Autumn brings the fiery colors of the foliage, sweet and cinnamon tastes of cider, and warming comfort foods in the form of stews and roasted vegetables (and pies). We’re looking forward to spending our first autumn in New England in several years - 6 years for Michelle and 11 years for Jon!
In Asian medicine's 5 Element Theory, each season has a unique energetic nature. By understanding these patterns as well as our individual characteristics, we can better prepare ourselves for the transitions between seasons.
Among other correspondences, autumn is associated with:
Organs: Lung, Large Intestine
Flavor: pungent (spicy)
With autumn upon us, our bodies are transitioning from a more Yang state to a Yin state. It is the time to begin boosting the Guardian Qi (Wei Qi) and strengthening our immune systems to prepare for cold weather. Here are a few tips from TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners.
“Healthy Transitions: Autumn’s Challenges to Our Respiratory Health”
Our fellow classmate, Dr. Robert Woodbine, mentions in his monthly wellness column:
“The energetic model of Chinese medicine states that, amongst several attributes, the lungs distribute Wei Qi (defensive energy) and body fluid to the whole body to warm and moisten muscles, hair and skin. This Wei Qi is the defensive barrier which protects the body from external pathogenic factors (cold, wind, etc.) by controlling the pores of the skin which are considered the gates of qi. When the energy (qi) of the lungs is deficient, they cannot perform their function of protecting us from these external influences and we, thus, fall victim to the colds, coughs and the like.” (continue reading for tips)
Autumn’s Flavor: Pungent (Spicy)
Last weekend at YMAA Andover, Kathy Yang gave a lecture on “Food as Medicine.” We learned that eating a reasonable amount of spicy foods can help support the lungs, remove blood stagnation, and ease feelings of grief. Eating too much, however, can cause damage to the organs.
Ginger and cinnamon can warm the body and promote Qi flow. Mints are a cool spice which can help clear congestion. Before stocking up on spices and curries, individuals should consult a TCM practitioner for personalized food recommendations.
Simple Exercises for Autumn
There are numerous Qigong sets and patterns one can practice to help maintain health. But, for those familiar with Dr. Yang's Qigong catalog, it may take you several hours to get through all of them. Fortunately, many patterns can be modified for a specific purpose, such as targeting the lungs for autumn.
“Immortal Pushes the Stone Tablet”
“Baby Bird Receives the Food” also known as “Baby Crane Waves Its Wings”:
This is the tip of a giant iceberg when it comes utilizing TCM theory to help prepare for autumn. Healthy lungs, certain foods, and a bit of exercise are just the beginning.
Stay warm and enjoy the fall!
Dr. Robert Woodbine
Healthy Transitions: Autumn’s Challenges to Our Respiratory Health (wellness column for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem District, NY)
You can find more details on those exercises in the following:
Additionally, the bird patterns in 5 Animal Sports Qigong targets the lungs: