Autumn brings focus after the scattered season of summer. During the summer, we are active and social (so I blame summer for my recent lack of blogging!). During fall, we focus inwardly, we stay inside, and we contemplate the busy season we’ve left behind.
What the Huang Di nei jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) Says about Autumn
“In the three months of autumn all things in nature reach their full maturity. The grains ripen and harvesting occurs. The heavenly energy cooks, as does the weather. The wind begins to stir. This is the changing or pivoting point when the yang, or active, phase turns into its opposite, the yin, or passive phase. One should retire with the sunset and arise with the dawn. Just as the weather in autumn turns harsh, so does the emotional climate. It is therefore important to remain calm and peaceful, refraining from depression so that one can make the transition to winter smoothly. This is the time to gather one’s spirit and energy, be more focused, and not allow desires to run wild. One must keep the lung energy full, clean, and quiet. This means practicing breathing exercises to enhance lung qi. Also, one should refrain from both smoking and grief, the emotion of the lung….”
—Chapter 2, Huang Di nei jing
The Inner Classic is the earliest text we know of on the subject of Chinese medicine. We are not certain exactly when it was written, but scholars tend to place its composition between 320 BCE and 260 CE. The book offers practical advice on how to maintain balance in our lives by living according to seasonal and other cyclical changes in nature. The Chapter 2 quote above discusses what is occurring in nature during the autumn season and how those phenomena affect our body/mind. The paragraph emphasizes the health of the lungs during autumn because the lungs’ qi corresponds to the energy of autumn in Chinese medicine. At this time of year it is important to focus on the lungs and on prevention in general in order to avoid contracting an illness.
How to Stay Well
Below are suggestions for enhancing your health during this stormy season:
· It is increasingly windy and cold, so always cover your head and neck when going outside. Pathogenic cold will get into your body via your head and neck.
· Take deep breaths and breathe in the fresh fall air. This will help to clear your lungs and provide fresh qi from the air to your body.
· Allow for appropriate sleep. Go to bed earlier than usual—when it gets dark out—and wake up earlier. Unlike in summer, when we stay awake later, we should do the opposite in autumn.
· Drink herbal teas that supplement your lung qi. Ren shen (Panax ginseng) effectively supplements the lungs and helps augment the qi, and huang qi (Astralagus membranaceus) helps to augment your protective qi (the qi that keeps you from contracting an illness).
· The lungs are associated with sour foods in Chinese medicine, and eating sour foods helps stimulate the body and encourage mental focus. Eat sauerkraut, sourdough breads, olives, and pickles!
The suggestions above, in addition to regular acupuncture treatments and herbal prescriptions, are wonderful, preventative ways to avoid getting sick this season and to increase your overall health and well being.