Summer solstice recently passed, officially tipping us into the Fire Element in Chinese Medicine – the most YANG time of year. Out here in Colorado (and much of the world) the name seems appropriately named for this time of year, as we pray for rain and no flying sparks in extra dry spots. Fire does have its place however, just like every element. It provides an important role in a sustainable ecosystem and an important part of our body system as well. The Organs that correspond to the fire element are Heart, Small Intestine, Pericardium, Triple Burner. This is the one element that has four corresponding organ systems, so lots to cover! Fire element brings sunshine, energy and heat. The flowers bloom to their most brilliant colors, the birds migrate towards the warmth, plants grow to new heights. It is truly a remarkable time of the year. Each organ has its role in the Fire element and I’ll break them down individually below.
In the theme of yin and yang, it is important to keep cool during fire element. We can do this by integrating water more than normal – drinking it being the most important! Here we are blessed with so many lakes, so that’s a great way to get to the water and cooling down by immersing in water is highly encouraged. There are foods we can eat as well that help – watermelon, cucumber, mint to name a few. Heat shows up in the body in a number of ways, some of which can be: urinary tract infections, mouth ulcers, heart palpitations, nightmares, skin eruptions along with a variety of other ailments our bodies can manifest.
The heart has two primary roles: to govern the blood and to house the mind, which are complimentary functions to one another since the blood is thought to be a resident of the mind and therefore with blood the mind is in a good state and without it, the mind suffers. The primary emotion of the Heart organ is Joy, which can be both excess or deficient, neither of which would be ideal. The Heart organ is directly connected to our other emotions as well (anger, grief, worry) even though these are attributed to their own organ.
The heart organ is associated with the blood vessels, our complexion, the tongue and sweat. I often shows up in the body as anxiety, depression, vivid dreams, palpitations and mental-emotional symptoms.
Small Intesine –
The small intestine is the yang pair to the Heart which is yin. These two organs do not work on an organ to organ relationship as some do in the yin/yang pair but rather they hold a strong relationship on a channel level. The primary function of the small intestine organ is that it controls receiving and transforming food and fluids, working hard to separate the clean from the dirty and therefore aiding the body to keep what is good and release what is not. Whereas the gallbladder is thought to be ‘the judge’ who executes plans, the small intestine is needed to filter through the choices and chose the right path to begin with.
Small Intestine is associated with bowel issues, noisy stomach, problems with mental clarify and/or discrimination.
The pericardium is a unique Yin organ in Chinese medicine as it does not necessarily have it’s own identity independent of the Heart organ. It works to protect the heart from outside forces, both physical and emotional. Outside of this protective role, the pericardium is nearly identical to the heart in terms of its internal functions: governing the blood and housing the mind. As a physical channel line, the pericardium does stand alone from the Heart however.
San Jiao/Triple Burner/Triple Heater –
This organ has many names and its role as a ‘normal’ organ is equally confusing so I will refer to it as ‘triple burner.’ The Triple Burner is a very elusive ‘organ’ that has had much debate over time as to what its role and function are exactly. It is the yang organ to the yin pericardium organ, though these two organs do not work integratively as an internal organ pair and rather function together on a channel level.
It’s roles as an organ are to mobilize the original qi, control the transportation and penetration of qi and control the water passages and the excretion of fluids. The original qi is a topic for another post since it gets heavily into important Chinese medical theory that goes beyond the purpose of this post. The role in controlling the transport and penetration of the qi is also a bit vague but we can think about it as though it has VIP pass through the entire body whereas the other organs all have areas they are assigned.
While all of the organs associated with the fire element are unique in their function, the meridians lines are pretty cohesive. All of the channels begin or end on the hands and thoroughly cover the arms and chest. When I think of fire element, I think of summertime bbq’s with friends… firing up the grill, lots of laughter, in addition to lots of hugs all around. When we get together and hang out with our friends and family, we naturally activate the fire element organ channel lines. So, give a few extra hugs whenever possible this season (and every season)!
A Yoga Addition -adding a little yoga into the mix here, I’ll list out a few poses that are lovely to support Fire element channel lines
Fish Pose – Matsyana – laying supine, propping up on the elbows and puffing the chest up to the sky while allowing the head to come back supported by the earth. This pose opens up the yin channels: heart, pericardium and activates the yang channels : Triple Burner and Small Intestine
Sphinx – Salamba Bujangasana – laying prone, propping up on the elbows keeping them directly below the shoulders and lifting your chest to the sky. This is a similar pose to fish but accessed differently and therefore may feel different to the body. I like to roll my neck here, releasing the fascia along the anterior neck.
Lions Breath – Simha Pranayama – not a pose per say, but a wonderful exercise in releasing heat quickly. I like to be in a hands and knees position to help with leverage in this intense exercise. Inhaling all of the air into your lungs, scrunching your face – nose, lips, forehead and on the exhale you stick the tongue all the way out the mouth as though the tip of the tongue will touch the chin (maybe it will!), eyes become big and look up as you forcefully exhale. Repeat 3 times or more.
Cooling Breath – Shitali Pranayama – another non-pose, per say 🙂 sitting in a comfortable position and curling the tongue as though you’ve created a straw, inhale slowly paying attention to the cool feeling on your tongue. At the top of your inhale, bring the tongue in and exhale all the air out of your nose. Repeat three times or more.