Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


Complementary Corner

Acupuncture and the Five Elements

Renee Lehman

The Wood Element, part 2

Read Part 1

The Five Elements is 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 (see the figure below). In the first part of the Wood Element, the associations of the season of Spring, and a Yin and Yang Organ (the Liver and Gallbladder, respectively) were discussed for the April 2010 article).

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 Wood Element, Part 2, keep in mind that you are reading only about one part of a much bigger picture!

Review of Part 1

What words have you used to describe this springtime? With a stretch of really warm days, did you see how everything seemed to bloom at the same time? I bet those of you with spring seasonal allergies where really bothered by all of the pollen in the air. Also, with the warmer weather, many of you have spent more time outside. Spring is a time of beginnings and renewal, flourishing, and increasing light/brightness, Overall, there is so much activity occurring throughout this season.

Along with being associated with the season of Spring, the Wood Element is also defined as having other associations. In this article the following associations will be discussed: a body tissue (Tendons and Ligaments), an external manifestation (Nails), a sound in the voice (Shouting), an emotion (Anger), a color (Green), a direction (East), a climate (Wind), and a taste (Sour).

Body Tissue and External Manifestation Correspondences

The body tissues associated with the Wood element are your joints, tendons and ligaments. Strong and flexible joints create coordinated and easy movement. Think about being like bamboo. It is flexible and stands straight and tall. If a strong wind storm came along, while other trees may have branches that snap and break, the bamboo just sways and sustains no damage. The external manifestation of the Wood element is your nails. Just like vegetation spring, your nails are constantly growing and need to be "manicured".

A well balanced Wood Element will show as: a supple body capable of dynamic movement; smooth, coordinated, and graceful joint movements; flexible muscles and tendons; a body free from muscle cramping and spasming; strong fingernails, nails free from pitting or ridges, and finger and toenail beds that are a healthy pink color.

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 Wood Element to bring it into better balance.

  • Do you have osteoarthritis?
  • Do you have chronic muscle cramps?
  • Do you have problems with chronic tendonitis?
  • Do you have dull, ridged or brittle nails?
  • Do you get headaches from tense shoulder and neck muscles?

Sound and Emotion Correspondences

Think about how the energy of the season of Spring is moving upward and outward. The sound and the emotion that correspond with the Wood element are shouting and anger, respectively. Wouldn't you say that the upsurge of energy that you feel when you express anger powerfully is similar to the rising energy of springtime? Don't the words, "I just need to get this out of me, or I am going to burst!" resonate for you? And when you say these words are you "shouting" or saying them in a timid way?

Anger can result when there is a barrier to you achieving your goals, when an injustice has occurred, or when you have felt vulnerable and hurt (just to name a few roots of anger). The same type of rising energy can also be felt when you are assertive and enthusiastically achieving your goals. So, anger is not always the western thought about being "mad" about something or at someone. It is the upward surge of energy that a blade of grass needs to grow up through a crack in the sidewalk. It is the rising of energy within us that fuels our "creative fire" and helps us to put our plans into action.

A well balanced Wood Element will show as: the appropriate raising and lowering of your voice; appropriate expression of the upward and outward energy associated with the emotion of anger; being appropriately enthusiastic; and being assertive.

Ask yourself the following questions. Think about what shows up for you when you answer each question. You may need to "nourish" your Wood Element to bring it into better balance.

  • Are you often aggressive towards others? Are you often timid when with others?
  • Do you often feel like a "doormat", and get stepped all over?
  • Do you deal with something that angered you, or do you "push it down"?
  • Are you often angry or moody? When angry, do you shout? Are you afraid to shout?
  • Do you assert yourself on a regular basis?
  • Do you "take up your space" when in a room with others?

Color, Direction, Climate, and Taste Correspondences

The color correspondence of the Wood element is green. The taste associated with the Wood element is sour. Things in nature are growing, but not yet mature. Haven't you used the word "green" to describe someone who lacks experience or is immature? Think of the lush green colors associated with spring: the green leaves popping from the trees, the greenery growing through the earth, the fruit and vegetables that are still "green" and not yet the color they will be in the summer; and the "greenness" of a tree branch if you try to break it. The sour taste also reflects this "greenness", and being unripe. What does an unripened apple taste like? Think about the fresh spring lettuces that have a slightly sour taste.

The direction of the Wood element is east. Think about how the sun rises in the east, bringing with it things related to the Wood element: brightness, a new day, full of hope and possibilities! The climate of the Wood element is wind. This makes sense when you think of how windy it gets in the springtime. Remember the saying about spring "coming in as a lamb and going out like a lion" (or vice versa).

Nourishing your Wood Element

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

  • On a physical level, try stretching exercises, especially sideways bending and twisting (remember to be like bamboo). Walk to keep your muscles and joints limber. Try juggling, because it takes coordinated movements and flexible muscles and tendons.
  • Consider taking a supplement to help keep your joints resilient.
  • Eat foods of spring: dark green lettuce and vegetables; sprouts and sprouted foods (like bread); sour foods like lemons, etc.; and avoid saturated fats, over-salted and over-processed foods.
  • Practice assertiveness in your daily life.
  • Take time to meditate or use a relaxation technique to help decrease your muscle tension.
  • If you hate wind, wear a scarf or keep your neck protected.
  • Practice "taking up your space" when you walk into a room.
  • Practice letting go of long term resentments and judgments toward yourself and others.
  • Let anger give rise to "effective action" instead of "fuming" about what angered you.

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 Spring, and how well your Wood Element is balanced. And remember: It is tempting to say that the 'Wood is this or that', or declare 'I am only Wood, but this is NOT how the Elements are meant to be described. There are aspects of the Wood Element that resonate for each individual, and it should! The Wood 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 other article on well being by Renee Lehman