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Complementary Corner

The Five Elements of Yin

Renee Lehman

The Water Element, Part 2

Last month I began a series of articles on the Five Elements, the cyclical pattern of expression in nature, as observed by the ancient Chinese. These Elements or energies are felt to be the prime energetic building blocks from which everything in the material world is composed, and were never seen as five "distinct things". So, every living thing and every person is a unique embodiment and combination of these Five Elements. The Five Elements are Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal.

Remember that each Element describes a particular movement and the particular qualities which belong to a specific state of the changing energy seen in the universe. Together, the Five Elements help us to understand the process of dynamic harmony and balance in the whole system of energy. Therefore, when it comes to our health, if all Five Elements are in balance within us, then we are at a state of optimal health/wellness.

So, as you read this article on the Water Element, keep in mind that you are reading only about one part of a much bigger picture!

Review of Part 1

How would you characterize or define water? Think about how it can hold any shape, and yet cannot be grasped and held tightly in its liquid state. Haven't you ever witnessed how water will find a way around anything and seek out the lowest point?

The season that the Water Element is related to is Winter. Winter is nature's "resting season". Some aspects of nature may look dead (at least you may think that); however, nature is actually storing its potential deep in the earth and the roots of vegetation. The gifts that Winter gives us include the strength of reserves (storage) and endurance (just remember about the hibernating animals), wisdom, stillness, deep listening (the "quietness" of winter allows us to listen), reflection, strength, a solid foundation, and reassurance (Spring will come again!).

Along with being associated with the season of Winter, the Water Element has other associations. In the first part of the Water Element article, the associations of a Yin and Yang Organ (the Kidneys and Bladder, respectively) were discussed. In this article the following associations will be discussed: a body tissue (Bones), an external manifestation (Head hair), a sound in the voice (Groaning), an emotion (Fear), a color (Blue), a direction (North), a climate (Cold), and a taste (Salty).

Body Tissue and External Manifestation Correspondences

The body tissue associated with the Water element are the bones. "Bones" include the bone marrow, the spinal cord and brain (considered to be an extension of the marrow material), teeth, and of course the bones of your skeleton. The external manifestation of the Water element is the head hair.

Consider how the endocrine system oversees growth, sexual maturity, and fertility through the release of hormones. The endocrine system is regulated by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, all within the brain. The endocrine system also works with the autonomic nervous system. This system works automatically (autonomously), without a person's conscious effort, and regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure, digestion, and the rate of breathing. It is divided into two different divisions: the Sympathetic (generally prepares us for stressful situations, like "fight - or - flight"); and the Parasympathetic (generally controls body process during ordinary situations). This is all controlled by the Water Element, and governed by the Kidneys and Bladder.

A well balanced Water Element will show as: good and strong teeth, strong and supple bones, a strong and flexible spine, freely moving pelvic girdle area (hips, too), strong reproductive system (fertility), appropriate sexual activity, appropriate growth and maturation of children, an alive and curious mind, good long term memory, ability to think keenly and concentrate well, mentally strong, ability to still your mind, a full head of hair, and appropriate graying of hair.

Below is a list of questions that I would like you to ask yourself. Think about what shows up for you when you answer each question. You may need to "nourish" your Water Element to bring it into better balance.

1. Do you have osteopenia, osteoporosis, or other bony problems?

2. Do you have chronic back pain or sciatica?

3. Do you have infertility or erectile dysfunction?

4. Do you have dull or inflexible thinking?

5. Do you have premature graying or excessive loss of head hair?

Sound and Emotion Correspondences

The sound that corresponds with the Water element is groaning. This may not be so obvious, until you think about the quality of the season of Winter. Winter has the tendency to lack a variation from day to day. There appears to be very little sign of life, and look how water tends to freeze (and has no movement). Day after day can go by with little to no variation; and this is where we can hear the monotonous and unchanging groan in someone's voice.

The emotion that is associated with the Water element is fear. Think about the darkness of Winter and the depths of the ocean. Don't you experience a level of uncertainty and fear about "what is out there" in the dark or "what could be lurking" at the deepest depths of the ocean? Since the Water element deals with the your innate resources and how wisely you use them, your potential, and your ability for self - assurance, can you see how having a healthy level of fear can facilitate your thinking and preparing for the future and your ability to be resilient no matter what happens?

Can you see how chronic fear and nervousness has the ability to "freeze" or "paralyze" someone? It may even become difficult for them to take a "step forward" (both figuratively and literally). A person's mind may even become "stuck and fixed", and result in them feeling overwhelmed or being unable to contain their thoughts. A person experiencing fear may also act in an opposite way, babbling uncontrollably. Here again you can see the analogies to water, whether it is "frozen" or "flowing out of control". Finally, think about someone who may be "fearless" and participate in very dangerous sports and activities. Maybe this person is trying to generate and adrenaline rush to "stimulate" themselves.

Color, Direction, Climate, and Taste Correspondences

The color correspondence of the Water element is blue (dark blue). The ocean is a beautiful hue of blue (and think about the darkness as you dive deeper into the ocean). The direction of the Water element is north. This makes sense, since you probably think of colder climates (climate correspondence) being located farther north than south. The taste associated with the Water element is salty, and is pretty straightforward. Think about the foods that come from the ocean (seaweed, fish, etc.), and that our blood and body fluids are made up of a saline solution (0.9% sodium chloride (salt water) solution).

Below is a list of questions that I would like you to ask yourself. Think about what shows up for you when you answer each question.

  1. How well do you like dark blue or black clothes, etc?
  2. Do you love to go to the beach for your vacations (getting into the water or listening to the ocean)? Think about the rhythm of the waves coming in and out.
  3. What do you think of cold weather? How does cold weather make you feel? Does it make you stiff (mentally and physically)?
  4. Do you ever crave salty foods?

Nourishing your Water Element

So, if you are interested in nourishing and keeping your Water Element in balance, try some of the following things:

  1. Balance the amount of activity and rest (work, rest, & play). This is a great example of using your resources wisely.
  2. Exercise wisely (do energy building exercises like yoga, qi gong, and tai chi), versus performing exercises that use up a lot of your energy and run your "batteries" down.
  3. Take time to meditate or have time for quiet contemplation. This will help keep you from depleting your resources.
  4. Support and strengthen the low back (with activities such as: qi gong, tai chi, postural exercises, and abdominal exercises). This will help you when you have to shovel snow!
  5. Observe and access your deeper rhythm (circadian). How much rest do you need to feel alive and awake?
  6. Liberate yourself from chronic fear. Think about abundance instead of scarcity.
  7. Eat foods that come from saltwater (fish, seaweeds); seeds; salty-flavored foods (if you don't have blood pressure problems); and dark colored foods (red/black beans). These types of foods support your Kidneys (think about how kidney beans look like a Kidney) and Bladder.
  8. Drink appropriate amounts of water. This keeps you hydrated and allows for you to move smoothly (body/mind/spirit).
  9. Avoid too many stimulants or dehydrating drinks. These can affect your mood in a negative way.

To do this, you may need a professional to work with you (a physician, nutritionist, acupuncturist, personal trainer, massage therapist, counselor, spiritual director, or other wellness professionals).

Until then, keep observing your movement through Winter, and how well your Water Element is balanced. And remember: It is tempting to say that the 'Water is this or that', or declare 'I am only Water', but this is NOT how the Elements are meant to be described. There are aspects of the Water Element that resonate for each individual, and it should! The Water Element is an integral piece of describing the ONENESS of the universe (including our own body/mind/spirit) that is constantly changing and transforming!

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.

She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read Part 1 of the the Wood Element

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman