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What are the Five Elements in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)?

The theory of the Five Elements in TCM is central to healing practices rooted in daoist philosophy, such as Qigong, Accupuncture, so on. 五 ‘Wu’ means Five, while 行 ‘Xing’ has a myraid of meanings, including path, way, movement, profession, progress, unfolding. Though Wuxing 五行  is often translated as the Five Elements, they can be better understood as the Five Moving Forces / Dynamics / Phases / Energetic qualities which are Wood 木, Fire 火, Earth 土, Metal 金 and Water 水. These forces, phases, transitions, transformations and energetic qualities, that manifest and drive all phenomena in the external world. The Five Elements manifest in various forms, both tangible e.g. physical objects, and intangible e.g. the shifting energies from midnight to sunrise or transition from Summer to Autumn. The Five Elements are a result of the shifting, dynamic interplay between two equal and opposing yet complementary forces that underpin everything: YinYang 阴阳 


“By virtue of YinYang, all beings and things are in existence. Yin being on the inside, is a safe keeper for the Yang of the inside; Yang being on the outside, it is the messenger / enactor of the Yin” outside 

listen to this Podcast interview on the Five Elements of TCM & Ayurveda with Micaela of My Vinyasa Practice

Five Elements in TCM
Five Emotions

How can Five Elements in TCM help me balance my emotions? 

Being microcosms of the macrocosm, of course these Elements / Energies are also present and driving us. Each of the Five Elements are associated with a specific emotion, and these are the WuQing 五情: Excitation 喜, Anger 怒 Rumination 思, Grief 悲 and Fear 恐. 

According to your disposition and constitution (Bazi 八字) your may have a tendency towards an emotional state when out of balance – for example, my disposition, predominantly of the Wood Element is associated with my tendency to feel anger and get frustrated, while my partner, whose dominant disposition is of the Earth Element, has a tendency towards worry. 

Read about how I helped myself and my clients balance their emotions: Healing Anger And Grief Through The Five Elements and try this free 5 Element Qigong Healing & Protection Meditation to help you dissolve difficult negative emotions and uncover your inner power.

Are you struggling with Anger, Grief or emotional blocks? Would you like to feel safe, loved and empowered? Book a 5 Elements Emotional Coaching session with me:

Want to harness the energies of the Five Elements? 

Try this 5 Element Qigong Yoga practice below and join my weekly Qigong classes / workshops

Try this free 5 Element Qigong Healing & Protection Meditation to help you dissolve difficult negative emotions and uncover your inner power

listen to this Podcast interview on the Five Elements of TCM & Ayurveda with Micaela of My Vinyasa Practice

How can the Five Elements in TCM help me live a better life?

From teachings rooted in Taoist philosophy I’ve crystallized these Five Principles that can help you flow with life:

  1. You are a microcosm of the macrocosm – The Source that underpins all. It is infinite and limitless; therefore your essential nature is infinite and limitless. 
  2. Within the 3 levels of existence (Heaven, Earth and Humanity 天地人), you are the bridge between YinYang 阴阳, Earth and Heaven. You are constantly bridging the abstract (your dreams, ideas, thoughts, aspirations, fears) and the concrete (your reality – what you see, smell, hear, taste and touch). 
  3. The dynamic and constantly-changing interaction of YinYang 阴阳 results in the Five Elements / Moving Forces 五行, cyclical energies that govern all processes, beings and things. By virtue of this, you are a cyclical being.
  4. Success, abundance and bliss are by-products of being ‘in flow’ with life, which arise when one allows Effortless Action, WuWei 无为. You cannot seek or directly create success, abundance and bliss but you can create all the conditions necessary for these to arise. 
  5. Allow Effortless Action, WuWei 无为 to arise by listening inwardly to your heartfelt wisdom / intuition, which is your connection with the Source, taking action based on this wisdom, and surrendering to whatever outcomes may arise. The essential practice of flowing of life is to listen, allow and let go.  

Find out more about the Five Element relationships here.

“天有四时五行,以生长收藏,以生寒暑燥湿风。人有五藏化五气,以生喜怒悲忧恐。” ( 《素问·第五篇 阴阳应象大论篇》)

In Heaven there are the Four Seasons and Five Elements / Moving Forces, by means of this there is (re)Birth, Growth, Harvest / Receiving and going into Storage, so thereby it engenders Cold, Heat, Dryness, Dampness and Wind (the 5 Climatic factors). Humans have the five Zang organs, they transform the 5 Qi, thereby they engender Excitation, Anger, Grief, Rumination and Fear (the 5 Emotions). – Yellow Emperor’s Inner Cannon, Chapter 5 Great Treatise of Yin Yang

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