So, this Easter I am not able to celebrate in the traditional Polish way… Almost! I am typing this at midnight as my teenage son decided there can be no Easter without the super elaborate fudgy “mazurek”, so he is now making it under my guidance. I have to say, this feels quite good as a parent - I have managed to transmit some of my culture to him, despite the fact that I have lived abroad for most of my life now. And we will of course get up early to make each other soaking wet in the forever fun (and slightly cruel) “Smigus Dyngus”.
But back to the topic at hand. Spring is the time for growth and expansion - it belongs to Wood in the Five Phases model, and accordingly, I would like to share with you some tips on how to renew your energy in the Spring.
According to Chinese Medicine, this is the time to get your Qi moving and replenished, to get “unstuck” from the constriction of winter.
Eat plenty of living foods
As everything around grows and turns green, let your plate reflect that! The chlorophyll abundant in fresh, green food, helps to detoxify and will help to cleanse your body after the winter (and all those Easter cakes and chocolate ;) ). At the same time, it is a great blood and immune strengthening agent, as we say in Chinese Medicine, “it builds blood”. This may be because its structure is similar to human haemoglobin, the red pigment that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen.
Eat sour, crisp and fresh flavours
Slightly sour and crips foods, such as radishes, soured/pickled cucumbers, grapefruits, lemon and lime will help to get your energy unstuck and flowing smoothly. In Chinese Medicine, sour is a flavour that belongs to the Wood phase of spring and the Liver, which is the system responsible for making sure both energy and emotions cycle smoothly.
My Mum made a great salad that combines all these flavours and is fab for balancing the gut thanks to the use of enzymatic soured cucumber. Recipe follows below!
It is really nearly impossible to overestimate the importance of sleep. You might know that sleep restores the energy and allows tissues to heal. But did you know that sleeping well helps the brain to retain information you learnt the day before? And that losing just one hour of sleep reduces your reflexes, regardless of how strong you feel, by as much as drinking a glass of alcohol. My Chinese Medicine teachers taught me that whatever the ailment, if there is troubled sleep, this needs to be treated first. Only then the body can regain the strength to return to homeostasis.
Go out and get moving: Practise Qi Gong, Taiji, walk or run!
As the world is buzzing with energy and awakening, so should be your body. It is difficult to feel the magic of the seasons - and reap the benefit from their cycle - if we are spending most our time indoors. As the weather is warmer, try to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I practised Taiji and Qi Gong in Snowdonia last weekend and it was a fabulous experience. Having to balance barefoot on an uneven rock, feeling the wind and the life of the landscape around me, I felt that my practise was shaped in new ways.
Soak up the sun
Sunshine is really important: studies began to show that its benefits are far larger than just enabling us to synthetise vitamin D. Sunlight balances the mood, and it strengthens eyesight. (In fact, to avoid shortsightedness, the time you spend outside is more important than the time you spend reading or looking at screens. Meaning, you can get away with a lot of the latter, provided your eyes enjoy sunlight about 2 hours a day. Even direct sunlight is great when your eyelids are closed). One way to call sun in Chinese is Tai Yang, or the Supreme Yang - it is the best and purest source of Yang energy for us, and it is completely free!
And now as promised, the Spring Salad recipe:
It is made using soured cucumbers, which are naturally fermented foods rich in enzymes. They help support a healthy gut biome. These are cucumbers that have been left to ripen in salty water with herbs, without the addition of vinegar. You can get them in many Polish shops and even in Tesco as “Ogorki Kiszone”. The ones that Tesco sells in ugly pastic bags are superior to many others, in fact.
A whole bunch of radishes, INCLUDING LEAVES.
Half a big, organic cucumber
2 soured cucumbers
1 hard boiled egg from free range, happy hens
1 Tbsp of olive oil
lemon juice to taste, about 1 - 2 Tbsp.
(optional): chives, red pepper cut into thin strips.
Wash your radishes and radish leaves really well and cut finely. The leaves are extremely nutritious and have a spicy, peppery taste. Dice the cucumber into 1/2 inch - 1cm cubes, cut the egg into small wedges, and slice finely the soured cucumber. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon juice and mix well.
Enjoy and please let me know if you actually make it!