After unseasonably warm days here in Southern Spain it seems that Autumn is finally here. This season of harvest, a sort of release of beauty and abundance before we transition into winter.
Rooted in Taoist cosmology, Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches us that we cultivate and preserve health by continuously aligning ourselves with the cycles of nature as it changes through the seasons.
The Five Element theory, one of the cornerstones of Chinese medicine, offers a framework with which to observe the forces of the five elements within us as in nature, and to detect imbalances among them in our bodies, minds and spirits. It also offers us correspondences between each element and a particular taste, colour, organ system, and season of the year that allow us to harmonise with its specific energy.
Autumn and the Five Elements
Autumn relates to the metal element and the Lung-Large Intestine organ system. In health, those organs ensure that through the actions of inhalation and elimination, we don’t hold on to what we absorb. We feel it, use only what is vital, and release the rest.
Our Lungs are seen in Chinese medicine as being the “receivers of pure Qi (or lifeforce) from the Heavens”, especially through our breath. Because this organ circulates the protective Qi (Wei Qi) that protects us against external pathogens, we want to take special care of our lungs right now.
Emotionally, healthy Lungs are linked with the ability to take in AND let go, let go of the old, let go of grief so if this resonates with you at this time then the following tips may be especially useful.
Four Tips for Boosting your Lung health:
1. Breathe: deeply and consciously. Continue to check in with your breath throughout the day. Check out my post on abdominal breathing if you want a starting point.
2. Keep Warm: incorporate warming spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, dill, rosemary and thyme into your meals. Always wrap a scarf around your neck when outside, especially on windy days.
3. Moisten Your Lungs: dryness is said to “injure the Lung Qi” and all the more so in the autumn. You may notice that at this time of year your skin is drier, and like your Lungs, it would benefit from appropriate moisture. Make sure to include in your diet plenty of healthy oils and fats such as organic coconut oil, olive oil or ghee (super easy to make yourself), small amounts of good quality yoghurt, avocado, nuts and seeds, sweet pumpkins, apples and squash. They all help build the fluids in our bodies. Similarly, warm, slowly cooked foods like stews, bone broth and porridges can be deeply nourishing and hydrating. Interestingly our bodies tend to absorb fluids better through food rather than just through pure water.
4. Meditate: The energy of autumn is inward, which means that, according to Chinese medicine, this is the time of year when the spirit becomes more accessible. Take advantage of this special time by sitting with yourself, getting to know your mind and spirit, and engaging with it. Meditation is a great way to do just this. While meditation can sound intimidating at first, merely 2-5 minutes a day can make a difference in how you feel! Now is a great time to get a meditation practice started. There are quite a few great meditation apps you can use if you would like some guidance in getting started such as Headspace. I think of meditation as a way to be present, in the moment and in fact any activity that helps you do that is helpful, whether paddle boarding or going hiking in the mountains, or simply taking a few minutes to sit by the sea and become aware of our bodies, our thoughts, our breath.
Of course you can support all this by incorporating acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine to your routine. They are a great way to support your immune system and help you through the change of season. Contact me for more information.