The Five Elements
The Chinese describe a vital life force or chi that is present throughout nature. It is present in the rivers and oceans, in the earth and mountains and it is present in all living things. This fundamental life energy has five distinct qualities or Elements. They are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. Each Element represents a specific aspect of nature. For example, Water embodies the principle of fluidity, while Wood describes growth, Fire -- warmth etc.
Associations of the Elements
Each Element is associated with a number of aspects of life, such as seasons, colors, and foods. They are associated with different aspects of the body such as muscles, ligaments, and bones. The Elements are also connected to different emotions such as fear, anger and grief. Every aspect of life can be associated with one of the Elements.
Harmony with the Elements
When the Elements within us are in balance, we feel in harmony with ourselves and with everything around us. We feel in tune with nature and are able to enjoy all of its manifestations, such as the different seasons or climates.
The Elements Out of Balance
However, when one or more of the Elements is out of balance, we lose this sense of harmony and well being. At every level of our being-physically, emotionally and at the deeper level of our spirit - we are off kilter in some way and this will manifest itself in a variety of ways.
For one person it might manifest as becoming unusually impatient and angry, waking frequently at night, and having severe headaches. For another it could manifest as feeling anxious, having chronic lower back pain, feeling cold and dreading the winter months.
Five Element Acupuncture addresses the underlying imbalances of the Elements. Treatment focuses on restoring their natural balance and harmony. All of their manifestations, such as the predominating emotion, facial color, odor, sound of the voice, are indicators of which Element is out of balance.
The following brief descriptions of the Elements will show their inter-relationship to many of the aspects of our being.
Liver and Gallbladder
Assertiveness, Anger Action:
Wood embodies growth and the forward thrust into life. In a healthy state the Wood Element enables us to envision and plan for the future. When the Wood Element is out of balance and is blocked we will experience frustration, anger, depression and hopelessness. Since Wood governs the tendons and ligaments, problems such as sciatica may surface. Wood also regulates the blood so painful menstruation may be caused by an imbalance in the Wood Element.
Heart and Small Intestine
Heart Protector and Three Heater
Joy, Love, Vulnerability
The Fire Element is epitomized by the heat of the sun or by the warmth of an open log fire. When the Fire Element is in balance we are able to receive and give love and affection, we can enjoy friendship and relationships. When the Fire Element is out of balance we may experience difficulties with relationships, cutting off from people, or we may constantly feel vulnerable. The Fire Element also regulates circulation and is another area where an imbalance may arise in the form of poor circulation and cold hands and feet.
Stomach and Spleen
Sympathy, Worry, Empathy
Late Summer, Governs:
The Earth Element covers aspects of life connected with nurturing, fertility and harvest. In health we are able to nourish every aspect of ourselves, and there is a sense of empathy for others who may be suffering in some way.
When the Earth Element is out of balance we may have an obsessive need to help others, leading to severe depletion of our own resources. We may lose our sense of being grounded and become spacey and unfocused. The Earth Element is associated with the stomach so we may not be able to absorb nourishment, and constantly crave sweet foods. The Earth Element fortifies the muscles so we may also experience problems such as weak or stiff muscles.
Lung and Colon
Grief, Respect, Integrity, Self-worth
Integrity, Quality, Structure, Receiving and Letting Go
Skin and Hair
The Metal Element is associated with taking in or receiving and with letting go. In Chinese medicine the Lung is described as "receiving the pure chi from the heavens" and the Colon is concerned with removing waste. When the Metal Element is in balance these aspects of our nature function easily.
When the Metal Element is out of balance we may experience difficulty with taking in or receiving. At the physical level this might manifest as difficulty with breathing, and at an emotional level it might manifest as an inability to acknowledge our value and worth.
The Colon is responsible for getting rid of rubbish. Very serious problems arise at every level of our being if there is a build up of toxins in our system.
Kidney and Bladder
Courage, Fear, Will Power, Reserves, Reassurance
Fluidity and reserves epitomize the Water Element. When the Water Element is strong and vibrant, we have abundant reserves of chi, and we can approach life with confidence and courage. When it is depleted, we don't have sufficient reserves to meet the demands of life and this can lead to feeling apprehensive, fearful and anxious. A depleted Water Element may also manifest as back or knee pain. A cold climate is associated with the Water Element. When there is a disharmony with this Element we may have an aversion to cold weather and find ourselves dreading the winter months.
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