In Chinese Medicine, each season is associated with one of the five elements and specific organ systems, and those organ systems have their own pathways of energy and information. Summer is associated with the fire element and the Heart and Small Intestine organs. The Role of the heart is to house the mind and circulate the blood (that also carries consciousness) throughout the body. The small intestine has the job of sorting and processing the food broken down by the stomach. It also contributes to the clarity of consciousness by energetically separating the pure from the impure. The pathways that enable Qi and information to go to and from these organs travel along the arms.
Summer is unique in that it has 2 additional organ systems that play supporting roles in the balance and maintenance of the fire element in the body. These are the Pericardium and the Triple Burner. Not considered traditional organs in western medicine, the pericardium is the protective membrane that surrounds and protects the heart. The Triple Burner, while lacking a western medical analogous structure, is more a functional concept that helps to define the body in terms of 3 spaces (the upper, middle and lower ‘burner’) while integrating the organs within those spaces. Both the Pericardium and Triple Burner organ systems are involved in the regulation and circulation of warmth in the body and have pathways along the arms as well.
While there are other channels that run along the arms (namely the lung and large intestine meridians, associated with the metal element and Autumn), having all 4 fire element channels coursing through the arms is more than enough reason to focus some attention on this part of our body in the summer.
Before we talk about specific pressure points to manage your personal fire energy, remember that simply stretching and moving the arms is an easy way to awaken and energize these channels for seasonal health! Stretch your hands all the way to the tips of the fingers (where the channels begin, end, and connect). Stretch your arms and body to feel the stretch throughout your chest, back and shoulder joint, activating your small intestine and triple burner channels. Get on the floor and relax in a star shaped stretch and make sure to feel the opening of energy in your armpits where the heart and pericardium channels travel through.
We can think of the fire element as the energy correlated with consciousness and warmth (among other things). The fire element requires maintenance to keep it in balance just like a fire that must be fed but also controlled. During the summer months, the fire element is naturally nourished by sunshine, activity, community, and the joy of the season. But there are times when we can get overwhelmed by any of these in excess.
Important acupuncture points to know:
If you’re ever feeling over-heated or over-stimulated are Heart 8 (HT 8) and Pericardium 6 (PC 6). To locate HT 8, make a loose fist and where your pinky tip touches your palm is the spot. Dig in gently to cool your jets. PC 6 is a great point for anxiety and feeling like you just need to turn down the volume on life and get centered. Make a fist, squeeze, and notice 2 tendons along the center of your forearm. You’ll find PC 6 about 3 finger spaces below the wrist crease, between those tendons. Fuel your fire this summer and let it burn but remember these points when you need a moment to simmer down.