Balancing Act

Summer is all about having more time for things that matter. If we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we enhance the lives of others around us? Austin-based acupuncturist Andra Millian, L.Ac. shares her insight on the benefits of the techniques of creating more balance with an Eastern healing aesthetic.

Chinese medicine is all about harmonious balance, which we could all use. It addresses the equilibrium between our physical and mental state, as well as the attunement and harmony created between humans and the natural elements surrounding us.

To simplify with a visual clue, keep in mind the dual nature of balance. Ancient Chinese sages pondered, deliberated and came up with “the shady side of the mountain and the sunny side of the mountain,” known respectively as Yin and Yang.

Everything in our natural world has aspects of Yin and Yang. Yin is shady, cool receptive, deep, soulful, wet and feminine. Yin moves inward and down. Yang is sunny, warm, assertive, outgoing, social, dry and masculine. Yin plus Yang make up one balanced whole. Yin is the root; Yang is the flower.

The Chinese sages studied the changing character of the seasons from peak Yin (winter) to peak Yang (summer). They came up with five seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Late Summer (our ‘Indian Summer’) and Autumn. Each season’s observable qualities are used as tools to create a better sense of balance and harmony in our lives.

Our current season is called the Yang of Yang, the sunniest, warmest time of year. Summer is characterized by the color red, for vigorous activity, and the manifestation of ideas we thought up in the cooler months. Red fruits like cherries, watermelon and tomatoes are wonderful seasonal treats, recommended to create more harmony. Red is also the color of spices like chili and cayenne, that make us perspire. In traditional Chinese medicine, using heat to cool us off is called ‘treating yang with yang’. Fire is the element of summer, which is treated by the most yin of substances, ice and water. Therefore, staying hydrated is referred to as creating yang with yin.
The taste of summer is bitter, known in Chinese medicine to have a ‘heat clearing’ property. Baby spinach salads and icy stuffed celery are all ‘bitter’ summer flavors that enhance your tranquil state of mind.

This summer, throw on some cherry lip-gloss or red flip-flops while sipping a celery garnished Bloody Mary, slightly bitter Campari and Soda or Cranberry Cooler. The Chinese seasonal direction for summer is South, so head to Mexico or the Mediterranean. Or, make the best of the Lone Star state by kicking back to enjoy Texas.

Keep your life in balance during these hot summer months by combining the robust and energetic aspects of yang into your daily routine. Make fresh pico de gallo or watermelon and mint salad before heading out on the water for fun and laugher with friends and family. Don’t forget the sunblock. Remember, red is also the color of sunburn, but if it’s too late, slather on some bitter cooling aloe vera gel to take the burn out of your skin. Moderation is key to maintaining peace of mind. Keep your yang in balance with the season to ensure your most harmonious summer ever.