In this period of universal change, with circumstances beyond our control, we can gain a sense of empowerment by focusing on the aspects of our lives within our control, beginning with emotions. Emotions have a strong impact on our organs, immune system, and consequently on our health. Though Eastern and Western medicine offer two different approaches toward the relationship between emotions and health, they both reach the same conclusion: emotions impact our physical well-being.
A branch of Western medicine called Psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology (PENI) studies the interaction between the human body’s psychological processes and its nervous and immune systems. According to PENI, fear and emotional stress disturb our sympathetic nervous system (i.e. the “Fight or Flight” response). When forced to defend ourselves, we produce adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, all substances that impair our immune system. On the other hand, when relaxed, happy, balanced, and aligned, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system (i.e. the “Rest and Digest” response). This produces neurotransmitters such as serotonin, endorphins, and acetylcholine, which circulate through our body and strengthen our immune system.
Traditional Chinese Medicine agrees. A healthy body has a good Qi (life force energy). Every organ and every element has its own Qi. For our immune system, however, the most important is “Wei Qi,” our outer defense mechanism or protective blanket.
Wei Qi can be attacked by the five negative (or out of balance) emotions: Anger, Anxiety, Worry, Grief, and Fear. Emotions in Traditional Chinese Medicine have slightly different meanings than their Western interpretations. Unlike the Western approach, which teaches that emotions are located in the brain, Eastern medicine believes they are located in the five power centers, our organs.
Each emotion controls the energy of one organ. When our emotions are unbalanced, the Qi of the associated organ is depleted. Likewise, when an organ is weak, the corresponding emotion becomes unbalanced.
Anger controls the Qi of the Liver. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Liver is considered the power center, “the commander” that sends out the proper amount of energy to the cells in our body. It is responsible for the proper flow of Blood (the vital essence of the body) and Qi, but equally important is its ability to keep our stress levels in check. By managing and processing strong emotions such as anger, frustration, and resentment, the Liver allows us to deal with life’s set-backs. When balanced, we can better face frustration and situations that we have no control over. Likewise, when we allow frustrating situations to trigger our anger, the Qi of the Liver is depleted.
Anger and frustration relate to “acceptance” and “self-affirmation.” The more we avoid expressing our desires and allow events to overwhelm us, the more we feed our anger and frustration. In this period of COVID-19 and its staggering news and death reports that overexpose us to the conflicting emotions of our families and friends, we must protect ourselves and recognize energies that don’t belong to us. Be informed about what’s going on in the world, but without getting sucked into the vortex of negativity. Practice acceptance of what’s happening and adapt to this new reality. Instead of falling victim to the circumstances and fighting to recover the past, adapt to the present and develop a kind and generous attitude towards people who are experiencing the same challenges. Make the psychological shift that allows you to view your life with a fresh perspective. To balance Qi in the Liver meridian, you can also practice the following yoga poses: Child, Humble Warrior, Exalted Warrior.
Joy controls the Qi of the Heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart rules our body. When strong, it pumps Blood throughout the arteries at a steady flow and regulates the temperature of our body. The Heart signals the emotions of joy and love for another human being. Balanced joy is a source of wellness that makes a positive contribution to our relationships. Unbalanced, it creates a state of agitation or over-excitement. This emotion ties into heart palpitations, repeated agitation, and insomnia.
To ease agitation, insomnia, and over-excitement, tap into the strongest healing energy of the Universe: unconditional love. Whenever you feel anxious and agitated, simply interrupt your activity, sit comfortably, place both hands on your heart, close your eyes, and breathe deeply while evoking in your mind any image that makes you feel love, such as a person, a place, or your pet. Concentrate on feeling the pleasure coming from that sensation of unconditional love. Once you connect with love, pull it inside yourself while breathing in, and when breathing out imagine you are releasing any energy that does not belong to you. Repeat for as many breaths as you need to achieve balance. Moreover, open yourself to love by making time for daily activities you enjoy, such as reading, listening to music, chatting with your friends, connecting with your family, or practicing yoga poses beneficial for the Heart meridian, such as Crescent Lunge, Camel, Bridge, Wheel.
Worry controls the Qi of the Spleen (Pancreas), the center of our digestive system. By absorbing the nutrients from our food and transforming them into Blood and Qi, the Spleen is the ultimate manufacturing and food processing factory. It keeps our muscles and blood vessels toned and healthy. When it functions poorly, we suffer malnutrition, fatigue, bloating, and other digestive disturbances. The Spleen processes worry. Balanced worry is limited to a compassionate concern for self and others. But worry can fast escalate out of control. It takes us out of the now and into imagined future dangers. Worrying can cause imbalances that severely affect our health. Too much anxiety and overthinking affects our ability to think clearly and set goals.
To control over-worrying, be present in the moment. I recommend manual activities such as painting, massaging yourself or your partner, petting your four-legged friend, cooking, or any activity that you truly enjoy and that suspends your rational thinking by transferring your energy from your brain to your body through your emotions. Anything that grounds you, helps to balance this emotion: a nature walk, hugging a tree, and practicing earth-centered yoga poses such as Mountain, Chair, Tree, Headstand.
Grief affects the Qi of the Lungs. Lungs have two important jobs. They breathe and distribute oxygen throughout the body, while also expelling carbon dioxide, and they manage our body’s Qi. Lungs process Qi and make sure it flows smoothly through the body. Any disturbance in the Lungs results in a multitude of respiratory issues. Keeping our lungs balanced has never been more important than now. Lungs experience sadness. At some point in life everyone suffers loss. From the death of a loved one or a beloved pet to selling the family home. Unexpressed sadness and melancholy can become overwhelming and lead to lung issues.
To control grief, recognize it, process it, then let it go. Releasing repressed sadness and recharging our energy channels is critical for the proper functioning of your Lungs. At times, during a massage or reiki session, the receiver may cry due to the release of that energy stored in the body. Let resistances go, let your tears flow and replace them with joy by watching a sitcom on TV or a funny film. Call up that old friend who always makes you laugh. Do fun things and laugh as much as you can. You can also practice the following yoga poses: Standing Backbend, Pigeon, Fish, Reclining Spinal Twist.
Fear is the emotion that controls the Qi of the Kidneys. When balanced, Kidneys are our ultimate power players in charge of will power and drive. Not only do Kidneys provide a major source of energy, they also have a critical emotional job: to process past and present feelings of fear. Fear as a constant state of mind leads to depression, sore back and joints, bone and teeth problems. When fear grows out of control and becomes chronic, our thoughts and energy are focused on imagined things, often things unlikely to happen. In this state, no peace or energy remains to live a normal and productive life.
To balance this emotion, spend time near water or evoke the image of a river or the ocean in your mind. Even soothing water sounds like rain or a flowing stream can be helpful. Moreover, provide the right amount of water to your body, drinking at least one glass every hour. Protect yourself from the cold, keeping your feet always warm and avoiding cold drinks. The yoga poses to practice in order to move the Qi into the Kidney meridian are Plank, Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior 3, Boat.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Organs nurture and support each other (generating cycles), so if the Qi of one organ is out of balance, the others become affected soon or later, as do the emotions.
When the Qi of Kidneys is affected by Fear, it cannot nurture the Qi of Liver anymore. A depleted Liver is open to the feelings of Anger and Frustration, which can affect the Qi of the Heart, generating, for example, feelings of Jealousy. When the Heart cannot nurture the Spleen anymore, there is space for Worry, which affects Lungs, driving you toward sadness and depression.
When we face a difficult situation, we cannot control the events that affect our decision on how to handle it, but we can choose our reaction. We can choose to feel compassion instead of frustration to preserve the Qi of our Liver; To express unconditional love instead of agitation and confusion, in order to keep our Heart healthy; To trust instead of trying to control in order to avoid any blockage in the Qi of our Spleen and digestive system; To recognize, accept, and process our sadness instead of letting it sink deeper and deplete the Qi of our Lungs; To exercise our will power and connect with our community instead of isolating ourselves and becoming victim to our fears, which consumes the energy of the Kidneys.
Ultimately, one mental pattern can contribute to disease. If we want to heal, we must dig deeply inside ourselves until we find the root cause of our emotional disease, and then learn how to substitute the balanced emotion for the unbalanced one (Table 1).
|ORGAN||BALANCED EMOTION||UNBALANCED EMOTION||ACTION||YOGA ASANA||BALANCING
|Liver / Gallbladder||Kindness, Generosity||Anger, Frustration||Accepting||Child,
|Breath of Fire
|Heart / Small Intestine||Unconditional love, Joy||Agitation, Confusion||Opening, Breathing||Crescent Lunge, Camel, Bridge,
|Alternate Nostril Breath for brain hemisphere balancing
|Spleen (Pancreas)/ Stomach
|Trust, Mindfulness||Worry, Overthinking||Grounding||Chair,
Walking in nature
|Lungs / Large Intestine
|Calmness||Sadness, Desperation||Releasing of sadness||Standing Backbend, Pigeon,
Reclining Spinal Twist
Legs Up Wall
|Lying on back with block under chest|
|Kidneys / Urinary Bladder||Will power, Inner strength||Fear of losing something that gives us security and a sense of existential well-being||Connecting, Aligning||Plank
Warrior 1, Warrior 2, Warrior 3
spend time next to any water source, listen to water sounds like rain, flowing stream, or water fountain
Both Western and Eastern medicine know that extreme or out-of-control emotions open the door to disease and unwellness. The good news is that we can treat them with mindful attention. Take advantage of this period of quarantine and isolation to find time for yourself. Read, meditate, tap the acupressure points, practice yoga. Do your best to let go of what you cannot control and embrace what you can, by practicing compassion and self-love. When your Qi flows, your mind, body, and emotions are at peace. Life’s ups and downs become easier to deal with, and the days seem brighter. Your inner peace becomes your outer peace and you reach optimum health.
–The Su Wen of the Huangdi Neijing (Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor)
–Total Health the Chinese Way, Esther Ting and Marianne Jas
–Anatomy of the Spirit, Caroline Myss
–Emotion and Healing in the Energy Body, Robert H
Francesca Serraino Fiory is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Therapist, Holistic Health Practitioner. Contact her at https://fireflychi.com/contact-me/ to book your customized massage/ energy healing session or holistic health/nutrition consultation.