For many of us, the brightness of the summer months always seems to encourage a welcome sense of optimism and happiness.
Though meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere begins on 1st June, in the Chinese lunar calendar, the beginning of summer (Lixia) is in early May. It is the most Yang time of year and also the season of the Fire element, which makes sense, as the brighter days and the longer, lighter evenings of summer are usually accompanied by us having more energy and a greater desire to get out and ‘ do’, be active and embrace sun’s rays when they appear. Related to this, it seems no coincidence that joy is the emotion linked to summer.
In Chinese medicine the organs associated with summer are the Heart (yin organ) and Small Intestine (yang organ). Connected to these are the Pericardium (a small sac surrounding the heart) and Triple Heater (which describes three sub-systems that play an important role in our overall vitality).
The Heart is known as the ‘Supreme Monarch’ and in some Chinese philosophies it is believed that the ‘Shen’ (our spiritual essence) is located in the Heart. On an energetic level, it is the Heart that governs our ability to love and be loved, as well as playing a pivotal role in our mental health. Meanwhile, the Small Intestine is energetically related to our capacity for clear judgment.
The Heart and Small Intestine Meridians
The Heart meridian has three branches, each of which originates in the heart. One branch travels across the chest then continues down the inner arm ending at the tip of the little finger. A second branch moves downward through the diaphragm to the small intestine, while a third branch travels upwards through the throat and tongue to the eye.
The Small Intestine meridian begins on the outside of the arm, running from the little finger and up to the shoulder, where it splits into two branches. One of these branches runs down to the heart, diaphragm, stomach and small intestine, while the other branch travels upwards into the face and across the corner of the eye to the ear.
The associated Pericardium and Triple Heater lines are also situated in the upper body including the inner and outer arms, which is why yin postures to stimulate all these meridians tend to be focussed on the upper body in particular.
As well as helping us to feel more able to give and receive love without fearing rejection, balanced Heart Qi also helps us to feel more open, energetic, enthusiastic and trusting. When Heart and Small Intestine Qi is out of balance some of the ways this can appear include: heartburn, low energy, sadness and lack of joy, depression, intolerance, digestive issues and poor circulation.
Yang energy is at its highest now. This is an ideal time to mirror the expansion and growth we see occurring in nature. Ask yourself how will use this energy to execute positive changes in your life. If you’ve been procrastinating over something that you know you want to do, now is the time to act. This is also the time when you may witness the maturation of ideas or seeds you planted for your life in the autumn and winter.
Acupressure to Support Heart Qi
Shenmen, or Heart 7 (also known as ‘Spirit Gate’) is the seventh point along the Heart meridian. It is one of the main points on this meridian and it is said that stimulating this point can help to cool internal fire and nourish the blood, making it beneficial for Heart-related issues including (though not limited to) stress, anxiety, depression, panic, insomnia, chest tightness and palpitations.
Heart 7 is located at the inner wrist crease. To find it, trace a finger down the inner side of your hand to your wrist crease. At your wrist crease, move your finger slightly inwards until you find a depression.
Apply mild pressure here for fifteen to thirty seconds. Alternate between the left and right wrist crease for between three and five minutes up to three times a day.
Yin Yoga for the Heart – Melting Heart Pose (Anahatasana)
Begin in a tabletop position on your mat. A folded blanket can be used here to pad your knees if you like.
Aim to keep your tailbone in the air and your hips and knees roughly in line with each other as you walk your hands forward on your mat. Rest palms flat and allow the center of your chest and forehead to move towards your mat.
If you would like to add some support:
- You can choose to rest your forehead on a yoga block or another option is to rest your forearms on a bolster or blocks.
- Alternatively, you may like to place a bolster under your chest.
Remain here in your Melting Heart pose for between one and five minutes, allowing your breath to be steady. To exit, carefully guide yourself up to kneeling or come into child’s pose for several breaths.
Paula Hines is a senior yoga teacher and writer from London. She has practiced and studied yoga since 2001 and has been teaching since 2011, now with a particular focus on yin yoga, restorative yoga and yoga nidra. Her own experience of yoga as a tool for transformation led her to teaching after fourteen years of working in the TV industry and fuels her desire to share the life-enhancing benefits of yoga with others.