The Five Element Theory

The Five Elements, earth, fire, water, metal and wood were selected by the sages of long ago to describe patterns and relationships between many variables. They relate to one another in an abstract sense and can be used to describe the relationship between the seasons and many other aspects of our lives, as well as the human body.   The Five Element theory is one of the major systems of thought within Traditional Chinese Medicine and is used when practising acupuncture.  But the Theory is also used as a guide to help balance our emotional and physical health.  Based on the Taoist theory that each of us is a microcosm of the universe, it stands to reason that the human body will experience similar cyclical patterns as in nature, such as the changes of 
seasons and the cycle of life and death.

When looking at the human body, the organs are depicted as one of the Five Elements, and in a healthy  body all organs are functioning efficiently and in harmony.  Two primary forces (yin and yang) interact in the body and hopefully there is a balance between these two forces within the body.

The Five Element Theory explains the relationship between the organs and the way energy travels to the organs (through meridians), and how the chi, or energy, originates from the kidneys.  The kidney's job is to filter blood, which is then circulated through the body.  

Chi energy is associated with the the kidneys because they are said to hold opposing fire and water energy.  An imbalance in these two elements will  affect other organs.  In a healthy body, organs are working in harmony, with all elements in a balanced state.  In an unhealthy body, organs are not functioning effectively, which has a spiralling affect on the other organs.

When practising tai chi and qigong, much of the meditation involves focusing on the belly where the dantien and mingmen are located.  These directly nourish the nearby kidneys.  The movements of taichi and qigong rotate and massage this area, thereby balancing the kidneys which allow a flow on effect to other organs.  Tai chi is designed in-part to nourish and support the activity of the kidneys.

Below is a flow chart (from Spring Forest Qigong) showing the relationship between the five elements.  The outer arrows around the diagram represents the nurturing or supporting relationship between the neighbouring elements:  Wood  nurtures Fire, Fire (or ash) enriches Earth, Earth contains Metal, Metal condenses Water and Water feeds wood.  The dotted lines within the diagram illustrate the cooperative or controlling relationship of two 'opposing' elements: Wood penetrates Earth, Earth limits the flow of water, Water extinguishes Fire, Fire melts Metal and Metal cuts Wood.  The diagram also shows other aspects of our lives that are influenced by the five elements.