"Thus the interaction of the four seasons and the interaction of Yin and Yang (the 2 principles in nature) is the foundation of everything in creation. Hence the sages conceived and developed their Yang in Spring and Summer, and conceived and developed their Yin in Fall and Winter in order to follow the rule of rules...maintained themselves at the gate of life and development." - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine.
I hope you're enjoying the warm weather of summer, which began with the summer solstice on June 21st. At solstice, we get to enjoy the longest day of the year. This is when Yang energy is at its height, and this Yang energy causes action and outward movement. It encourages you to get outside and work, play, and travel more. So, it's perfectly natural to be more physically active in summer!
Summer is the season of growth and maturation - a time when all living things prosper. Heavenly Qi moves down to meet the rising earth Qi, which allows the plant kingdom and animal kingdom to develop to their fullest potential.
We are affected by all of the seasons differently, and just as the weather continually changes, other natural cycles affect us from night and day to the new and full moons. We're also affected by internal biological clocks that regulate hormone levels, metabolism, growth from childhood to adolescence, and menstrual cycles/menopause.
In Oriental Medicine, all of these factors are taken into account for diagnosis and treatment, as well as the "Theory of the Five Elements" - metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. The season of summer is associated with the Fire element.
According to the Chinese sages, those who live in harmony with the changing seasons enjoy greater health and longevity. The Nei Jing (Inner Classic) says, "He who would nourish life surely follows (the changes of) the four seasons, adapts to cold and heat, harmonizes joy and anger, and dwells in calm." This is accomplished by adjusting your schedule and activities to each season.
Summer and the Heart
"The Heart controls the spirit." - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine
The Fire element is associated with the heart, which is more active during the summer. This is the organ to focus on the most now. It's in charge of your blood circulation and helps to circulate oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. So, exercise that gets your blood moving is a great idea. The efficiency of your heart, as well as other organs, can be greatly improved by regular vigorous exercise. Otherwise, your muscles will become weak.
You're never too old to get into a regular exercise program. It will vanquish fatigue and reduce excessive weight by helping you sweat and stimulate your internal organs. So, go out and do it! Be sure to also eat moderate amounts of cooling foods like cucumber and watermelon during the warm summer months, and drink plenty of water. Beware of too much air conditioning as well. You need to work up that sweat!
Your heart is also linked to sleep functions. At night, the heart stores the "shen," a Chinese medical term for "spirit" or "conscious awareness" that refers to the mental, emotional, expressive, and organizing force within you. If your heart fails to house the shen at night, you will suffer from insomnia. Fortunately, this is one of the many conditions that Oriental medicine can easily remedy.
Shen also refers to "expression" or "look." If a person is healthy, their eyes radiate "glitter." If a person's health is compromised, their eyes will look dull.
Your body must be in a good state of health, and there must be sufficient nourishment and balance to radiate that "glitter" and for your spirit - your "shen" - to be at peace. When poor diet, trauma, extreme emotions, or external diseases injure your body, your spirit doesn't have a comfortable place to rest. To address this problem, Oriental medicine practitioners treat the cause AND calm the spirit so that you will feel happier and more peaceful.
The Fire Personality
The season of summer is associated with the Fire element, and there are people who exhibit the qualities of Fire in their personalities. They're easy to spot. One of my patients is the epitome of a Fire personality. He literally bowls you over with his enthusiasm, friendliness, passion, charisma, and compassion. He's very social, and he would much rather be with others than alone. His complexion is rosy - even flushed. He tends to be a leader, and he always seeks stimulation and excitement. When these usual traits are missing, I know he's in a period of "burn-out." The bodies of Fire personalities even tend to run on the hot side.
Because Fire personalities are so preoccupied with continuous stimulation, they can easily wear themselves out. Then, they find themselves unable to slow down, rest, sleep, and recharge. When out of balance and over-stimulated, the Fire personality can become anxious and even manic. This person's heart could suffer arrhythmia or enlargement because of the demands placed upon it.
What the Fire personality needs to learn is a balance between activity and tranquility of mind - time alone to complete life, separate fantasy from reality, and meditate in order to nourish the shen. And since they run hot, eating moistening foods such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, millet, and beans will also benefit them.
"The heart is like the minister of the monarch who excels through insight and understanding." - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine
Man is a reflection of the universe - a microcosm within the microcosm - and this holistic viewpoint allows Oriental medicine to heal the whole person. More and more people are turning to Oriental Medicine for a deeper look at their environment and their relationship to that environment. Many people seek to go beyond the band aid of treating symptoms in order to eliminate the root cause. If you're not feeling your best this summer or are lacking some of that "glitter," don't let the season go by without listening to your body and attending to its needs.
"Those who disobey the laws of Summer will be punished with an injury of the heart." - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine
Staying Healthy With the Seasons by Elson Haas, M.D
The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine translated by Ilza Veith
Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold
 Yang in terms of the human body refers to function...movement, warmth, defense. Yin refers to substance...body fluids, blood, and the ability to cool.