The Wood Element
Updated: May 5, 2022
Wood | Spring | Liver + Gallbladder | Kindness, Forgiveness; Anger, Frustration
Sports Medicine, Movement and Recovery
The Five Elements is an ancient and universal approach in Chinese culture. It is used in many teachings, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Feng Shui and martial arts. We are born into our constitutional element(s) all while transitioning through elemental phases throughout our lives. Because the elements are not static, we all embody each element within ourselves as well. It is our lifestyle choices that help harness the gifts of these traits but know, it can also challenge us just the same. Each element has its own focus. Collectively, the elements achieve balance through a supportive and dynamic relationship with one another. Thus, connecting and balancing an individual’s mind, body and spirit.
From the Mother Qi Medicine approach, we use the elements to connect to ourselves, our bodies and our journeys. MQM’s Wood Element focuses on Sports Medicine: Movement and Recovery. It is the Wood element that correlates to our joints and sinews. The Liver system stores our Blood and is in charge of its smooth flow throughout the body to support all the other organ systems. Think of a tree standing with its roots and branches spread out. The roots are supplying its trunk, branches and leaves from the ground up; just like our joints and sinews supporting our body throughout. While movement from the surrounding environment -- like weather, such as wind and rain -- aids in keeping the tree strong and nourished.
Each element correlates to an organ system, season, and emotion. The Wood’s organ system is the Liver and Gallbladder, its seasonal focus is in Spring, and when in balance, supports kindness and forgiveness. The Liver’s job is all about providing a smooth flow within the body through Blood, Qi and emotions. As the Liver filters the Blood in our body while we sleep, movement and exercise throughout the day are also essential to a balanced Wood element. With continuous circulation of Qi (energy) and Blood, the body is continuously expelling toxins, decreasing inflammation and relieving tension for the mind, body and spirit. With the Liver being in focus in Spring, we must be mindful of Wind. In TCM, Wind can cause ailments and injury as it can stir up the Liver energy. We must protect ourselves through dressing for the weather and protecting our ‘wind gates’ from the nape of our necks to our lower back. With green being the Liver’s correlated colour, we can utilize this to eat with the season. Eating leafy greens and vegetables can protect the body and keep it grounded throughout the windy Spring season. Green foods also aids in keeping the Liver in balance thus encouraging the smooth flow of Qi all season long. The Liver in balance is associated with growth and expansion. Out of balance, it can bring up feelings of anger, frustration and stagnation. When we are not aligned with what we are doing or in an environment where we feel stuck, this directly affects our Liver system. This can also be felt and seen in the physical body through tightness and tension, digestive upsets as the Liver can directly affect the neighbouring Stomach and Spleen organs, and issues with our eyes and sight.
Think about the last time you got really frustrated; the feeling most likely started in your abdomen (maybe even on the right side, where your Liver is located). If that feeling had a noise to accompany it, it would probably sound like a growl. A growl can travel upwards from your gut and you can feel it vibrate through your throat. Perhaps the frustration grew even bigger and turned into anger. That anger could travel further upwards and turn your eyes red with fury. Cue the animated cartoon characters who fill with so much anger and frustration that smoke blows out of the top of their head and out of their ears. We've all been there. We've all felt it. That's your emotional Liver talking to your body.
A well-rounded athlete, and individual for that matter, are those who are both flexible and strong - physically, mentally and spiritually. The Elements teach us another way of getting to know ourselves and our bodies. Our Shen (Mind) must be well-supported and nourished to be able to take care of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves and vice versa. There are many aspects of life that can throw us off balance every now and again -- injuries, life stressors, life cycles, etc. And it is in a whole-body approach where Traditional Chinese Medicine practices can meet you where you are at, each and every time.
Do you know what your Element?
Inflexible, rigid, stiff body and/or mental attitude
Stable mood and energy, balanced hormones
Quick to anger, frustration, negativity or depression
Sense of inner purpose, able to envision next moves
Symptoms worsened with stress, in the spring, or in windy conditions
Calmly makes plans and executes decisions after careful assessment of a situation
Adapted from The Rhythms of Change by Mary Saunders