It’s almost officially summer! In Chinese medicine, everything is described in terms of yin and yang. Summer is the most yang time of the year: the longest, brightest and hottest days, the time when we expend the most energy, become exuberant, and enjoy our days to the fullest extent possible.

The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine states “In the three months of summer there is an abundance of sunshine and rain. The heavenly energy descends, and the earthly energy rises. When these energies merge there is intercourse between heaven and earth. As a result plants mature and animals, flowers and fruit appear abundantly… One may retire somewhat later at this time of year, while still arising early. One should refrain from anger and stay physically active, to prevent the pores from closing and the qi from stagnating. Emotionally, it is important to be happy and easygoing and not hold grudges, so that the energy can flow freely and communicate between the external and the internal. In this way illness may be averted in the fall… The transformation of yin and yang in the four seasons is the basis of the growth and the destruction of life…. the change of yin and yang through the four seasons is the root of life, growth, reproduction, aging and destruction. By respecting this natural law it is possible to be free from illness. In the old days the sages treated disease by preventing illness before it began.” (Ni, Maoshing: The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, Boston, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1995, pages 6-7).

Obviously it is not always possible to prevent every illness, but in Chinese medicine, prevention of illness by way of living carefully according to each season is acknowledged as an important way of maintaining good health. There are physical and emotional factors that come into play for good health, and these habits change in harmony with the earth’s seasons.

Winter is the most yin time of year (cold, dark, short days, time when animals hibernate, time when plants wither and die, time when humans should be expending the least energy, resting more and sleeping more). As the days lengthen and warm the energy shifts to yang seasons of spring and summer, summer being the most yang. Fall is a yin season, as the days become shorter and cooler, and then winter returns, the most yin time once again. It is wise to slow down and rest more in fall, rest the most in the winter, become more active in the spring and even more active during the summer.

It is natural to be active in summer and many people feel happier and more energetic during the summer than in the winter. But even during this most yang time of year we need some yin resting time. Yin is rest and sleep, yang is being active and awake/alert. We experience yin and yang in every 24 hour cycle, with yin being at night and yang during the day. Without yin we cannot have yang, and vice versa. During the summer we can play hard, exercise hard, party hard and work hard (all yang activities), but we also need to remember to take some time to balance it out with some yin rest time (for example taking a nap, laying on a hammock or beach blanket, reading a book or finding other ways to rest and recharge).

Acupuncture is useful during the summer in several ways: it gives your body a chance to rest and recharge; it helps maintain emotional balance; helps maintain good physical and mental health and avert future illness; and it is useful for any aches and pains which may prevent easy, comfortable physical activity. Keeping your joints and muscles feeling their best is ideal, particularly during this season when being active is so desirable and enjoyable.

Happy summer! Enjoy it, and take good care of yourself.

-Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.