Summer – Fire Element

Earth Balance Tai Chi

Summer Qi for the Heart

Summer is an expansive time of year that is governed by the fire element and the heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Here are my suggestions for strengthening your heart in the summer months.

Fire Element in TCM

The Heart in TCM

The heart is a yin organ, paired with the small intestines, a yang organ. The heart is the ‘king’ of the organs, also called the ‘supreme controller’ and the ‘emperor’. In the five element cycle, the heart controls the lungs (metal element), the heart is controlled by the kidneys (water element), the heart is supported by the liver (wood element) and the heart strengthens the stomach, pancreas and spleen (earth element).

Yin Yan Theory (Heart and Kidneys)

The kidneys (water element) and the heart (fire element) represent yin yang in Taoism. They are polar opposites which all the other elements are formed from.

Taiji
(unity / the one / the whole / the complete)

divides into

Yin and Yang (absolute and infinity)

which then divide into

The 5 Elements (Wu Xing)

Every characteristic of Yin is the polar opposite or the contrasting quality of Yang. Together they symbolise a cycle of constant change: from dark to light, feminine to masculine, winter to summer, cold to hot, wet to dry, aggressive to passive, absolute to infinite and so on. Whilst polar opposites, Yin / Yang also complement each other. Balancing the health of your kidneys (water element) and the heart (fire element) is very important in Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Emotions

The heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine is associated with the following emotions:

  • Positive characteristics: love, joy, happiness.
  • Negative characteristics: impatience, cruelty, arrogance, hate.

Too much love, joy, happiness can be just as damaging as too little, even though they are positive emotions, excess either way is unfavourable. Rather than the emotions relating to a psychological brain state, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the heart governs a specific pairing of emotions. To bring these emotions back into balance, the heart is treated, by strengthening and supporting with the five element theory.


Summer Qi for the Heart

The following table explores the Taoist associations with the heart:

Five Element TheoryThe Fire Element
AssociationsInspiration, Protection, Achievement, Passion, Clarity, Intellect
SeasonSummer
TimeNoon
DirectionSouth
Celestial AnimalPhoenix
Yin or YangYang, Masculine
MovementExpansive
PowerCompletion
FlavourBitter
SoundRoar
WeatherHeat, Dry
ClimateHot
AgePrepubescent
Stage of LifeGrowth
OrganHeart, Small intestine
MaterialPhysical fire
ShapeTriangle
FormSharp edges, Pointed roof, Triangle, Pyramid, Spires
ColoursRed, Purple, Sky blue, Lilac, Pink, Baby Pink, Orange
Yin (Feminine)Soft lighting, Candles, Incense
Yang (Masculine)Log fire, Bonfire, Brilliant sunshine

TCM Functions

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is responsible for a variety of functions in the body:

  • Governs the blood.
  • Controls the blood vessels, which are seen as the tissue of the heart.
  • Pumps blood around the body.
  • Controls bodily fluids e.g. sweat, which is seen as the fluid of the heart.
  • Controls speech, to speak your truth from the heart.
  • The sense organ of the heart is the tongue. A balanced heart will show via a healthy tongue. A tongue that is pale, dark purple or has cracks along the middle symbolises a deficiency in the heart.
  • Controls the complexion, the condition of the heart is shown in the face due to the abundance of blood vessels.
  • The emotional / feeling / psychological centre of the body.
  • The mind and Shen both reside in the heart centre, sometimes called the heart brain. The Shen is our spirit, our spiritual life and our vitality. The heart yin and heart blood nourish our Shen.

Potential symptoms stemming from a heart deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine:

  • Blood flow, circulation, heart rhythm and heart issues.
  • Clogged arteries.
  • Speech issues e.g. from brain injury or stroke.
  • Spontaneous sweating (heart qi deficiency).
  • Excessive sweating (heart qi deficiency).
  • Night sweats (heart yin deficiency).
  • Pale tongue / pale complexion (heart blood deficiency).
  • Purple tongue / red complexion (excess heat).
  • Flushed red cheeks.
  • Blue tinge to the face.
  • Inability to express yourself or over expressive in character (heart qi deficiency).
  • Excessive openness or closeness in character (heart qi deficiency).
  • Mental health (depression, anxiety, insomnia, psychosis).
  • Poor memory.

There are many types of heart deficiency within Traditional Chinese medicine, all relating to the five element theory and the meridian channels.


Nourishing the Heart through Movement

To nourish your heart with exercise, look for arm movements that expand, compress, spiral and involve the armpit area and inside arms, as this is where the heart meridian runs.

  • To strengthen your heart, look for movements that stimulate the heart meridian channel (yin) and small intestine meridian channel (yang).
  • To support your heart, look for movements that stimulate the kidney meridian channel (yin).

Heart Movement in 8 Pieces of Brocade Qigong

Sway the Head and Shake the Tail

TCM: Regulate heart fire.
Health: Strengthens knees, legs, waist and back, coordination, lessens stress.
Key Movements: A deep horse stance squat combined with folding the body in a circular downwards motion, so the water in the kidneys flows into the heart to cool down excess heart fire.

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