In Chinese Medicine and Five Element Acupuncture, the season of Autumn corresponds to the element of Metal and the energies of the Lungs and Large Intestine organs. Major organs have not only extremely important physical functions in our bodies, but also their own energy, or Qi, that allows them to transform and process our food, water, blood, body fluids, thoughts and experiences. Here are some of the attributes of the Lungs and Large Intestine:
Lungs: Yin; Inhalation; Inspiration; Taking In
Large Intestine: Yang, Exhalation, Expiration, Letting Go
These organs are symbolic of the cycle of birth and death, and the rhythm of life. Our first breath was an inhale, and our last will be an exhale. The Lungs govern the breath, which is rhythmic. The Large Intestine excretes waste that is not needed, but not before extracting the last bit of pureness that the body needs before letting the rest go.
Today I’m sharing some things that you can do to nourish yourself in Autumn, and to strengthen your Metal element, Lungs and Large Intestine organs. Many of these ideas lend from ancient traditions like Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine philosophy.
Let It Go!
It’s natural in Autumn that you might feel like cleaning, clearing out your house, getting rid of old clothes and other items, and getting rid of what you don’t need. We will have less energy come Winter, and there is no need to hold onto anything that is a burden. This is a wonderful time to release old habits, mindsets, ideas about ourselves and others that do not serve us, and stagnant emotions that we’ve been processing over and over. A primary emotion we can feel in Autumn is grief, which is a natural human emotion. Allowing ourselves to feel our emotions deeply helps us with our ability to release them.
The Lungs govern the skin and Wei Qi, or protective Qi, both of which are part of the immune system protecting your body from pathogens. This is the time of year when illnesses are going around, and lots of people are getting sick. Protect yourself from the climate – it’s very windy and it’s starting to get colder this season. Your grandmother was right – wear a scarf and protect your head and neck! In Chinese Medicine, evil Qi or pathogens can enter into the neck. It’s as simple as wearing appropriate clothing for the weather. Wind itself can be a pathogen, but it can also carry other climates that can become pathogenic, such as cold and dampness. These illnesses show up as colds and sinus infections, with any of the following symptoms: itchy or sore throat, fever, sneezing, cough, runny nose, and body aches. Interestingly, in Ayurveda, the element associated with this season is Vata, or Wind/Air, which can also turn pathogenic.
Build Up Your Wei Qi.
Diet can also strengthen your immune system. Eating foods with spices and that have a spicy or pungent flavor will be strengthening. Foods like cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, clove, sage, basil, chilies, garlic, and onion are good additions to meals like soups and stews. These are warming, and open up the nasal passages, aiding respiration/breathing. Cooked foods, especially those which grow from the Earth like dark greens, root vegetables and squashes, are beautiful this time of year. Click here for one of my favorite fall recipes - Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Chickpeas & Tahini Dressing. Avoid raw or cold foods or ice cold water, this is a time to warm the body and prepare for the cold months ahead. Damp-causing foods like dairy, gluten and fried foods can actually increase phlegm and sinus congestion.
Take several minutes a day to sit, close your eyes, breathe deeply and pay attention to how you feel. In Autumn, we are on a decline of Qi energy both in nature and our bodies, and Winter will be an even more Yin time of stillness. However, in our culture, there is an excess of Yang (or active) energy right now. Autumn is full of fall festivals and outdoor activities. Then as the holidays approach, things begin to get crazy just as Winter is beginning, with the shopping, parties and feasts. This can deplete our Qi, our natural resources, burn us out and tire us. In the past, I have personally been sick around Christmas because it can all be very overwhelming! I encourage you to take a few deep breaths every day, and ask yourself, “How do I feel right now? Do I really need to go/do this extra errand/chore/task/party/obligation?” If the answer is no, do something comforting for yourself, like simply sit with a cup of tea and watch the fall foliage outside.
Reflect on what you find sacred and beautiful in the world and in your life, and take up a practice that supports that. For example, go out for a walk or sit outside among the trees, hike a day in the woods, start a meditation or yoga practice, make more time for loved ones, or do something else that makes your soul sing. Once you identify what is most sacred and beautiful to you, make a list of things you could let go of in your life. A habit, something that doesn’t bring you joy or meaning, something or someone that is toxic for you, or something you are only doing out of obligation, are some ideas to help you get started. You can then symbolically tear up or burn the list to make it official!
Acupuncture is a highly effective way to strengthen the immune system and protective Qi, and help with colds, sinus infections, and seasonal allergies, as well as any issues with the Lungs, Large Intestine and skin! It is also a great idea to come get acupuncture at least seasonally to allow your body, mind and spirit to adjust to the changes occurring both outside and within. We currently are running a special of 35% off your first Initial Intake appointment at the Natural Care Center! This offer expires November 17th. I currently have an opening in my schedule on Wednesday evenings. To schedule an acupuncture appointment with me, or if you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yoga for Autumn.
The Lungs and Large Intestine meridians run through the arms, chest and back of the shoulders. You can physically stimulate these meridians through Yin Yoga by breathing deeply in the poses while relaxing the muscles. This is a practice of quiet and inner stillness. We are able to influence and restore our Qi while physically nourishing the joints, fascia and connective tissues. Come experience Yin Yoga with me at Prana Studio at 6:00pm on Thursdays. I also teach Vin Yin on Saturdays at 11:30am, which is a Vinyasa and Yin hybrid class. Click here for my full schedule. Below are two poses you can try.