08 Oct Spring clean your Qi
While we’ve officially left the cold winter months behind for another year, months of comfort foods, rainy days and bone-chilling temperatures can leave us feeling sluggish and our energy levels depleted as we head into spring and make our way towards summer.
Just as the change in seasons is a great time to start afresh and inject vitality into our homes with a spring clean, traditional Chinese medicine can help you ‘spring clean’ your Qi, in a sense, too. Treatments can help clear any blockages that have been exacerbated by the cold, damp conditions of winter and get your Qi flowing through the energy centres of the body smoothly again.
What exactly is Qi?
Qi (sometimes spelled ‘chi’) is the Chinese word for energy, and it circulates around the different channels of the body, which are divided into ‘yin’ chi and ‘yang’ chi. It’s the balance of yin and yang that maintains our body’s wellness and ease and harmony.
“Yang is the driving energy and yin is the nourishing energy. We say: yang drives yin but yin nurtures yang,” explains Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association President, Waveny Holland.
“The best analogy I can give you is that yin Qi is like the oil in a car, and yang Qi is like the petrol. You need to have both to keep the car running. If there’s no grease and lubrication, the car will seize up to a halt. You can have a full tank of petrol, but it’s not going to go anywhere. Similarly, you can use as much oil as you want, but if there’s no fuel to drive the car, it just won’t go.”
The Qi, or source energy, of all the organs in the body, is carried through the san jiao – also called the triple burner or triple heater, explains Waveny. The “triple” refers to the three areas of the body containing the major organs: the thorax, abdomen and pelvis. “So the flow of qi through the san jiao, or the triple heater, maintains that balance.”
How does winter affect Qi?
“From a Chinese medicine point of view, we look after our bodies year-round,” says Waveny. “Unlike in Western medicine, where they focus on different things at different times, we maintain wellness all year round.”
But, she adds, the flow of Qi can get blocked – and certain weather patterns, like those we see often in winter, can have a hand in this.
“Climate has a huge role to play in the way we feel well or poorly, because it will exacerbate the internal movement of Qi,” she explains. “The damp penetrates the body and exacerbates the damp you already have there and blocks the flow of qi. When it’s raining, I always have more people ringing up for sinus herbs. When it’s raining outside, people feel more depressed – because depression is a damp condition, that’s when people feel more miserable.”
So how can we unblock, or ‘spring clean’, our Qi?
Your symptoms will give your Chinese medicine practitioner a big hint as to where exactly a blockage has appeared – and how to clear it.
If there’s a blockage in the spleen and stomach, for example, metabolism and digestion are affected. But spleen and stomach energy also fuel focus, thought, concentration and short-term memory. So if, for example, you eat lunch while sitting at your desk at work – something many of us are guilty of, particularly in winter when wet, cold days keep us cooped up inside at lunchtime – neither digestion nor concentration will happen at full capacity, because the spleen’s energy is fragmented as it tries to do both at the same time.
“It’s much better to actually take a 10- or 15-minute break from your work, go and eat, enjoy your food and let it go down a little bit before you come back and start plugging away,” advises Waveny.
This is a simple change you can implement into your everyday life to keep Qi flowing – but there are also treatments you might consider. “You could potentially eliminate the cold, sluggish feeling of winter by having a treatment that can warm the cold and get your Qi flowing again, bringing activity and energy back into your life – and spring,” says Waveny.
One she says is “extraordinarily good” for damp-related Qi blockages is moxibustion.
Moxibustion, or “moxa”, as it’s called, couples the use of acupuncture needles with the art of burning mugwort close to the skin to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi.
“There are master points for damp and phlegm on the spleen and stomach channels, which are responsible for resolving damp. So, we’ll often do moxibustion, which is a warming or heating treatment with mugwort. It really warms that cold and resolves that damp, and you feel as though you’ve got ball bearings back in your joints, whether it’s your knee or your lower back or wherever it is that you’re feeling those symptoms,” explains Waveny.
“People fall asleep when I start doing moxa because it is just so relaxing and so beautiful, it’s a really lovely treatment. It’s too good a treatment to ignore.”
Where can I find a practitioner to help unblock my Qi?
To find an accredited, knowledgeable and skilled acupuncturist or Chinese medicine practitioner to help you spring into spring and maintain your health all year round, AACMA recommends searching the AACMA national practitioner database.
AACMA has been representing Chinese medicine professionals for over 45 years and is considered Australia’s most trusted source for qualified practitioners in the field. With more than 2,200 registered practitioners listed, all of whom have a minimum four-year degree in Chinese medicine and are registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, “you are guaranteed to know you are sourcing the best possible professional who can offer the highest quality treatment and care”, says Waveny.