As summer starts to fade we move into the Earth Element in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, the Earth Element is the cornerstone of every season (lasting about 10 days in between each season) but particularly after the full yang of summer when we’ve been active and enjoying the warm weather.
It’s always important to come back to stillness, but even more so nowadays with our fast paced 24/7 lifestyle. The extra daylight and warmer weather of summer naturally leads us to more activity and playfulness, but come the end of summer if we don’t find time to slow down and contemplate the changing seasons we can be left feeling exhausted, burnt out and prone to coughs and colds as the temperature cools and we move into autunm (lung time and the Metal element).
In nature it is harvest time at the end of summer. The ripened fruit falls from the tree to decompose and nourish the earth. Thus, the Earth element is the principle of harmony, nurturing and support, all the qualities of “Mother Earth”.
The stomach (yang organ) and spleen (yin organ) are the governing organs for the Earth element, which is all about digestion and assimilation. In the TCM 24 hour clock these meridians are most active from 7am to 9am for the stomach when we should be eating the first meal of the day and 9am to 11am as the spleen assimilates the nutrients from the food.
The stomach meridian is located on the front of the body, starting directly underneath the eye, passing over the nipple, down the front of the hips and legs and finishes in the second toe. You can see a great little video tracing the stomach line here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mrFrFPwN6M
This is the most prominent meridian line in the body, the meridian that we present first to the world.
Our spleen meridian starts on the medial side of the big toe and travels up the inner shin and medial side of the front of the thigh, across the front of the hip, up the torso to the front corner of the armpit crease and ends just under the armpit. To see the spleen line, watch this video infographic here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuZ4QPDkq1E
The spleen rules transformation and transportation of the nutrients in our food. It transforms them into what will become chi and blood.
Spleen 6 (approx 4 finger widths above the inner ankle bone) and spleen 9 (just underneath the head of the tibia) are often tender points in females, particularly around the time of menstruation. These points will benefit from gentle massage and some warmth such as moxabustion. Note Spleen 6 stimulation is contra-indicated during pregnancy.
Looking at your tongue is a really good indicator if your spleen is out of balance. Stick out your tongue and take a look in a mirror or have someone look at it for you (if they don’t mind you poking your tongue out at them!) If you notice there are indentations around the edge of your tongue from your teeth then that indicates spleen deficiency and your spleen line will be quite tender.
An Earth Element out of balance can manifest physically as poor digestion, pale skin, feeling cold, weight in lower half of the body, chronic tiredness, poor muscle tone, hypoglycemia and diabetes. Mentally we feel ungrounded, doubtful, worried, anxious, self-conscious and can have a tendency to over-think.
How do we keep our Earth element nourished?
- Find some time each day to be still and become present in your mind. Practise mindfulness, meditation and/or pranayama to still the mind and body.
- Cut back on refined sugar and alcohol and instead choose “sweet” yellow and orange vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato, squash.
- Eat slowly and mindfully.
- Eat less, to only 2/3 full.
- Have regular meal times.
- Don’t drink with food. This dilutes the stomach acid and hinders digestion. You are better to drink at least half an hour before eating to allow the fluid to leave the stomach before eating.
- Don’t eat cold food. Cold food dulls the “agni” or digestive fire and slows down and hinders digestion.
- Get barefoot on the earth and spend some time in nature or cultivating your garden.
Yoga postures such as supported bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana) or reclining hero pose (supta virasana) will stimulate the stomach meridian. Grounding postures such as warriors (virabhadrasana I & II) and chair pose (utkatasana) will connect you more strongly with the earth.
“The Zen of Touch” – Gwyn Williams, PI Productions Photography (2011)
“Five Elements Six Conditions: A Taoist Approach to Emotional Healing, Psychology, and Internal Alchemy” – Giles Marin, North Atlantic Books (2006)
Zenthai Shiatsu Training Manual 2017 – Gwyn Williams