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Autumn – How To Get The Best Out Of This Pivotal Season


Chinese medicine teaches us that the universe and everything in it is a constant state of change. Aiding this natural transformation is one of the key things about acupuncture. The pivotal seasons, Autumn and Spring show the most dramatic changes around us. The air gets cooler, winds get stronger, there are more damp days. Leaves go through a kaleidoscope of colour before being let go, to return to the earth. Autumn is the season linked with the metal element, the Lungs and Large Intestine. Manuscripts from about 2200 years ago teach us that failing to pay attention to the lungs in autumn can lead to back pain in winter and poor digestion as the body struggles to replenish its reserves of essence over the winter. The Lungs also govern the flow of qi in the whole body, including the Defensive (Wei) qi which helps prevent disease from entering the body and warms the extremities. Of course, there are several things that can help get the best out of the season. 1. Wear a scarf – The stronger winds in autumn can easily drive cold and damp onto the skin and help these pathogens invade the body. When the air isn’t damp, the same stronger winds can dry the skin excessively. Keeping covered up, especially the back and neck will negate the worst effects of autumnal winds. 2. Eat foods to support the Lung and prevent internal dampness building The flavour associated with the lungs is pungent or spicy and the colour associated is white, so we can add more pungent flavours into the diet. Think along the lines of foods that are ‘white’ on the inside – radish, garlic, ginger, onion, apple, pear. Drinking tea with a little honey and lemon will also benefit the lungs. Avoid too much cold or raw foods as they can slow the digestion and moderate your uncultured dairy intake to avoid allowing phlegm to build in the body as it can become stored in the lung leading to coughing attacks in the winter. You can see a bigger list of foods to benefit the lungs here. 3. Deal with Grief Grief is the emotion associated with the Lung. It is important to guard against the ill effects of grief in Autumn to avoid damaging the Lung Qi (vital lung energy). The acceptance and letting go of things and loved ones passed is reflected in the trees letting go of their leaves. This guide for how to deal with the grieving process (from helpguide.org) may be of some help

  1. Acknowledge your pain.

  2. Accept that grief can trigger many different and unexpected emotions.

  3. Understand that your grieving process will be unique to you.

  4. Seek out face-to-face support from people who care about you.

  5. Support yourself emotionally by taking care of yourself physically.

  6. Recognize the difference between grief and depression.

From the Chinese medicine point of view, the lungs allow us to take in qi from the air, and the large intestine allows us to let go of what we no longer need. Not letting go can injure the lung qi, and weak lung qi can prevent one from letting go. 4 Retire earlier in the evening and get up with the sun While spring and summer are associated with the growth of the active yang phase, autumn and winter are associated with the growth of the yin phase of the cycle. Yin is a nurturing, calm and passive force therefore it is important to allow a little more time for rest and relaxation to keep in tune with the season. Get the cosy socks and book out. 5 Exercise to open the chest and benefit the Lung Qi Starting with your hands by your side, with slow steady movement, inhale through the nose as you raise the hands so that they face each other at arm’s length in front of the face. As you exhale, open the arms out to the sides, still at shoulder height. The lung meridian runs from the chest to the tip of the thumb, so stretch the thumbs and visualise the energy moving along the channel. On inhalation return so that the hands face each other once again, and then exhale back to the starting position. 6 Be aware of your posture Tending to roll the shoulders forward and sit with the solar plexus depressed are signs of low Lung Qi. Try to sit up straighter, roll the shoulders back so that the ears, shoulders and hips are in a straight line. Deep breathing through the nose with good posture will aid the Lung Qi 7 get fresh air Make sure to get outside in nature, walk and breathe deeply to give the lungs the crisp clean air they crave. 8 Reorganise and Clean Out As nature goes into the start of its regenerative and restorative cycle, it is a good time to begin preparing for the year ahead. Organising your space, clearing out what’s no longer needed and begin planning for the year ahead will all benefit the Lung Qi. If this article raises any questions, or I can help you get the best out of this Autumn please do get in touch by message, DM, email (rory@roryryanacupuncture.ie) or by phone 0864059898.

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