"In ancient times those people who understood Tao (the way of self cultivation) patterned themselves upon the Yin and the Yang (the two principles in nature) and they lived in harmony..." The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine
There is a slight nip in the air. The days are starting to get shorter. And just as the squirrels have gotten down to the business of storing nuts for the winter, we find ourselves a little more serious and less carefree than in summer. Whether you're preparing for school or preparing for a new business venture, you know that Fall has arrived.
Fall is the beginning of the yin cycle when the daylight lasts less than twelve hours. It's a time of harvest when we gather the colorful fruits and vegetables for winter storage. Pumpkins and squashes are our symbols of bounty. We also store wood for the fire and get out our warm clothes for the colder, darker days of winter.
According to Oriental medicine, the season of autumn is associated with the element of Metal, which governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. It's a good time to finish projects that you began in spring and summer - harvesting the bounty of your hard work. Of course, it's also the perfect time to begin more introspective, indoor projects.
During the summer, which is ruled by the Fire element, we deal more with the external - traveling and playing outdoors. Fall, on the other hand, is a time of organizing your life for the winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life.
The lung and large intestine are the internal organs related to Fall and the Metal element. Lung is associated with the emotion of "letting go." This process is difficult for those who love the summer. They find it hard to give up the long days of sunlight, warm temperatures, and open windows. Others feel differently and love autumn, from the crisper air to the vivid red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. If letting go of summer is hard for you, extra support from your licensed acupuncturist may be in order to help you make the transition. That's right...acupuncture works on releasing emotional issues as well as physical ones.
Various systems of self-mastery teach that by controlling your breath, you can achieve and maintain physical vigor, mental clarity and emotional tranquility. The ancient Taoists developed a practical discipline of breathing called Qi Gong to increase vitality, extend lifespan, and prevent disease. This is a wonderful skill to learn as the Summer gives way to Fall.
Sleep is another important aspect of staying healthy in the Fall. The ancients advised that people should retire early at night and rise with the crowing of the rooster during the autumn. "Soul and spirit should be tranquil and to keep their lung pure they should not give vent to their desires."
Lung is considered by Oriental medicine to be the "tender organ." This is because the lung is the uppermost organ in the body and especially susceptible to wind and cold. During the change in temperature, be sure to dress for the weather! I see too many people still dressed for summer at the beginning of autumn, which is an open invitation for coughs, sore throats, and the common cold.
The lungs control the circulation of the Wei-Qi, which is the defensive Qi that protects you from the invasion of flu and colds. The Wei-Qi circulates on the surface between the skin and muscles and works to warm the body. If the Wei-Qi is weak, the skin and muscles will not be warmed properly. This is why people tend to feel cold when they're sick. A weakness in the lungs can lead to a weakness in the Wei-Qi, making a person prone to frequent colds.
The nose is the opening to the lungs, and you can prevent colds by keeping your nose and sinuses clean and clear. Using a netti pot with some sea salt and water helps rid the nose of excess mucus. If you suffer from a runny nose or sinus infections, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are wonderful for alleviating that problem.
What you eat also greatly affects the health of your lungs. Eating excess cold and raw foods creates dampness or phlegm which is produced by the spleen and stored by the lungs. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, cream, and butter also create phlegm, while moderate amounts of pungent foods like garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish, and mustard are beneficial to the lungs.
The transition from Summer to Fall is a time when the Qi is instable. The Qi from healthy lungs should descend. If the Lung Qi goes upward, it is "rebellious," and the person experiences a cough. The Lungs inhale the Heavenly Qi (air) and exhale the "dirty "Qi (carbon dioxide). Now is the time to strengthen your Qi to prepare for winter and get a "tune-up" from your licensed acupuncturist to strengthen your immune system.
"There was temperance in eating and drinking. Their hours of rising and retiring were regular and not disorderly and wild. By these means the ancients kept their bodies united with their souls, so as to fulfill their allotted span completely, measuring unto a hundred years before they passed away." Huang Ti Nei Jing Su Wen