How Going on Retreat Benefits Your Health: A Five Element Perspective

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.

From a Chinese medical point of view, the balance of Yin and Yang is the foundation for achieving health and harmony in your life.

Generally, Yin relates to quietude, receiving and being, whereas Yang relates to activity and doing.

If like most, you live in a primarily Yang society where you’re constantly stimulated through work, emailing, texting, listening to music, browsing the internet, and interacting with others, your need for more Yin, or quiet time, is essential.

And there’s no faster and easier way to bring balance back into your life than to unplug and reset by going on retreat.

Removed from your daily distractions, retreat allows you to rejuvenate so you can become more Yin, or receptive, to what you truly want and need in your life.

There’s a multitude of health benefits that come from retreat. Below is a Five Element perspective on the impact of retreat on your health and life.

garden-550991_1920.jpg

HOW RETREAT BENEFITS THE FIVE ELEMENTS IN YOUR LIFE

1. Wood Element & Liver/Gallbladder: Retreat Allows for Rebirth & Renewal

In the Five Element system of Chinese Medicine, Wood represents rebirth and growth, and is related to the ambition required to live out your highest purpose.

Wood energy gives you drive, focus and the fearlessness to accomplish your goals.

Wood is related to the Liver, which stores blood, and the Gallbladder, which utilizes this blood to make things happen in your life. In the Five Element cycle, Wood is nourished by Water, which represents the deepest part of yourself; the aspect that helps you go within to understand your purpose and develop greater self awareness.

As part of the Water element, your willpower, or Zhi, which is housed in the Kidneys, encourages the ambition of the Liver and Gallbladder to manifest your dreams.

Water energy is nurtured through contemplation and rest. Water is associated with the Kidneys, which also house your essence, or Jing, and provide an essential source of energy to live out your life curriculum. Weak Kidney Qi is related to adrenal fatigue - the feeling of being exhausted and wired simultaneously. When Kidney Qi is weak, you feel like you’re running on fumes.

When your Kidney Qi is replenished and strong, you’ll feel a natural energy that’ll drive you to get things done more effortlessly.

2. Water Element & the Kidneys: Retreat Deepens Your Self-Awareness

Life is formed and develops in the water that holds the essence of the body, called Jing. The Kidneys comprise the organ system that stores this Essence and are the primary organs that provide the Yang metabolic energy which drives the entire function of the body. In this way, your Kidney Jing is the foundation for all Yin and Yang energies of the body. 

Water fuels the introspective aspect of self and in balance gives you the ability to be an observer of life, letting go of judgement while at the same time providing you with your fundamental drive to live and the willpower, or Zhi, to fulfill your goals and dreams.

When your Water element is in balance, you’re able to spend time alone comfortably and look at life from a bird’s eye view, learning the lessons that are transmitted through your experiences.

Retreat provides space and time to create the opportunity for your body to draw energy back into the Kidneys to strengthen your Water energy and willpower so a newfound courage can sprout forth through Wood energy, which initiates growth and new beginnings. 

3. Earth Element & the Spleen/Stomach: Retreat Improves Your Relationship with Yourself and Others

Earth energy is about transformation; transformation of food into energy and raw material to rebuild the body, and transformation of your thoughts so you’re obsessing about negative things and can have clarity of mind. 

Earth energy is also associated with your relationship with yourself and others, which begins with your relationship to your family, especially the unconditional love of your mother. As the archetype for the Earth type personality, the Mother represents unconditional love and the nourishing qualities that exist within each of us.

Nourishment begins in the gut first with your mother through breastfeeding and evolves into self-care, or how you nourish yourself.

Thus the connection of the Earth element to your digestive function determines your ability to have healthy, harmonious relationships as well as strong immunity, or Spleen Qi.

Retreat may be the highest form of self-care. Eating a more simple diet and taking time to eat mindfully while on retreat further strengthens your Earth energy.

4. Metal Element & the Lungs/Large Intestine: Retreat Helps You Organize Your Thoughts and Cultivate a Greater Sense of Clarity

The Metal element relates to order, discipline, organization, and clarity both in your internal and external world.

The Metal element relates to the Lungs and Large Intestine organs. Weak Lung Qi can result from a weakened immune system, inadequate exercise or grief.

To strengthen the Lung Qi, it’s important to take deep breaths and also do practices that connect the body, mind and breath, including Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi.

Many retreats encompass these practices, along with Meditation, which cultivates the Kidney Qi and also helps develop your self awareness.

The quietude of retreat also creates space to process your grief, and any other emotions that are being neglected during the busyness of your daily life.

When you allow emotions such as grief to transport you to the depths of your heart, you can hear the lessons of your past, let go, and regain the strength and clarity to more fully experience your authentic self.

5. Fire Element & the Heart: Retreat Deepens Your Sense of Wonder, Creativity and Self-Love

In Chinese Medicine, the Heart not only circulates the blood, but it also houses the spirit, known as the Shen. A nourished, settled Heart manifests as a calm spirit and mind. A strong Heart-Kidney, or Water-Fire, connection helps you stay on purpose with your life (learn more here).

When there’s sufficient Kidney (Water) energy, it cools the Heart (Fire) making you feel calm and able to sleep more restfully.

Sufficient Kidney Qi, which is cultivated through proper rest, anchors the Heart Qi and helps you cultivate a feeling of self-love.

Practices such as Meditation and self-reflection amplify self-love and creativity, and therefore nourish the Heart.

Heart energy drives our passion and the pure, present sense of wonder that we can associate with a young child. As you get older, it’s just as important to create space so that this creativity and spontaneity can flourish in your life.

By creating space while on retreat, you’re able to cultivate creativity and self-love, which help you develop compassion and a deeper connection to the highest form of love from Source.

When you're connected in this way, there’s no limit to the love that you’ll return home with to share with others.

Interested to join us on retreat? Click here to learn more and sign up for one of the last spots on our Journey to Wellness in Bali January 13-20, 2019.


Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com

6 Insights to Cultivate a Healthy Winter Season

by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. and Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac.

Near the top of Mount Titlis in the Swiss Alps.

Near the top of Mount Titlis in the Swiss Alps.

We recently returned from a beautiful trip to Switzerland where we felt like we were able to slow down and enjoy the feeling of Winter and the holiday season. Watching snow fall and walking through the Christmas markets transported us into a true Winter Wonderland. 

Being in the cold also reminded us why wintertime is the most appropriate time to become more Yin. This naturally Yin, cold time of the year encourages rest and contemplation, both of which help us consolidate our energy and bring closure to our past.

Winter is the season related to the Kidney system. The Kidneys hold the essential energy of the body, known as Jing, which is related to our DNA and the inner self. We're born with a finite amount of this Jing, so living a healthy, long life requires the conservation of Jing through adequate rest and self-cultivation. 

Winter is the ideal time to cultivate yourself through rest and relaxation in order to consolidate and conserve your energy.

The Kidneys store your Life Gate Fire, called Ming Men; the strongest source of Yang Qi that brings power to your body and motivation to your mind. This energy creates the Zhi, or Willpower, that drives ambition and your will to live.

Finding balance is about the balance between being Yin, at rest, and being Yang, active.

Being too Yin causes stagnation in the body and being too Yang overheats and burns out the body.

On a physical level, the Kidney system includes the kidneys, the adrenal glands, the reproductive organs, the brain, the ears and hearing, and the bones or skeletal structure. 

Since the sex organs are an aspect of the Kidneys, excessive sexual activity has the most direct and exhaustive impact on the Kidney's Qi and releasing sexual fluids also exhausts the Jing, which is your most valuable commodity in life. Through the loss of Yin fluids, the body cannot stay insulated and maintain its heat so the body gets cold and over time the tissues dry up and wrinkle. Thus the decline of Kidney Yin and Yang relates to accelerated aging.

Cultivation practices are essential to consolidate the Kidney's Yin and Yang energies to slow down the aging process.

Self-cultivation practices involve daily exercises that increase flexibility and move Qi such as Qi Gong, Yoga and Tai Chi. In addition, emptying the mind through daily Meditation practice is the most powerful and important practice to allow the body's deepest energies to circulate. 

The Winter Solstice marks a change of seasons through the longest night of the year. 

While New Year's resolutions are powerful, Winter is not the time to bring new ideas and plans to fruition.

The seasonal energy of Winter is about going within ourselves and consolidating our energy so we have the power to sprout our intentions during the following, Yang season of Spring.

6 Insights to Help You Have a Healthy Winter Season

1) Go to bed early and sleep, sleep, sleep. Resting and deep, uninterrupted sleep help consolidate your Yin energy to support regeneration at this time of year. For those who have difficulty sleeping well, Chinese herbal medicine and Essential Oils are often very effective to cool and relax your Liver and nourish your Heart blood to support a calm mind for restful sleep.

2) Nurture your Earth digestive energy (Spleen and Stomach Qi) with cooked foods, including lots of soup and stews. This is important during every seasonal transition. Avoid cold, raw food and drinks which reduce your digestive energy and lower your body's core temperature.

Here's a healing Rice Congee recipe: Bring 7 cups water or chicken stock to a boil and then slowly simmer 1 cup long-grain white rice. Cook for about an hour stirring every 15-20 minutes. Add water if necessary to keep it soupy. Add bone broth, ginger slices, green scallion onions and any type of meat or eggs as desired. Eating a cup of congee at end of each meal is very potent medicine to strengthen a weak digestive system. 

Salvador practicing Qi Gong on a crisp morning in Oberohringen, Switzerland

Salvador practicing Qi Gong on a crisp morning in Oberohringen, Switzerland

3) Keep your body's core temperature warm to protect the Life Gate Fire of the Kidneys. If you’re feeling cold, increase your body's metabolism by eating more warming meats such as lamb, beef, pork, buffalo and wild game like venison, elk and moose.  It's also important to keep your feet, head and belly warm to preserve your Kidney Qi. 

4) Exercise to boost your metabolism and circulation but don't exhaust yourself or sweat too much. Sweating excessively dries up your Yin fluids. Practice more Qi Gong, Yoga and Tai Chi to move and strengthen your Qi. Click here to join us for our special New Year's Eve Yoga-Qi Gong class. You can also learn more and register for the one-of-a-kind Yin Yoga Immersion with Dr. Moafi in the new year by clicking here.

5) Meditate daily and focus on what's good in your life. What we focus on expands, so stay positive by keeping a daily journal of gratitude to help highlight all the good things in your life each day. In addition, 10-15 minutes of daily meditation helps to begin the process of emptying the mind. This simple 10 minute meditation will help get you started. 

6) Bring completion to things in your life. This is a great time to let go of a bad relationship or job that keeps you feeling stuck and unfulfilled so you can harvest and create space for those new plans to sprout forth in the coming Spring. Winter is the time for bringing closure when there are loose ends tying up your energy.

IMG_0360.JPG

Thank you for helping make our year so special. Wishing you and your loved ones a nourishing Winter and holiday season!

With love,

Setareh & Salvador


Salvador Cefalu, M.S., L.Ac. is the Founder & Co-Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic run by he and his wife, Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine. Salvador is a leading U.S. practitioner of Japanese Meridian Therapy, a rare form of non-insertion Acupuncture using Gold & Silver needles. More information at www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com.

Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Dr. Moafi offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga. More information at www.setarehmoafi.com and www.acenterfornaturalhealing.com