A friend wrote me this past week reporting some strange symptoms she was experiencing:
"On Tuesday night I woke up during my sleep with a really sharp pain on my inner left thigh. It was very localized- felt like a stabbing/burning/electric sensation on a very small point. It was strong enough to wake me a few times and of course my wild brain went all the way around the wheel of fear, self diagnosing from a life threatening blood clot to MS... needless to say I'm not doing *the best* right now.
I didn't notice the pain most of the next day until I went for a short run and it started up again, though this time it was happening on both legs (ruling out the blood clot I guess!). I remembered about having done QiGong the day before and wondered if that could stir up something like this?? I definitely did more standing in a bent knee position than I normally do, but I know what sore thigh muscles feel like and this is different from that.
It didn't keep me awake last night, thankfully, but the sensation is present still today. I would love to get some of your wisdom around this, and if you think there is a link with something surfacing or shifting from the QiGong practice."
Here in the Hudson Valley we're fast approaching warmer days of Spring. The sap in the trees is flowing, days are longer and the frosted earth is turning to mud. There's a similar quickening happening in our body, as the warmer weather draws the blood out from the tissues and muscles into the greater circulation of the body. The wood energy of Spring is awakening, as small little buds begin to form, seeds break free from their capsules and branches begin to reach and stretch for the light.
Our bodies follow nature - the wood energy in your body, as represented by the organs of the Liver and the Gallbladder and manifested in the tendons and connective tissue, are stretching. Aches and pains are showing up, in hips, shoulders and the inner and outsides of the legs, corresponding to the liver and gallbladder channels of the body. Two environmental influences, wind and damp, tend to peak in the springtime as well, causing internal pain, creating or exacerbating neurological symptoms, affecting digestion.
And mood! Emotions are also beginning to flow. What may have been stagnant in the cold of winter, or perhaps cosy and protected internally, is now beginning to awaken.
It's a known fact that the spring and early summer months see the highest rates of suicide, and many people experience increased depression and anxiety. Research shows a consistency of a spring suicide peak across countries, continents, hemispheres and time. Western medicine does not have an explanation for this, but from a Chinese medicine perspective, this is directly correlated to this Wood energy rising. Emotions that get stored in the liver begin to move and express themselves as this energy peaks in the spring.
Depression, anxiety, frustration, resentment - we become more aware of these impulses. And as these emotions begin to flow and express themselves, they stir up the heart fire and can make us feel crazy or at least slightly insane. This is a good time to ground into your practices of meditation, Qi Gong, movement and deep breathing into the earth.
It's also a good reason to do a cleanse, to support your body's detoxification capacity, to get clear and ready for the lighter foods of warmer days. Each Spring I do a cleanse as a way to prevent chronic disease, to clean up my diet and get clear in my thoughts and emotions. It's a powerful way to wipe your lens clean, shake out the winter doldrums and get your physical body ready for more activity. Not all cleanses are created equal! I recommend staying away from cleanses that involve lots of supplements and powders that you need to buy. It can be as simple as eating brown rice and vegetables for a week, cutting out alcohol, coffee and sugar. Or you can go with vegetable juicing for a week, taking the time to prep yourself well going in and coming out of this kind of a cleanse. I'm happy to consult with you individually to create a customized cleanse for you.
I explained to my friend that the liver meridians run right up the inside of the leg, in the exact location she was describing in her email. This pain she was experiencing was most likely a form of stagnation starting to flow, catalyzed by the Qi Gong and supported by the burgeoning and awakening season of wood. It's like when your foot is asleep and it starts to wake up. It's painful. Of course I told her to call me if it got worse or she had any other troubling symptoms. She has, as of yet, not called.
What you can do to support your liver and gallbladder function this spring:
1) a short customized cleanse that's optimal for you. What foods can you eliminate for a short period, 1-3 weeks for example, that would improve your health? (Think sugar, alcohol, caffeine, bread, dairy, soy.....the usual suspects ). How's your water intake? Plants need water for growth, so do your tendons, ligaments and all the cells of your body.
2) Hot and cold water treatments. Just about my favorite for ease and benefit. Try doing 3 minutes of hot water in the shower followed by 30 secs of cold. Repeat this 3x and end your shower with cold. This provides a pumping action on your blood vessels, thereby greatly improving your circulation. You can also work up to longer and longer periods of cold water or look into cold plunging for health and weight loss.
3) Meditate and keep a Steady view of the big picture: the liver is, like the trees at this time, continually in the process of reaching for the light, from a place of deep rootedness. In fact, the higher the tree goes, the more deeply it roots need to be to survive. At the same time, a tree that's flexible and can move with the winds of change, like the hollow bamboo, provides the greatest strength. The liver, metaphorically then, is connected to our deepest vision for our life, where we want to go. The Gallbladder is the actualizer of these plans. Take your time establishing a clear action plan to manifest your inner vision, and take one step at a time to bring your plan to fruition. Be flexible on your way. Continue to tap into the depths of your , your breath, your intuition, your vision so that you rise from a place of deep rootedness.