Health for All Seasons: Autumn
Happy Autumn! Did I already say that Late Summer was my favorite season? Because actually it might be Autumn. :) Those things we had a taste of a month ago are now in full swing: cooler nights, crisp air, leaves changing color, beautiful squash and root vegetables popping up in farmer's markets... With the change in seasons we might start to feel an internal change, since our bodies resonate with the world around us. The purpose of this series of articles is to help facilitate greater balance and harmony with our physical and emotional well-being throughout the changing seasons of the year. Many things we do instinctively: dressing in warmer layers or lighting candles to create a sense of warmth or coziness. But some things require a little thought or effort, so keep reading to the end for practical advice on what to do now in order to attune your body a little more with Autumn.
First off, every season has a corresponding organ system in Traditional Chinese Medicine. For Autumn we are concerned with supporting our Lungs and Large Intestine as they are the most vulnerable to changes during this time. Our Lungs are responsible for inhaling air and converting it into Qi or energy in the body, while the Large Intestine's role is to keep only what we need and to eliminate the rest from our bodies. The emotion attached to these organs is grief and also the ability to let go.
When we think of Lungs and Large Intestine that are healthy and balanced we would expect to see:
A strong immune system with adequate defenses for allergies, colds, and flu
Deep, clear breathing without restriction in sinuses and Lungs
Regular bowel movements
Plenty of energy, despite shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures
The ability to let go to negativity or things that no longer serve us
A sense of acceptance to life's changes and difficulties
Appropriate grief response, working through stages of grief to heal from past trauma
On the other hand, when Lungs and Large Intestine are weak or somehow vulnerable, it might show as:
Seasonal allergies or easily catching colds and flu
Any wheezing, rattling, chest congestion or pressure, shallow breathing
Low energy or feeling like you could sleep for 12 hours and it wouldn't be enough
Inability to let go physically - muscle tension, tendency to constipation.
Inability to let go emotionally - attachment to negative thoughts, habits, relationships, past trauma
Excess grief. This is a tricky one, because our grief responses are individual. But the energy of this season makes it difficult to deal with, express, and heal from grief. Or it may bring up old issues and make us relive the old grief all over again.
So, how to we support and nourish our Lungs and Large Intestine, especially if we suspect that they are imbalanced or weakened in any way?
Get Acupuncture! Or maybe try Acupressure at home! I am a firm believer in regular acupuncture treatments, even if that just means a seasonal "tune-up" for well individuals. However, you can help support your health at home with acupressure, ideally performed daily for best results. The point I would choose for this time of year is on the Large Intestine meridian, called LI 4 or Hegu. This point is not suitable for any pregnant patients, so please skip this one if you are expecting! This point is located on the back of the hand, dead center in the muscle between the bones leading to your thumb and index finger. It should feel achy when massaged for approximately 30 seconds or a minute every day. This point is useful for supporting Lungs and Large Intestine, especially any colds, flus, allergies, digestive symptoms, and because it is one of the strongest "moving points" in the body, will help in letting go of grief, attachment, and negativity.
Breathe deeply! This is the ideal time to start or resurrect a breathing practice, perhaps trying some Pranayama or Qi Gong techniques. Even just spending time outdoors and spending a few minutes focused on deep, slow, and steady breathing is beneficial to the Lungs. I love these breathing exercises from Dr. Andrew Weil, which are great even for beginners.
Let go of attachments! What are you holding on to? Autumn is the perfect time to practice letting go. Work on releasing negative cycles and addictions, relationships, habits, or thoughts that do not serve you any longer. Forgive others or yourself. Clean out closets and spare rooms and rid yourself of clothing or objects you no longer need. Donating these things will make a positive impact in someone else's life and free up space in your own.
Eat seasonally for Autumn! Food is the ultimate medicine. In Autumn we want to shift our focus on more warming and easily digestible foods. Think longer, slower cooking methods like braising and roasting, and less emphasis on raw foods or salads like in Summer. Specific foods to incorporate are: colorful root vegetables, pumpkins, and squash, dark leafy greens, warming spices like pepper, ginger, or cinnamon, pungent flavors of garlic and horseradish, and slow cooked soups and stews.
It is my wish for you that you find balance and harmony with Autumn this year. Hopefully this article will help you to incorporate ways of supporting your Lungs and Large Intestine during this season for better health now and lasting throughout the year.
If you are looking for more ways to harmonize with the season, why not join me as I partner with Kathleen at Yoga Shivaya for our somewhat-monthly Yin Yoga and Acupuncture class? Our next one will be on Sunday October 20th, and will consist of a series of postures targeted at the Lung and Large Intestine meridians followed by an extra long savasana with a mini acupuncture treatment to balance the same. We always try to make the focus of these classes be to balance and align with the season at hand and its corresponding TCM organ systems. So if you are interested, please sign up here, as space is limited and most often sells out!