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The Chinese Medicine Five Elements, Seasons and the Qualities

The three ancient healing systems of Yoga, Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine always emphasises on harmony and balance. Just as in nature, when balanced in our mind and body, the five elements will be in harmony and support, nourish each other.

With yoga, we work on freeing the flow of prana (life energy) as it courses through our nadi channels to balance the chakras (energy centers). In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we work with activating, stimulating and freeing the energy flow (qi) as it courses though our energetic channels, the meridians. Each meridian is associated with Yin and Yang organs, which are also connected with one of the TCM five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each element is associated with specific qualities, organs, emotions and seasons. 

It is important to note that Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic system that considers the interconnectedness of the body, mind and the environment. It seeks to address the imbalances and disharmony within the elements, through various tools and treatments such as yin yoga, mindfulness, meditation, qigong, acupressure massage, acupuncture, herbal remedies, dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes and other modalities. In addition, getting enough quality sleep, emotional well-being, mental health and acknowledging the changing seasons and adapting your lifestyle accordingly is crucial for overall balance in TCM. Herbal remedies may also be recommend to help balance your constitution. Acupuncture is also a key component of TCM and can be used to balance the energy flow in the body, addressing imbalances associated with the elements.

TCM five elements are all interconnected and they interact/influence (nourish or suppress) each other. In the following section, five elements and their associated seasons, organs and qualities will be explained.

Element of Winter: Water  

Winter corresponds to the Water element, symbolising a time of stillness, conservation, and deep introspection.

The Organs/Energetic Meridians: Water element is linked to the Kidneys and Bladder. In TCM philosophy, kidneys are considered to be the foundation of Yin and Yang energies within the body. They are believed to store the essence of life, including our inherited constitution and reproductive energy. The Kidney Qi is the source of all other Qi in the body and plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health.

Qualities: The colour is associated with water element is dark blue or black. Bones and ears are also connected to water element. In winter, the emphasis is on supporting and nourishing the Kidney Qi, which is the vital energy associated with the Kidneys. To harmonize with the winter season in TCM, individuals are advised to engage in practices that support the Kidneys. By aligning lifestyle choices with the principles of the Water element during winter, TCM aims to promote health, balance, and harmony within the body. Healing sound for the kidneys that can be chanted while exhaling is ‘chuuu’.


  • Warming and nourishing foods: The taste/flavour for this element is salty. Consuming foods that are salty, warming, such as soups, stews, and root vegetables. These foods are thought to provide nourishment and support the body’s warmth during the colder months. These provide nourishment without placing excess strain on the digestive system. Black beans, kidney beans, and other dark-colored foods can be consumed, as they are thought to resonate with the Water element. 

  • Hydration: Consume warm or room temperature beverages, like herbal teas, to avoid taxing the digestive system with cold fluids. Hydrate adequately, as water is associated with the Water element, maintaining proper hydration supports the flow of bodily fluids. 

  • Rest and Sleep: Prioritise sufficient sleep, as the Kidneys are closely linked to rest and rejuvenation. Aim for a consistent sleep schedule and create a calming bedtime routine. Avoid excessive physical or mental strain, allowing the body to replenish its energy. 

  • Protect the Lower Back: Keep the lower back warm, especially during cold weather. Use clothing or accessories that cover the lower back, as it is considered vulnerable to cold and wind. 

  • Embrace Stillness and Reflection: Engage in practices that promote stillness and self-reflection, such as meditation, mindfulness, or gentle yoga. This aligns with the contemplative nature of the Water element. 

  • Moderate Exercise: Engage in moderate exercises like yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, which are thought to support the flow of qi and balance the body’s energy. Avoid excessive or strenuous exercise that may deplete the body’s energy reserves. 

Yin Yoga poses: Child’s pose, caterpillar, sphinx and half butterfly are some of the yin yoga poses that are examples for harmonising the water element.

Element of Spring: Wood 

Spring, associated with the Wood element, is a good time for cleansing practices and adopting new, healthy habits. This is a time of renewal, growth, and expansion, mirroring the characteristics of the Wood element.

The Organs and Energetic Meridians: Wood element is associated with the liver and gallbladder. The liver, as a Yin organ is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body.

Qualities: The color associated with the Wood element is green. Wood element symbolizes vitality, growth, and the flourishing of life. The Wood element is associated with emotions such as anger and frustration. When the Wood element is in balance, emotions flow smoothly, but imbalances can lead to excesses of these emotions. The tendons and ligaments are related to the Wood element. A balanced Wood element is thought to contribute to flexibility and the smooth functioning of these tissues. If the Wood element is out of balance, it may manifest as symptoms like irritability, headaches, digestive issues, or muscle tension.  The healing sound for the wood element is "Shhhhh".

Balancing: Balancing the Wood element in Traditional Chinese Medicine involves adopting practices that support the smooth flow of Qi and harmony in the liver and gallbladder.

  • Diet: Sour is the taste linked to the Wood element. Foods with a sour taste are believed to support the liver’s functions, therefore you can Include sour foods in your diet, such as lemons, limes, vinegar, and fermented foods.  Consume green, leafy vegetables to align with the color associated with the Wood element. Avoid excessive spicy or greasy foods, as these may contribute to liver imbalances. 

  • Exercise: Engage in activities that promote flexibility, like yoga or tai chi..Regular, moderate exercise helps maintain the smooth flow of Qi. 

  • Massage will help with relaxation and smooth flow of Qi in the wood element meridians.

  • Practice stress management techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, to keep emotions like anger and frustration in check. Foster a positive mindset and cultivate patience. 

Yin Yoga Poses: Swan pose, reclined butterfly, bananasana, dragonfly, shoe lace poses are good examples for stimulating the wood element meridians.

Element of Summer: Fire 

The season associated with Fire Element is summer.

The Organs and Energetic Meridians: This element is associated with the Heart and its partner organ, the Small Intestine. The meridians (energy channels) for the fire element are; heart, small intestine, pericardium and triple warmer meridians. 

Qualities: The light, hot, active, and expansive qualities of Fire are considered to be very yang (compared to the dark, cool, receptive and downward qualities of water, which is very yin). The colour of the fire element is red and is associated with joy, enthusiasm and passion. When the fire element is balanced, it fosters healthy relationships, emotional warmth and a sense of connection. However, when it is imbalanced, you may experience physical symptoms like excessive sweating, digestive issues and skin issues such as rashes. Mental and emotional symptoms include over excitement, restlessness, emotional disturbances and instability, speech and communication issues, as well as relationship challenges and lack of boundaries. The healing sound of the heart is the sound “haaaah”.


  • The taste of fire element is bitter. Foods like celery, cucumber, watermelon and nourishing foods such as green vegetables will help balance the fire element.

  • Activities that promote relaxation and calmness can help balance an excessive fire element. 

  • Joyous and healthy social connections is important to support a deficient fire element.

Yin Yoga poses: Puppy (heart melting) pose, open wing, chest/heart opening poses. Awareness and stimulation of the meridians through the armpits, arms, fingers and chest will free the stagnation and balance the fire element.  

Late Summer: Earth

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Earth element is associated with the late summer.

The Organs and Energetic Meridians: In TCM, the Earth element is associated with the Spleen and Stomach organs. It represents the qualities of grounding, stability, and nourishment. The Spleen is believed to play a crucial role in digestion and the transformation of food into energy, while the Stomach is responsible for the initial breakdown of food.

Qualities: People with a balanced Earth element are thought to be nurturing, reliable, and able to create a sense of security. When the Earth element is imbalanced, individuals may experience issues such as digestive problems, worry, or excessive thinking. The color of earth element is yellow and the healing sound is "hoooooh"


  • Consume foods that are associated with the earth element, such as sweet and yellow foods. Incorporate nourishing, easily digestible foods and avoid excessive amounts of cold or raw foods. Pay attention to your eating habits. Chew your food thoroughly, eat in a relaxed environment, and avoid eating when stressed. This supports the Spleen’s role in digestion.

  • Balanced routine: Establish a consistent daily routine that includes regular meals, sufficient sleep, and time for relaxation. Routine helps create stability, which is key for balancing the Earth element.

  • Grounding activities: Engage in activities that connect you with the earth, such as walking barefoot on natural surfaces, gardening, or spending time in nature. These activities can help promote a sense of grounding and stability.

  • Self-care and practices like tai chi, qigong, or yoga can be beneficial for balancing the Earth element. These activities combine movement, breath, and mindfulness, self-care, promoting harmony within the body.

  • Manage stress and worry through practices such as meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques.

Yin Yoga poses: Child's pose, restorative , grounding poses like sukhasana, shavasana.

Element of Autumn: Metal 

Metal Element, which is associated with the season of autumn. Metal, is the element of structure. During the autumn months, things are winding down and life is preparing for hibernation. Autumn is the time of year when we tend to let go of the things that no longer serve us. Just as leaves fall from the trees in these months, we should also let go of the things, physical or mental, that prevent us from moving on forward and growing.

The Organs and Energetic Meridians: The organs and the energetic meridians for Metal Element are the lungs and its partner organ, the large intestine. The large intestine functions to “let go” of toxins and waste products our bodies no longer need to function. The lungs and the large intestine work as a team; one gets rid of waste, while the other brings in nourishment.

Qualities: Metal element is thought to be about connection and purity. Metal tend to strive for perfection which can be a source of disappointment including oneself. Those who belong to the Metal element can be flexible and malleable, but when it’s unbalanced, one can become “solid” and appear to be indifferent, very formal, and seem distant. When the metal element is out of balance,  due to either excesses or deficiencies within the lung and large intestine meridians, we may experience allergies, asthma, wheezing, colds, coughing, grief, sadness, skin rashes, eczema, diarrheas or constipation. The colour of this element is gray and the healing sound is "Ssssssss" 


  • The taste associated with Metal is pungent.  One way to counter a breakdown in the system is by eating foods like ginger, onions, turnips, cauliflower, apples, potatoes and pears. These are all good examples of white foods that can help boost or tonify the energy of the lung and large intestine meridians. Also, try pungent food such as wasabi, mustard, Sichuan pepper, mint and tangerine peel. Take high fiber food to help eliminate waste and prevent constipation, as metal is related to the large intestine.

  • Take moderate fluid intake to retain skin moisture. 

  • Exercise and deep breathing can be done daily to help keep the metal element in balance and harmony. These practices can help strengthen the lungs, boost immunity in the body and benefit the respiratory system.

Yoga poses: Chest openers, sphinx with cross arms, eagle arms, threading the needle, twisted root pose are some examples for balancing the metal element.

For personalised guidance based on your specific needs and wishes, contact me at and learn more about my Holistic Wellness coaching programs.

Om Shanti, 

Divya Beste Dolanay

Note: While TCM and yoga provides a holistic perspective on health, it should not replace professional medical advice or treatment.


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