula to your diet may be beneficial.
TCM tells that the heart, mind and spirit are ruled by fire, so consider giving priority to these parts of yourself during the summer months:
Observe nature. Listen to the sounds around you at each time of day.
Embrace the cool mornings, the heat of midday, and those perfectly cooled down evenings.
Fill your heart with joy through activities that make you happy, and laugh.
Gatherings and power lunches are great ways to connect at this time of year, as fire is associated with midday and connectivity.
Rise early to maximize the benefits of the nourishing sun.
Try to address and let go of grudges in order to allow energy to move freely. The heart is connected to our spirits and summer is a good time to try and heal emotional wounds. This allows space for more joy, love and happiness as we move through the year.
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