Seven tips to help you make the most of the summer energy: or the art of following the middle way all year round

12 July 2022

These simple preventive techniques derived from the teachings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) will enable you enjoy summer to the full and to limit the risk of suffering from symptoms caused by excessive heat such as cardiac problems, cramp, fatigue, confusion, nausea, depression, headaches, difficulty concentrating, over-excitement or apathy.

To help you understand how these practices work, here are a few of the basic principles underlying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):

– TCM is based on a straightforward observation: since human beings are products of nature, our bodies and spirits are necessarily governed by the same laws. By observing our environment it becomes immediately obvious that if everything is in harmony, nature is radiant and serene. However, if that harmony is interrupted – for example, if there are excessive differences in temperature between air masses – this can lead to adverse weather conditions that destroy everything in their wake.

– For human beings, the equivalent of adverse weather conditions is illness. But practising the ancient Chinese art of the middle way in every aspect of our lives (nutrition, hydration, breathing, physical exercise, relaxation techniques, management of our emotions, etc.), can help us to remain healthy.

– Another observation underlying TCM is that, just as everything in nature changes with the seasons, so human beings must also adapt their way of life to the different periods of the year.

 

The summer according to Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Chinese associate the summer with the element of Fire and with the colour red. In the body, this element is linked to the heart and the blood that it enables to circulate and sustain the entire body, like the sun whose rays sustain and warm the earth.

TCM also associates each element with an emotion, with Fire governing the emotion of joy which warms body and spirit. However, everything in the universe has a shadow side, and badly managed emotions can give rise to extreme actions and to violence which, like a conflagration, destroys everything in its passage.

The tips outlined below will help you to live in harmony with the energies of summer, to avoid excesses (of the heart) and to glow like the sun.

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF SUMMER

1 – Abdominal breathing

This is the cornerstone of all meditation and relaxation techniques and is the only way that we can consciously influence the functioning of our autonomic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that controls our unconscious bodily functions (temperature control, regulation of heart rhythm, goose pimples, etc.). Abdominal breathing relaxes the vagal nerve, the cranial nerve that links all the organs to the brain, thus helping to calm both body and spirit.

If you are a beginner to this practice, try visualising a balloon inflating inside your abdomen, towards the front, the back, the sides and the pelvic floor. To determine the length of each breath, count how many seconds each inhalation and exhalation lasts, without forcing yourself. After several cycles (a cycle = one inhalation + one exhalation) you will notice that each breath becomes longer. You will soon easily attain a rhythm of 5 seconds / 5 seconds, the length of time recommended for cardiac coherence (1).

Abdominal breathing:

Stimulates digestion and intestinal peristalsis by massaging the digestive organs

Diminishes the adverse effects of excessive heat. An ordinary breath cycle enables you to take in 50cl of oxygen and an abdominal breath cycle two litres. Since your blood is better oxygenated, your heart does not have to beat so hard to supply your body cells with blood. Regular practice diminishes the risk of cardio-vascular illness. More and more cardiologists are now advising their patients to practise respiratory exercises (1).

Plays a role in anger management. In TCM the liver is associated with anger. The liver is where blood is stored, and massaging this organ by practising abdominal breathing can help avoid the stagnation of blood, a primary cause of anger outbursts.

Helps avoid lower back pain. Another benefit of the massage of the abdominal organs through abdominal breathing is that it relaxes the lumbar muscles, on the same level as the abdomen. This exercise is therefore an excellent way for people who spend long periods sitting down to avoid back pain.

 

2 – Choose warm or hot drinks and food

Avoid cold drinks and food because everything that you consume has to be heated by your body to a temperature of 37°c. This wastes a lot of energy, and your body needs this energy for organic function, to keep your immune system in optimum condition and to digest your food.

But don’t feel guilty if you drink a cold beer or eat an ice-cream, because indulging yourself occasionally is also good for your health!

3- Remain active, but take a break

The summer fills us with energy and it is the season during which we should be most active. But activity is not the same thing as hyperactivity. The ancient Chinese recommended avoiding excessive sweating and overwork. They considered that any physical activity should be followed by sessions of relaxation so as to recover the energy expended. Carrying on with a sporting activity when you are feeling tired can even reduce longevity, according to the precepts of TCM.

If you find it difficult to stop to take a break, scroll down to point number seven!

 

4 – Benefit from the sun’s rays

We all know that getting repeatedly sunburnt can favour the development of skin cancer, but we tend to forget that under-exposure to the sun’s rays is just as detrimental to health. Human beings, who are diurnal animals, need the sun’s UVB rays. The effect of these rays on the skin enables the pre-formed vitamin D stored in the epidermis to transform into vitamin D3, a vitamin that regulates the assimilation of calcium, reinforces the immune system and helps strengthen and regenerate the muscles. A remarkable book has been published on this subject (2). It is the result of the compilation of studies carried out worldwide over several decades and argues that there is a connection between the chronic illnesses that have appeared in the 20th and 21st centuries and the increased time we spend working indoors. According to its authors, reasonable exposure to the sun’s rays can reduce significantly our risk of catching influenza, of developing cancer or of suffering from fertility problems, cardio-vascular illness, Parkinson’s disease, depression, etc.

Nevertheless, we should always keep TCM’s rule of temperance in mind. According to the principles of TCM, the skin is associated with the energetic function of the lungs, one of whose roles is defending our bodies against external attacks (from microbes or adverse weather conditions, for example). Repeated over-exposure of your skin to solar rays will, in the long term, deplete Lung energy and you will find this to be lacking when the cold season arrives.

And finally, some good news for naturists: certain Taoist masters, such as Mantak Chia (3), recommend exposing one’s genitalia to the sun to charge the body with energy.

 

5 – Enjoy the variety of fruit and vegetables that nature provides us with during the summer. Your intestinal microbiota will appreciate it!

The intestinal microbiota plays an essential role in defending the body because it prevents microbes from establishing themselves in the organism, stimulates the immune system and regulates our mood. It can be undermined by factors like stressful environments, junk food or tap water, and we should continually re-balance it by taking pre-biotics and pro-biotics and by varying our diet.

Pre-biotics are found naturally in fruit, green vegetables, pulses and whole grains. As well as potentiating the effect of pro-biotics, they reduce inflammation of the intestinal lining, boost the elimination of toxins, improve intestinal transit, etc. Pro-biotics are easily available in pharmacies in the form of sachets to be mixed with water or capsules. Lacto-fermented vegetables, kefir and sauerkraut also contain large quantities of pro-biotics.

Dr Meghan Rossi (4) recommends eating 30 different plants (the term “plant” referring to anything that grows) each week. This might seem a lot, but it is not so difficult to manage: turmeric, bay leaves, rosemary, flax and sunflower seeds, ginger, cinnamon, vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, oils, garlic, mushrooms, red-currents, etc. are easily available on the stands of every market.

Above all, remember to chew each mouthful of food at least 20 times! The digestive process begins in the mouth, and if you have chewed thoroughly, your digestive organs will have less work to do and will be able to extract the nutritive elements from your food more easily. Another bonus is that as you will feel satiated more rapidly, you will eat less and, in the long term, spend less money on food.

“One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three quarters keep your doctor alive” Ancient Egyptian Proverb

6 – Walk barefoot and keep your feet firmly on the ground!

– As every reflexologist knows, our feet are covered with reflex zones that correspond to all the organs in the body, to the bones, the brain, the lymphatic and circulatory systems, etc. Walking barefoot stimulates these zones and can help to make our immune systems more efficient. You can complement this self-massage by rolling a tennis ball under your feet in the evening, one foot after the other: relaxation guaranteed…

– If you walk barefoot in nature, you are in direct contact with the earth and its energies. The soles of our shoes protect our feet but block out terrestrial energy, including negative ions. Walking barefoot is said to help combat inflammatory conditions, insomnia, stress, depression, etc., (5) and all these beneficial properties are attributed to negative ions! Maybe the abundance of crisps is not the only reason that we enjoy picnics so much 🙂

– The rocking movement of the feet induced by walking on an uneven surface (sand, earth, rocks, etc.) improves proprioception (the information transmitted by the sensory nerves to the brain, which helps regulate the posture and the movements of the body, and therefore our sense of balance) and hence the tonicity of body and mind.

 

7 – Go for a shiatsu session

Life will always have its ups and downs. A relaxing session of shiatsu massage is a wonderful gift to give to yourself, because it induces a profound state of relaxation thanks to the application of firm but progressive pressure, rebalancing your energies and helping to evacuate excess stress. You will sleep more soundly, your emotions will be more stable and your body more relaxed. And therapeutic shiatsu can be a useful accompaniment for people suffering from chronic illness such as digestive problems, depression, back pain, allergies, fibromyalgia or cancer. (6)

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.”
William S. Burroughs

 

(c)Texts: Benjamin CURTET, 2022 / Translation: Carolyn WOODING

SOURCES

1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7H8lCj3Ifz4

2 – Marc B. SORENSON, William B GRANT. Embrace the Sun

3 – Mantak CHIA, The Multi Orgasmic Man

4 – Dr Meghan ROSSI
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7568849/Are-getting-30-week.html

5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/

6 – Michel ODOUL. What Your Aches and Pains Are Telling You: Cries of the Body, Messages from the Soul