Staying Healthy with the Seasons: Autumn Insights
One of the most beautiful aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine is its harmony with the natural cycle of the seasons, and their relation to 5-Element theory. To stay healthy one must harmonize their own energy with that of their environment. With the arrival of the Autumn Equinox (September 23rd), we welcome the official first day of Fall. It is a transitional time from the Yang energies and heat of summer and late summer to the Yin energy and crisp temps of Autumn, the traditional time of Harvest represented symbolically by the cornucopia of Abundance related to the Thanksgiving holiday. Fall is a time that ushers in harvesting apples, pumpkin and squash, preserving food, enjoyment of the colors of the changing leaves and beginning to prepare oneself both physically and mentally for the upcoming colder months. The season “Autumn” is represented by the element of Metal, the color White, the emotion of Grief, and the taste is Spicy or Pungent. It’s related organs are the Large Intestine and the Lungs. The Qi energy in the meridians of these organs is at its peak from 3am to 7am. The related sensory organ is the Nose. Its direction is the West.
Be aware of your Emotions
Fall is the turning point when the Yang, or active energy turns into its opposite, the Yin, or passive energy. Just as the weather in Autumn turns cooler, so do the emotions. The emotion associated with Autumn is Grief. This makes it important to stay calm and peaceful, avoiding depression so that our transition into the Winter months ahead is a smooth one. It is the time to focus on strengthening our spirit, accomplished by stimulating the Qi through breathing exercises such as meditation, and Qigong. The same dry winds that strip the deciduous trees of their leaves can affect our skin as dryness, itchiness or can get into our lungs and cause dry cough. A conscious breathing practice not only enhances lung Qi but has the added benefit of keeping the lung energy free full, clean, and quiet which is vital to remaining healthy in the Fall. Since the sensory organ for Autumn is the Nose focus on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Eat Right to Keep Your Balance with the Season
Food is medicine and in TCM foods are used for their healing properties. One important aspect for staying healthy this Autumn is eating right for the Lungs. It is recommended that your foods should moisten and clear the Lungs, get rid of wind and support the digestive system.
Foods that moisten the Lungs, include apples, pears and persimmons that contain a lot of water. Lima and navy beans are also good for the Lungs. To stimulate and clear the Lungs you can use spicy/pungent foods and herbs such as horseradish, white pepper, onions, garlic, sage, raw onion and hot chili peppers. More gentle pungents would include basil, coriander, bay leaves, cabbage, chives, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, ginger, oregano, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, turmeric, turnip and wheat germ.
Autumn is also associated with the Large intestine and it is a time when the digestive system can become deficient. For health it is advised to eat dark green and orange vegetables that assist in harmonizing digestion.
Soups rather than salads are good Autumn food for various reasons, including the fact that longer cooking times at low temperatures mean the ingredients are easier to digest, and the wateriness nurtures Yin. Thick stews and soups help build energy reserves for the colder months ahead. Salt helps moisten dryness so use small amounts of salt in Autumn cooking. Because steaming also nurtures Yin it is a good technique for Fall.
Take a Hike
There is really nothing better for your health than connecting with Nature and Autumn during peak foliage season is perhaps the most beautiful time of year to do so. Admiring the brilliant colors of the trees is good for your emotional health and taking long deep breaths of cool clean air is one of the best things you can do to strengthen the lungs. However the Fall is also associated with Wind thought to be the cause of a hundred different diseases in TCM. So while you our out enjoying your walk in Nature wear a scarf that can keep you warm and protect your neck an easy access point for cold.
Clearing the Meridians
In TCM being healthy is about staying balanced, so avoiding extremes. But it is also about having a, free flowing, unobstructed flow of Qi energy through your meridians. Try these simple Qigong movements designed to clear the Lung and Large Intestine meridians and nourish the Metal element.
Place your right palm over your left cheek beside your nose. With your spine straight, take a deep breath. As you inhale visualize sending bright white light in to fill your belly. As you exhale make the “Ssssss” sound like a tire that has sprung a leak while brushing your palm down your face, along the side of your neck, over your shoulder, down the outside of your arm, along the top of the forearm, the back of your hand and pull the energy off the end of the index finger. This brushing moves the Qi clearing the Large Intestine meridian. Repeat on the other side of the body.
Now place your right palm over the ball joint of your left shoulder. Take a deep breath. As you inhale visualize filling your Lungs with pure white light. As you exhale make the “Ssssss” sound while brushing your palm down over the head of the bicep of your left arm, along the inside of the forearm, and pulling the energy off the end of your thumb. This brushing moves the Qi clearing the Lung meridian. Repeat on the other side of the body. Repeat the process 3 – 5 times on each side of the body or as much as you feel intuitively guided to do so.