The more regularly we practice Yoga the more sensitive we become, and more in tune with the change of the seasons.

Oriental Medicine acknowledges that certain organs and their functions are related to different seasons. The organs are represented by a network of energy tubes, called meridians, which run through our body. Our physical, as well as our emotional and mental health, rely on a free and even flow of energy/prana through these meridians. Energy blockages in these energy tubes cause sickness and dis-ease. Different meridians and organs relate to the particular character traits, moods, and disposition we are experiencing. Spring is represented by the energy of the liver and the gallbladder – yin and a yang meridians complementing each other.

How our body experiences spring

The liver and gallbladder belong to the wood element. The liver stores nutrients and energy for physical activity. It also cultivates resistance against disease and detoxifies our blood. The gallbladder is responsible for breaking down fats. It distributes nutrients and balances total energy through the aid of internal hormones and secretions such as bile, saliva, gastric acid, insulin, and intestinal hormones. Both meridians are nurtured by healthy sour flavours (lemon, vinegar, tamarind).

When in balance, the liver gives us a sense of direction, patience, and purpose. The gall bladder promotes structure, harmony and order. When we have accumulated ‘blockages’ in these meridians (energy tubes) we experience anger and irritability, and a lack of the qualities of purpose, patience, kindness, and the ability to make decisions.

Spring therefore, is the time for new beginnings; we are waking from our winter slumber. Some people even choose spring time to undergo a liver cleanse. So it’s good to be prepared!

Yoga and Eastern Medicine

Yoga is regarded as a healing modality. Yoga postures – apart from their well-known benefits of increased strength and flexibility – heal ailments, effect the way we feel emotionally and also the workings of our mind. Certain postures stretch certain meridians, enhancing the removal of blockages and the free flow of energy, which makes us feel so good!

Especially in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, we take the spine through all five directions of movement it can assume in every single session. Each direction of movement is linked to different meridians, thus activating and toning them. As each meridian relates to different organs with their respective emotions and mental states, with the correct stretches, we can feel pretty wonderful at the end of a practice! Our whole being is in a more balanced state, experiencing a freer flow of energy throughout our body. We feel grounded, contented, and joyful.

Yoga in Spring

Because of where our liver and gallbladder meridians are located in our bodies, twists and side stretches assist in their good functioning. So during spring, you may like to focus on and closely observe the practice of your twists and side stretches. To start with, watch your triangle and extended triangle postures, as well as their respective revolved/twisted variations:

In the triangle posture, Utthita Trikonasana, we are moving our spine sideways and we rotate/twist our trunk upwards at the same time. In the revolved version the focus is mainly on twisting. The stretch of the liver and gallbladder meridians is only one of the many beautiful benefits of these magnificent standing postures. We also promote strength in our ankles, legs, and hips, as well as making them flexible. These standing postures are beautiful and powerful hip openers.

Twists

Let’s take a closer look at the revolved triangle and revolved extended triangle postures (parvrtta trikonasana and parvrtta parsvakonasana):

With a skillfull set-up, we can create a solid base for these twists to be practiced with more ease. Strong stable legs support our hips and trunk, which then can soften and assume different shapes quite freely, as if independent from the lower portion of the body. With wobbly legs, we would experience difficulties staying balanced, and twisting the torso to the desired direction within a posture, becomes much more of a challenge. Once we feel grounded with our legs firm, we shall pay attention to engaging our bandhas – yes, the bandhas are our intimate friends we need to be able to rely on heavily throughout this whole process, as always! We can now bring the focus to the positioning of our hips, which we aim to stabilise in a ‘square’ and ‘level’ position, so the movement of the twist will originate only in our thoracic spine (upper portion of the spine). The lower back is not designed to be twisted! Thus arises the need for a precise set-up and execution of these postures. Once a stable foundation has been established, we are ‘free’ to focus on the revolving of our ribcage. With each exhalation we consciously ‘soften’ our ribs to move the back ribs all around to the opposite side, and upward. With the legs and hips creating a steady support we can allow our upper body to ‘melt’ into the position.

Benefits of twists

This results in a ‘squeezing’ and massaging of our inner organs, which means effective detoxification and the rejuvenation of our abdominal organs and spine. It also encourages a fresh surge of blood and prana into our system. Twists assist the digestion, elimination, and relieve back pain. Over time, the gained flexibility and strength of our inter-costal muscles allow for more mobility in our chest and therefore we can breathe more deeply and fully. Twists develop breath-bandha integration. To complete this amazing experience, the drsti – gazing point – plays an important role in giving our body a sense of the direction we wish it to take.

Isn’t Yoga just wonderfully taking care of all of our needs, may they be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. It never ceases to amaze me!

OM Shanti,

Angelika