In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are five elements that are integral to all life. These elements arise out of yin Qi and yang Qi. Yin and yang Qi represent the female and male energies from which all things in the universe are generated. Yin is dark, cool, moist and quiet. Yang is dry, hot and active. Yin is the moon, reflective and deep. Yang is the sun, bright and strong.
Neither yin nor yang are pure. That is why within the Yin-yang symbol, there is a dot of yin within the yang aspect and a dot of yang within the yin. They are mutually generating, and neither can exist without the other. Within this tradition, there are five activity stages of Yin and Yang energy –
- Yang within Yin (emerging or young Yang)
- Yang within Yang (mature or full Yang)
- The point of balance on which the others manifest.
- Yin within Yang (emerging or young Yin)
- Yin within Yin (full or mature Yin).
Both Yin Qi and Yang Qi, regulate all life on earth and reflect a deep understanding of natural law, the Universal order underlying all things in our world. They in turn give birth to the cosmic energy and it is this that manifest all existence. The combined Qi (the universal energy of life) undergoes five stages of transformation. The five stages of transformation are known as the elements. The five elements are –
These five Elements are energies in motion, they are not static and have two main fundamental relationships; generating and supporting. Each element corresponds to one of the five Yin and Yang activity stages and together, they form a repetitive cycle or pattern of Yin and Yang energy shown through the seasons, a natural cycle of growth and decay. These same energies are also reflected within our own bodies and personalities.
Spring – During the season of Spring, the Wood energy arises. Wood is associated with movement and is emerging Yang (Yang within Yin). It is a transition from a season of Yin to a season of Yang: death to growth and cold to warmth. Similar to how new growth begins to push through the frozen Earth in Spring, Wood energy is expansive, associated with growth and development. In the human body, wood energy is the movement of your muscles and the activity of your tissues. Its color is Green. Spring is reminding us of new growth, to let go of the past and Wood energy demands free expression and space for expansion, imbalances gives rise to feelings of resentment, anger, and jealousy.
Summer – Just as Spring develops naturally into Summer, so too does Wood into the full Yang energy of Fire. Fire is the aggressive, creative energy and is mature Yang (Yang within Yang). The most energetic phase, where all life flourishes and where action takes place. Summer energy is our time to expand, to move forward with our ideas. This Fire energy relates to our motivation and confidence to create. Connected to our heart, the seat of our emotions. The color is red and imbalances include feelings of stress/reactive if there is too much fire energy or lethargic/stagnant if too little.
Late Summer – Towards the end of Summer, fire energy begins to cool and we move into the Earth elemental energy, this is the season of late summer. In this period the activities of growth and decline are balanced. Earth is the aspect of all the energies in harmony, the Yang energies of Spring and Summer and Yin energies of Autumn and Winter. Late summer reminds us that Mother Earth gives us all that we need, reminding us that we are one with nature and that we should follow energetic movements similar to the natural cycle to stay in balance. Its color is yellow, the color of the sun and earth. Within the body, our earth energy relates to the stomach, spleen and pancreas. If our earth energy is out of balance our digestion can suffer, this will affect our whole system, emotional imbalances can show as worry and anxiety.
Autumn – As Summer passes into Autumn, the energy of Metal prevails, Metal is the energy of accumulation and releasing waste, as emerging Yin (Yin within Yang) wastes are eliminated, and only the essence is kept ready for the next cycle of nature. Autumn reminds us of the need for shredding what is no longer needed. Metal reminds us of our purity and to remember that we are much more than our daily activities. It’s the color of white, and controls the lungs. Resisting this energy and holding onto old wounds can create imbalances such as sadness and grief.
Winter – Water is the elemental energy associated with Winter, Water is the stillness and cooling energy and mature Yin (Yin within Yin). Winter is a time for rest and rejuvenation, during which energy is conserved. In the human body, water relates to our essential fluids, such as hormones, lymph and marrow. Its color is black, all colors in their concentrated form. In nature water is expelled by excessive heat. In our bodies, water is depleted by excessive emotions such as Fear. The way to conserve this energy is to learn when to rest and listen to your own needs, flowing like water through obstacles.
The human body has layers of energetic subtle bodies that surround our physical structure and are part of the larger energetic orbit containing both Yin and Yang energies. Energetically we are all connected to each other, and to anything organically entwined within the whole cosmic energy system. We are both contributors and receivers to this cosmic energy system. Both seasonal attributions and elements can be found within the human existence and provide a blueprint that shows how nature interacts with the body. As we learn to pay attention to how our bodies work, the connectivity of the emotional with the physical, and our connectivity with nature, we can find better balance in our bodies and lives. We can become more connected to our natural ‘Self’, the world around us, as well as to each other.