Tag Archives: Chinese medicine

Transition from Water to Wood

Transition to springAfter the last few very cold days here in South Australia, you may be wondering what planet I’m on as I talk about the seasonal change from winter to spring. According to the ancient Chinese solar calendar, spring starts at the beginning of February in the northern hemisphere, which means the beginning of August here in the antipodes. August 5th is a cross quarter day, marking the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The ancients called this “Establishment of Spring Qi.” From this date, the days begin to lengthen rapidly, temperatures rise and there is an overall quickening in nature.

If you tune into your own body, you may notice that you too are responding to this speeding up. You may perceive it as a feeling of get-up-and-go, a sudden desire to dust off the hiking boots, clean the mountain bike, or get started on spring cleaning. For some it may appear as a restlessness that can only be managed by movement. This is the Wood energy of spring making itself felt in you.

This is a great time to make plans and start new projects, for the ambient Wood energy will support you in your endeavours. It’s a bit like a surfer catching a wave. If you catch the first waves of Wood in August, they will add power to your arm as you implement your new plans.

But take care not to rush too quickly to action. Wood energy can be jerky and erratic and many people suffer tendon and ligament strains in spring as a result of jumping into motion too quickly after a winter of inaction. Make sure you stretch your body before starting physical activity. If you are starting a new project, ensure your plans are sound before you launch into your endeavour.

There is an acupoint which can be very supportive of this transition from Water to Wood. Gall Bladder 25, Capital Gate, lies on the side/back of the body at the end of the twelfth rib. While it is a point on the Gall Bladder meridian (Wood), it is also the mu or alarm point of the Kidney (Water). Therefore it influences both Elements, helps to smooth the movement of Water to Wood and can ease our passage from winter to spring

Capital Gate relaxes the sinews and can get you going, stimulating the will to move into action. The point also helps with low back pain, spinal weakness, feeling the cold, lower abdominal cramp or distension, kidney complaints and difficult urination. It is known to support the free flow of Qi in the area after gall bladder removal.

So if it feels like your get-up-and-go got up and went during the winter, support yourself in the early spring with Capital Gate.


Location of Gall Bladder 25


GB25GB 25 is located a the free end of the twelfth rib. Place your thumbs on your lower back around the level of your waist. Press upwards with your thumbs until you feel the bottom ribs. Follow the ribs down and outwards to the sides of the body until you can feel the ends of the ribs. You are still on the back of your body, but almost to the side. The point is often tender to the touch. Apply sustained pressure for two to three minutes or until the point relaxes and the Qi flows.

My Achilles is killing me!

Thetis dipping AchillesTightness in the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon is a condition that affects many people. This includes joggers, cyclists and other athletes who use their legs strenuously. It can also affect people who wear high heels or ill fitting shoes, those who stand a lot, and those who suddenly take up an aggressive running program after being inactive for a long time. But the condition is not confined to those who are active. People who suffer from blood deficiency, for example the elderly and women during menstruation are prone to tightening of the tendon during the night and so may wake up feeling sore in the calves.

Symptoms of Achilles tendon tightness include cramps, pain and stiffness along the tendon in the morning, pain along the tendon or the back of the heel that worsens with activity, severe pain the day after exercising, thickening of the tendon, bone spur at the heel, and swelling that is present all the time and gets worse throughout the day.

There is a great acupressure point that helps alleviate these symptoms, Bladder 57, Support the Mountain which is located in the middle of back of the lower leg. Sustained pressure here relaxes the Achilles tendon and all the calf muscles that attach to it. This in turn takes pressure off the heel bone where the tendon attaches.

The influence of Support the Mountain extends beyond the leg, for it is an excellent point for pain and stiffness in the lumbar region and for sciatica. When it is held together with Bladder 23 which we learned in an earlier post, the combination provides  an excellent release of the low back. The point also treats haemorrhoids and rectal prolapse.

Did you know that the Achilles tendon is named after the Ancient Greek mythological hero whose mother dipped him in the River Styx to make him invulnerable? Unfortunately the heel by which she held him was not submerged and this remained a vulnerable place. During the Trojan War, Achilles suffered a small would to his heel and subsequently died. The term Achilles heel is now used to refer to a person’s weak spot.

So if calf pain is your Achilles heel, BL 57 Support the Mountain can come to your aid.

Location of Bladder 57

BL 57


The point is located in the middle of back of the lower leg, half way between the crease at the back of the knee and the ankle. It lies in a depression between the heads of the gastrocnemius muscle. If you press the ball of your foot against resistance, this depression becomes more evident. Use firm pressure for two to three minutes or until you feel the Qi moving smoothly.

Transition from Metal to Water

autumn treeIn the Adelaide Hills where I live, the winter rains have come at last, plucking the final leaves from the deciduous trees. There are still warm days, but it is clear we are enjoying the last of them. Winter is waiting in the wings, ready to spread out across the landscape like spilt water.

For some this can be a difficult transition if it brings with it a foreboding of the chilly days and long cold nights to come, and an unwillingness to let go of the bright days of autumn. For others the transition to winter is welcome, a time to hunker down at home in front of a warm fire with a good book and an early bed, shutting out the world and retreating indoors.

During this transition between autumn and winter, the Metal and Water Elements dance with each other as cold days intersperse themselves in the last of the autumn warmth. We cannot ignore the sun as it dips lower and lower towards the horizon, heading for its rendezvous with the winter solstice. We reach for scarves, vests, extra layers and think of splitting wood for fires.

Before I began working with the Elements, I hated winter with a passion. I dreaded the cold and the dark and the faint depression that descended. But gradually I have come to see the rightness of the season, learned to accept nature’s invitation to go inside. The more we  can rest and rejuvenate in this time, the more our internal batteries will be charged in readiness for the next round.

Take up nature’s invitation and use this transition period to prepare for turning within. Secure the house against the cold winter winds; pare back your schedule to allow for early nights; stock up on books, movies, jigsaws, knitting or whatever keeps you comfortable indoors. Emulate the trees and drop the extraneous from your life. Prepare for the descent.

Into yourself.


Sea of Qi – Conception Vessel 6

Hara breathingThis point is located two fingers width below the navel. It lies in the area known variously as the hara, the dan tien, the k’ath and the belly centre. As the name Sea of Qi suggests, it provides access to a reservoir of Qi.

Here is a practice that will serve you well during the winter months, a practice that gathers Qi from the breath and stores it in the kidneys. Place one palm over CV 6 and then place the other palm over it. As you breathe in, imagine you are gathering the Heavenly Qi with your breath and drawing it down into the area under your palms. As you breathe out, retain the gathered Qi. Continue breathing mindfully, adding to your store of Qi with each breath. This practice warms and energises the body yet can be deeply relaxing. It is a great aid for going to sleep. At the deepest level, the practice will strengthen the Kidney Qi and support you through the winter.

Next time we will begin exploring acupoints of the Bladder and Kidney meridians, the channels of the Water Element whose season is winter.