The Liver

The Liver

Dear Tai Chi friends                                                                                    March 24th  2015

Spring is coming, and, although at times it feels as if it’s all a big tease and winter will never leave, we can already see the daffodils popping their heads up, and the special smell of spring is in the air. According to Chinese medicine, spring is the season of the liver. This is the time to strengthen our liver function. When the liver is in balance with all other organs we feel relaxed and kind. When it is out of balance we may experience emotional rage and anger, as anger is the emotion that is related to a weak liver. Anger can take a passive form and may be experienced as frustration or resentment that is being held in.

One way of balancing the liver is through a healthy liver strengthening diet. Many foods that are good for the liver are sour (often green) foods, as sour is the taste that ‘belongs to’ the liver. Broccoli, green apples, green grapes, grapefruit, mung beans, avocado, lemons and olives are all good for the liver, as well as strawberries, aubergines and ginger. It is recommended to drink warm water with lemon or with vinegar and honey in order to satisfy the liver’s ‘need’ for sour taste.

There are many Tai Chi and Qigong exercises that are designed to strengthen the liver. I might touch on these during lessons in the next few weeks. At home you can try a simple Qigong of tapping up and down the inner part of the leg – the meridian of the liver – with open hands or lightly clenched fists. If you are familiar with The Qigong of Eight Pieces of Silk Brocade you can practice the 6th part, which is called ‘Punch with an Assertive Gaze’ or ‘Removing the Obstacle’.  (If you are not familiar with this and would like to learn it, please let me know when I next see you, and I will make sure to teach it in your class).

Liver and Chi/Qi:                                                                                                                          

Liver ensures smooth flow of Qi throughout the whole body, in all directions. Any activity that depends on Qi relies on the Liver’s “flowing and spreading”. Apart from affecting the body, the emotional state is seriously affected by the Liver’s function of “Flowing and Spreading” Qi. When it flows normally, emotions are approximate and easy. When the spreading of Qi impaired or the circulation of Qi restrained, there will be emotional depression, frustration, repressed anger, and physical symptoms. There is a relationship between emotional state and Liver Qi. “Anger makes Qi rise and Blood stagnate in the chest.”

 Liver  and Digestion:

The Liver’s function of spreading Qi aids the Spleen and Stomach’s digestive functions. Stagnant Liver Qi can “invade” or “attack” the Stomach or Spleen.

When at rest, Blood returns to Liver (Liver contributes to restoring energy).

Sinews, tendons, muscles and the Liver:

When body is active, Blood nourishes muscles to enable them to perform.

If Liver Blood is deficient, there can be muscle cramps, tics and twitches or tremors/shaking in muscles.

Sinews (tendons) depend on Liver Blood to moisten and nourish them so they can contract and relax as needed (smooth movement of joints and good muscle action). Deficient Liver Blood leads to lack of nourishment in the tendons, which leads to contractions, spasms, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of limbs, cramps, tremors, muscle weakness, etc.

The Liver controls the Sinews (tendons), or the contractile aspect of the muscles.

 Liver and Emotions:

Liver is related to ability to be resolute, to plan and have creative drive and assertiveness. When the Liver is out of balance in excess for instance, this becomes anger.

Energy moves up and out like tree (Wood element). The liver also relates to growth in the sense of personal growth, ability to change. People who feel stuck in life or a situation usually have Liver Qi Stagnation.

 Taken from:

So please take good care of your liver. Make sure you don’t launch too enthusiastically into various spring cleans. As important as it is to keep things around us clean, we need to preserve and calm the body’s energy at this time. ( Don’t worry, we can still do a spring clean, only rather than blowing through it as a whirlwind on a stormy day we can glide calmly and smoothly with it like the wind in the willows:-))  And above all, enjoy the bits of sunshine that we get.