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Summer Self-Care: Support Your Wellness and Balance Your Fire Element

The arrival of Summer, The Great Yang according to Chinese Medicine, occurs on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at 10:58 A.M. EDT. This date is also known as the Summer Solstice, marking the astronomical first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Many times referred to as the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice is actually the day of the most sunlight hours, as the Northern Hemisphere receives sunlight at the most direct angle of the year. 

Chinese Medicine associates Yang energy to warmth, light and expansion, and it is during the Summer months of increased temperature and extended daylight hours that the expansion of consciousness and states of being are supported and manifested.  The additional sunlight hours encourage us to nurture the creative vibrations that not only course through the human body, but are mirrored in the natural world of growth.  Summer is the season to celebrate the natural cycles of bounty, of expansion, growth and maturation – look at those gardens bursting with colorful flowers and nutritious vegetables!  Feel the warmth of the Sun, connecting to your own internal energetics of fire and inspiration.  Enjoy the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, nurturing the heart centered relationships that correspond to the Fire element in Chinese Medicine.

The legendary Yellow Emperor, regarded as the founder of Chinese Medicine, has described the season of summer in the ancient text, The Yellow Emperorʼs Classic of Internal Medicine:

In the three months of summer there is an abundance of sunshine and rain. The heavenly energy descends, and the earthly energy rises. When these energies merge, there is intercourse between heaven and earth. As a result, plants mature and animals, flowers, and fruit appear abundantly.

In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with one of the five elements and specific organ systems, and those organ systems have their own pathways of energy and information. Summer is associated with the Fire element and the Heart, “the benevolent emperor” who is actually attended by 3 officials:  the Small Intestine, Pericardium and Triple Heater organs. 

The role of the Heart is to house the mind and circulate the blood that also carries consciousness throughout the body. The Small Intestine has the job of sorting and processing the food broken down by the stomach. It also contributes to the clarity of consciousness by energetically “separating the pure from the impure.”  Physically, it separates the pure nutrients from our food and drink, and effectively eliminates the waste. Metaphorically, it is believed to separate the “nutritional” parts of our daily interactions with others and eliminate from our consciousness the “indigestible” parts, thus allowing for discernment in our relationships. 

The Pericardium, known as “the heart protector” is described in the ancient texts as “the court jester who makes the king [Heart] laugh, bringing forth joy.” Just as the pericardium serves as a membrane that lubricates and protects the heart, it can also be seen as the gate to the heart that allows entry to positive energies, while it bars the entry of negative energies and pathogens into the heartʼs inner sanctum.

The Triple Heater is the only organ that is solely functional and has no structural counterpart. Although the Triple Heater has no physicality, its functions are essential to our health and well-being: the Triple Heater is responsible for heating and cooling the entire system, for thermoregulation.

The pathways that enable qi and information to go to and from these organs travel along the arms. While there are other channels that run along the arms (namely the Lung and Large Intestine meridians, associated with the Metal element and Autumn), having all 4 Fire element channels coursing through the arms is more than enough reason to focus some attention on this part of our body in the summer.

Consider the Fire element as the energy associated with consciousness and warmth. It requires maintenance to keep it in balance just like a fire that must be fed but also controlled. During the summer months, the Fire element is naturally nourished by sunshine, activity, community, and the joy of the season.  But there are times when we can get overwhelmed by any of these in excess, and using acupressure to support and nourish ourselves is an easy option for self-regulation.

Important acupressure points to know if you’re ever feeling over-heated or over-stimulated are Heart 8 (HT 8) and Pericardium 6 (PC 6). To locate HT 8, make a loose fist and where your pinky tip touches your palm is the spot. Dig in gently to cool your jets. PC 6 is a great point for anxiety and for when you feel like you just need to turn down the volume on life and get centered. Make a fist, squeeze, and notice 2 tendons along the center of your forearm. You’ll find PC 6 about 3 finger spaces below the wrist crease, between those tendons. Fuel your fire this summer and let it burn but remember these points when you need a moment to simmer down. 

Simply stretching and moving the arms is an easy way to awaken and energize these channels for seasonal health! Stretch your hands all the way to the tips of the fingers (where the channels begin, end and connect). Stretch your arms and body to feel the stretch throughout your chest, back and shoulder joint, activating your small intestine and triple burner channels. Get on the floor and relax in a star shaped stretch and make sure to feel the opening of energy in your armpits where the heart and pericardium channels travel through.

Summer is all about expansion. It’s a time for growth, creativity and outward activity, as well as a time to be joyful, easygoing and free of grudges. These months mark the pinnacle and maturity of all that was planted and sprouting before, as well as the season of free flow between inner self and outside world.  Allow yourself to move freely, breathe deeply and encourage your energies to flow with ease and joy during the Summer months.  Remember that seasonal attunements with acupuncture can also help support your balance and immune system … so consider making an appointment to nourish your Fire during July and August!!

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