BLOG 223: WHICH OF THE 5 ELEMENTS ARE YOU ACCORDING TO TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE?Jul 10, 2023
I’ve always been a big believer in combining traditional wisdom with modern science. So, when I designed the Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method, I drew on many different sources, including yoga, Ayurveda, modern Western anatomy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
I continue to be inspired by TCM in my practice today and I love learning more about this holistic approach to healing that combines the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.
Katie and I worked together with Katie Blake, an expert in gua sha, to create the gua sha teacher training course. And she’s also a regular guest on my Instagram lives and on the Face Yoga Expert Podcast.
Basically, whenever Katie and I get together you know it is going to be a big, juicy conversation full of practical, actionable tips to benefit your health and wellness.
Katie joined me again recently on the podcast to explore the five elements that are key to TCM. You can find the full episode here.
In this blog post, I’m summarising some of the information Katie shared on how to identify which of the five elements you are according to TCM.
WHAT ARE THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE?
When we hear the word elements, we often think of physical items. In fact, Katie explains that the elements in TCM are vibrations.
You are likely already familiar with the idea of yin and yang – the two complementary but opposing forces in TCM. Katie likens these to the two magnetic poles of the earth. They are in constant tension with each other.
This push-pull force between the yin and the yang creates five frequencies, which we call the five elements. The Daoist masters defined them thousands of years ago in relation to nature, so the five elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood.
Everyone has a mixture of these elements, which also correspond to different planets, to organs in the body, and to different seasons and emotions.
However, we’ll each have our own unique constitution with a mix of the different elements, and most of us are more influenced by one element over the others. This unique mix will determine how we can best approach healing.
For example, my acupuncturist says that I am very water-dominant, so she’ll treat me with that in mind.
Katie suggested that I’m also likely to be strong in fire, although she’s not yet read my chart (look out for that in a future podcast episode).
HOW DO YOU FIND OUT WHAT ELEMENT YOU ARE?
Each of the five elements corresponds to a planet and to a season. When we were born and took our first breath, we drew in the energy conditions that were around us at the time. They imprinted on us and determined what our constitution would be like.
Those energy conditions will be very different on a sunny day in early summer than they are in the middle of the night in November. As a result, our birth date, location, and time can tell us a lot about which elements we are most influenced by.
There is no good or bad mixture to have – what matters is how you respond to it. Knowing your chart can tell you a lot about what you need to do to keep your body, mind, and spirit in balance.
The best way to get a deep and full understanding of yourself is to look at your astrological chart.
Just like Western astrological charts, Chinese astrological charts – BaZi charts – can be hugely complicated, so it is best to get an expert (Like Katie) to read yours for you and explain the meaning behind it.
However, you’ll likely be able to guess at your dominant element by doing a bit more research into each element. As you read about them, you’ll find yourself recognising some of your characteristics in the descriptions.
HOW DO THE ELEMENTS AFFECT OUR HEALTH?
If you don’t know how to navigate your element properly, it will lead to imbalances, which then show up as symptoms and eventually as ill health.
However, once you have an idea of which element is most dominant, you can start to investigate where that might cause imbalances in your body. Every element has both positives and negatives. It isn’t about being right or wrong, good or bad, but simply about observing what is there and then balancing it out.
A big part of this is simply becoming more self-aware. The more you know about yourself and the more you recognise where you are prone to imbalances, the more you can take action to address them.
For example, earth people are very good at giving. But they tend to be too giving, which isn’t very healthy. So, the first step it to notice that tendency. Then, you turn to the controlling element to help you navigate it – which in this case is wood.
Wood is all about boundaries. So, earthy types who are prone to over-giving need to nurture their wood to help them keep in balance.
Each element controls one of the others:
- Water controls fire
- Fire controls metal
- Metal controls wood
- Wood controls earth
- Earth controls water
As another example, fiery people are very social and gregarious. They love being around people and connecting with others. But this can mean they are constantly seeking the next opportunity to connect, which can be very tiring and lead to big slumps.
By bringing in more water, fiery people can bring their social nature into balance. They’ll still seek to connect and socialise, but the water helps to cool their fire a little and gives them a steadier energy.
Metal people, on the other hand, are very organised and methodical. But they can also become too rigid and structured. They are also prone to perfectionism, which can make it hard for them to make friends. Metal is controlled by fire, which softens metal and makes it more fluid and flexible.
Water people are often wise and thoughtful. However, they can also be fearful and reluctant to embrace change. Water must be given a chance to flow in the right direction through the controlling element of earth.
Think of it like a river- the route the water takes is determined by the topography of the landscape around it – the earth.
A TCM practitioner can treat you according to your makeup of elements, suggesting herbs, treatments, and foods that will help to bring you back into balance.
This is what I love about TCM as a healing system – it is such a personal and holistic way of considering health. It really invites you to understand yourself, accept who you are, and nourish the parts that need nourishing.
LEARN MORE ABOUT TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
We’ve really just started scratching the surface here. You can go much deeper with understanding of the five elements, the interplay between them, and their impact on our personalities, health, and lives.
One way to dive deeper is to get a Chinese astrological practitioner to read your BaZi chart for you. Katie Brindle offers this service – you can look at what she offers and discover resources over on her website.
Sadly, many TCM practitioners are no longer trained in reading BaZi charts. This was a historical and political change that occurred during the early 20th century, with the need to bring TCM more in line with the practices of Western medicine. It remains a powerful healing system but lost many of the more spiritual aspects and is only now starting to recover them.
However, TCM practitioners will still be well-versed in the five elements and will be able to guide you in how to bring yourself into balance.
You can also learn more about TCM, including the acupressure points, Qi, and the meridians, by taking the gua sha teacher training course that Katie Brindle, Katie Blake, and I designed together.