The following article is adapted from the book Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis.
Spring pertains to the Wood Phase a heady, invigorating, sometimes disturbing season with wild fluctuations of energy surging throughout nature as birth, arousal and movement. The momentum created by spring qi gives structure and impetus to the world. In humans, qi rises like a slow tide coming up from its winter storage in the lower abdomen and moving into the chest where it stimulates the liver with fresh vitality. As an infusion of energy, the rising qi carries benefits as well as the potential for problems.
During spring, the Rising Yang Qi emerges from the lower dan tian and begins a season long ascent to the upper and outer regions of the body. As it passes into the middle dan tian it encounters the liver. If this blood-rich organ retains stagnant blood and metabolic waste, which typically happens after winter’s inactivity, it will obstruct the qi flow and result in Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood.
According to Chinese medicine, the liver ‘controls the smooth and harmonious flow of qi and blood’. Any obstruction to this flow will cause a serious functional disruption in qi and blood circulation. Stagnant Liver Qi and Blood, an all too common disorder, has physical symptoms of muscle pain, menstrual cramps, tremors, poor balance, headaches, neck pain, numbness in hands and feet, vision problems, digestive ailments and more. The mental and emotional symptoms can run the spectrum from frustration and irritability to anger and rage.
Anger, Stagnation and Kindness
When the normal emotion of anger becomes prolonged, repressed or inappropriate it often results in Stagnant Liver Qi. This disorder affects women and men, but because each gender exists as fundamentally either yin or yang, qi stagnation usually results in different problems for each sex.
Men have innate yang energy; women have innate yin. Yang energy tends to expand outward; it’s active and dispersive. Yin energy embraces receptivity, containment, and concentration. The gender predisposition to problems of Liver Qi hinges on men being more yang/fire, and women more yin/blood. Stagnant Liver Qi, if not corrected, becomes virulent and flares up as Liver Fire in men and as Blood Stagnation in women.
Anger > Liver Qi Stagnation + Men > “Liver Fire Rising” = muscle spasm, ulcers, hypertension, heart disease, and more.
Anger > Liver Qi Stagnation + Women > “Liver Blood Stagnation” = menstrual disorders, varicose veins, insomnia, anxiety, and more.
While disturbing and potential dangerous, Liver Qi and Blood Stagnation can be effectively treated. Acupuncture and herbal remedies are very effective for releasing obstructions to the flow of qi and preventing stagnation. Qigong can remedy the condition by gathering fresh qi and properly circulating it through the body’s energy pathways and storage centers. Meditation will definitely enhance qi flow, clear the mind of distractions and nurture the virtue of kindness.
Kindness heals anger. Qigong master and scholar Kenneth Cohen states, “The anger of the liver is mended with kindness” (The Way of Qigong,1997,p.236). Each of the major organs has a positive attribute that promotes well-being. For the Liver it is ren or “human kindness”—the virtue that leads to acts of benevolence toward others. Confucius said, “Ren consists in loving others” (Analects XII, 22). Everyone in every culture would be better off if they would genuinely express kindness to one another. When a person consciously and sincerely offers kindness to those around him or her, the Liver can more easily promote “the harmonious flow of qi and blood.”
When the positive emotion of kindness is combined with physical and mental relaxation a state of inner tranquility pervades us like water soaking into dry soil. This quiescence benefits all physiological functions, mental processes and emotional conditions. Like the warmth of spring turning a frozen river into a flowing energy channel, we can unlock the grip of anger, frustration and stress with a famous qigong exercise.
Inner Nourishing, Nei Yang Gong, was a secret Daoist healing method during the Ming dynasty; qigong masters traditionally transmitted it to only one select student. In 1947 Dr. Liu Guizhen, feeing that everyone should know this health enhancing internal practice for the greater good of society, began to teach it to the public. Inner Nourishing exemplifies how neigong and meditation merge into a single practice through the combination of breathing, movement, mindfulness, and visualization.
Begin by sitting or lying down. Rest and be comfortable but alert.
Inhale slowly through your nose and think of bringing the qi from the tailbone area, up the spine, over the head and into your mouth. While inhaling gently place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind the front teeth, and silently say, “I am calm.”
For that brief moment that occurs between the end of inhalation and the beginning of exhalation – just a heartbeat – say to yourself “kind”.
Then exhale slowly through your mouth and think of bringing the qi down the front of your body to the lower dan tian. While exhaling let the tongue drop gently to the floor of your mouth as you silently say, “and relaxed.”
The healing mantra is “I am calm, kind, and relaxed”.
Do this for a few minutes. Don’t count repetitions; just breathe slowly, visualize energy moving up the back and down the front in harmony with the silent mantra. This meditative practice not only moves the qi up the Governing Meridian and down the Conception Meridian – together called the Microcosmic Orbit – it effectively elicits a deep relaxation response throughout the entire body. You can even do this while sitting at work, in an airplane or bus; or standing in a line anywhere while waiting for something to happen.
We can facilitate the natural rising of Yang Qi in spring and get a handle on anger, pain and anxiety by practicing those time tested methods of qigong, meditation and dietary considerations that are especially relevant to the season of spring. Much more information is contain in Qigong Through The Seasons.
Dr. Ronald Davis is the founder of The Health Movement, a group of classes and educational materials designed to improve your well –being by using ancient and modern health care methods. For more information please go to www.thehealthmovement.com