Seasonal Cleaning: 7 Steps to Bring in Spring

springIn front of the sink, where I wash my hands every time I finish a massage, just outside the window there is a big, beautiful Ginkgo Biloba tree. This tree is my seasonal clock: naked in the winter, budding in the spring, verdantly green in the summer and golden yellow in the autumn. Every week I get to see it change and do its thing – following some innate wisdom rising through its sap – it knows what to do next and exactly when. I often think it would be nice to be as in tune as this tree to the yearly cycles of nature. How come this wisdom doesn’t just flow naturally through my veins and tissues, telling me when to blossom, when to give, when to shed? Then again, maybe it does.

Right now the asparagus are beginning to sprout, the cherry blossoms and magnolias are having flowery orgasms, farmers are beginning to sell strawberries again and the sensuous scent of jasmine is filling the air. This can only mean one thing: Spring is here!

Spring is the season of sprouting, blooming, regenerating and cleansing the body as well as renewing the spirit and making space for what is fresh and new. So, in that spirit, the following is a quick list of things to do to make way for the vibrant energy of spring.

1. Love your Liver  In Chinese medicine spring is the season correlated with the liver. So to care for your liver, eat light meals and get good rest at night. Eat lots of bitter and sour foods like dandelion, fresh lemon, apple cider vinegar, raw green things and sprouts, and bitter spices like turmeric and milk thistle.

2. Acknowledge Anger  Anger is the emotion of the liver, if you are pissed off, let it out! Punch your pillow, yell in the car, or talk to a friend about what’s stressing you out and then let it go!  Stagnant anger can accumulate in the liver and cause dis-ease later on.

3. Cleanse your body  This is the season to naturally shed off the extra pounds we gained while eating heavy winter foods that kept us warm. Perhaps try an ayurvedic kitchari cleanse or liver flush diet for a week or 10 days. You’ll feel re-energized and renewed!

4. Stretch  Eastern medicine also says that the liver maintains tendon health and flexibility, so don’t forget to do your morning stretch routine, learn tai chi or go to yoga class.

5. Get a massage  Therapeutic massage or any other kind of healing bodywork increases blood and lymph circulation which will help you detox if you are cleansing or just help you relax into the freshness of the season.

6. Clean your home  A clear space to live in makes it easier to feel clear and spacious inside. I encourage you to clean out your closet, get rid of stuff cluttering your home and get yourself a new plant to bring fresh life into your space.

7. Go outside  Fresh spring air makes your liver Qi flow. Go on hikes more often in this season and, while you’re at it, take in the fragrance of the blossoming trees.

Grand Siesta: the Power of Naps

One of my clients (who often falls asleep while getting a therapeutic massage on my table) was telling me today about his “nap guilt”. He explained, after he awoke, how in his regular life he feels guilty about taking naps. I assured him that this is a common feeling among most productive people in our society. I also explained that it’s a terrible myth.

There are many studies and articles about how this lie has been perpetuated in our world. But the truth is that resting can actually make you more effective and ultimately more productive. I found this interesting article in the New York Times talking about how we don’t have infinite energetic resources and as a result actually thrive when we are getting more rest.

After doing healing bodywork in Berkley for many years, I am quite familiar with how important rest is. Naps can be a valuable restorative tool. But there is something about them that goes against the American ethos of having to be as productive and time efficient as we possibly can every second of the day. In Oakland, where I currently live, I sometimes fall prey to this misconception when I am blissfully resting in the middle of the afternoon. In Mexico, where I grew up, everyone disappeared every day after lunch for a little while. The world quieted down, businesses closed and bodies had the chance to rest and replenish. Yes, the siesta is real and it doesn’t only feel good and give you a little break from the hectic pace that life can bring physiologically, but it is also just a fabulous idea! Napping gives your mind a chance to rest and your body time to heal.

Quick Nap Facts

1. When you nap your brain releases serotonin, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter which also regulates many other functions.
2. When you wake you are more alert, energized and research says it also improves memory and creativity.
3. The stress hormone cortisol decreases during sleep, yes- even brief sleep! This is very beneficial to the immune system, sexual function, muscle repair and weight management.

Many of my clients fall in and out of sleep when getting massages. Most don’t like falling asleep and ‘missing out on the massage’ but I just tell them to trust that the body does what it needs and that it still knows it got a massage and reaped all the benefits of it. When the body is in a state of deep relaxation, induced by massage or napping, great potential for healing and restoration can be realized.