Going Yinward: Preparing Body and Mind for the Autumn Season

As the Late Summer concludes and pumpkin spice everything hits the shelves, the cosmos of our world shifts into its next seasonal cycle. There’s the hint of a chill in the air, the leaves have begun to turn, that summer glow has sadly faded, and life seems altogether a little more serious than it did a mere month ago. Behold the Autumn Equinox.

In Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the first stage in the Yin cycle of the year. It’s a time of harvesting that which we’ve sown during our active Summer months. It’s a time to begin looking inward, preparing our minds and bodies for the cooler days ahead.  You probably feel this significant shift, even if you don’t fully recognize it. Does it suddenly feel as if all of the duties & tasks you’ve been putting off are catching up with you?  It may seem like a bummer, but in fact, it’s a great time to take on projects, organize, and establish more order in your life. Like it or not, you probably even recognize the importance of this change. We feel this way, and respond in this manner, because our inner Yin is finally being put to task.

The Lung and Large Intestine are the internal organs most associated with the Autumn season.  They are considered to be “Metal” organs, and bring with them a noticeable change from the Fire element of Summer, and the Earth element of the Late Summer mini-season.  They enjoy structure, discipline, and are responsible for some of our most important functions. The Lung in particular is associated with the concept of letting go, moving forward, and grieving what has passed.  For those who live to love the Summer sun, this can be a difficult process.  A grieving process, if you will.

Our dear Lung is a delicate organ-- considered in Chinese Medicine to be the most “tender.”  Being the organ most easily accessible to the outer world, it is also the most susceptible to hazards such as Wind and Cold.  You may know this all too well with that sudden uptick in seasonal allergies, or getting hit with the first wave of cold & flu.  The reason for this is that the Lung circulates “Wei Qi,” which can be considered our body’s outermost immunological defense system. Wei Qi circulates on the skin and in the superficial tissues—so when it’s weak we can be especially prone to pesky seasonal ailments. This is why it’s important to simultaneously support healthy Lung function, while protecting ourselves from the elements. Make sure to dress appropriately for the cooler days, and keep your uppermost areas (especially your head & neck) covered, warm, and dry.

It’s incredibly important to protect, nurture and strengthen our Lung and Wei Qi during this cool and dry time of year. There are several ways to do this—including seeing your acupuncturist to fortify your body with the best treatment plan for you. Notably, East Asian medicine has long recognized practices that include breath work, such as Qi Gong, to play a significant role in building the vitality of our Lungs.  As a result, our overall immunity can be strengthened. This may be a good time of year give this method a try, or explore breath work techniques that appeal to you.

As the entryway to the Lung, clear and allergen-free nasal passages are tantamount. These can be kept clean and warm by using a neti pot with warm saline solution as a preventative measure. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are also excellent for guarding against, and alleviating, seasonal allergies and illnesses.  We personally have an arsenal of herbs to help people through this time of year.

As the old adage states: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Chinese Medicine agrees! Each season has a set of best practices when it comes to what you put in your body.  In general, avoiding cold and/or raw foods is ideal. These substances put undue dampness in the body, which can then be stored by the Lung in the form of phlegm and congestion. Instead, stick to warm, cooked foods and a moderate amount of Lung-strengthening spicy-natured goodies like: garlic, ginger, onions, horseradish, and mustard.  Maybe pumpkin spice isn’t so bad after all ;)

In our modern human existence, we tend to forget the natural cycles that govern us. However, try as we might, we cannot escape them. Lean in to this process as best you can, by properly preparing your body and mind for the seasonal shifts ahead.  Have questions on the best Autumnal fortification plan for you? The practitioners at Sanctuary Acupuncture are here to help. Happy Autumn Equinox!

Sarah Biffen