In autumn, we need to store vital energy in order to make it through the winter in a healthy state. We are ready to start turning inward and slow down from all of the activity of the summer. Early to bed and early to rise, we insure we have enough energy to finish up the last bits and pieces of projects and plans.
The heat of the summer evolves to humidity and then gives way to dryness, the energy of the season. Together with dryness, we have cooler temperatures as nature retracts. Yang (warmth of the sun) begins to lessen and yin (cooler seasons of fall and winter) comes forth. With the cooler temperatures, the watery fruits and vegetables of summer like watermelon, peaches and cucumber give way to more concentrated foods like apples, the drier carrots, and sweet potatoes and seeds. These foods don’t risk freezing like the water-rich fruits and vegetables of summer.
All the colors of summer are fading and transition to yellow and eventually white, the color of the autumn season. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), autumn is the season of metal. The lungs and respiratory system, which are associated with the metal element, are more vulnerable during the dry days and cool autumn evenings. It’s important to keep them moist and warm during the cooler months to come. Problems in the lungs include colds and flu, allergies, chronic coughs, bronchitis, sinus infections and so on. Keep the upper back, shoulders, and spinal column covered and warm. You can also try massaging the chest area with pre-mixed oils which include eucalyptus essential oil to ease breathing and oxygenation problems.
As the weather cools down, we also need to pay attention to our digestive system, ensuring it stays strong because it is the root of our immune system’s strength. Avoid foods that destabilize your digestive system. Eat a little less raw as well as cold foods. It’s a good time to start baking and include warm foods that are sweet, mildly spicy, sour and salty, as these are all flavours that increase moisture and encourage feeling nourished and grounded. Try starting the day with a warm bowl of porridge of oats, rice or quinoa that can be flavoured with maple syrup and cinnamon. The root vegetables of the season like pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes are densely-packed sugars and starches that are great in soups and good for a warming dinner. You can also try cooked fruits like apple sauce for snacks and desserts.
And remember warming teas - echinacea herb tea is a natural immune booster while ginger tea is good for nausea, indigestion and helps alleviate sore throats and colds and the flu – perfect for the season! Ginger tea is so easy to make you can have it regularly and it even helps stimulate your energy levels on days when you need an extra boost. Peel a few inches of ginger root and slice into thin slices. Add it
to boiling water, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Drink it as is or you can add some lemon or a little bit of honey to taste. You can also make variations by adding spices such as cardamom, cloves, and organic orange peel while boiling the ginger.
To help with any feelings of anxiety, try a cleansing breath. Take a few deep breaths and then as you exhale, visualize everything that you feel is weighing you down or that is negative in your life. With your exhale, you leave all of these negative energies to the earth. As you inhale, imagine filling the empty space you just created with a color, smell, and image or sound that is positive for you. Deep breathing in general will stimulate your lungs and is a great way to relieve stress.
As we prepare ourselves for the cooler temperatures in the coming months, a key objective is keeping our immune systems in top shape.
When in balance, our bodies will keep healthy all through the coming winter. We often hear about the oncoming “flu season” and how important it is to protect ourselves with various “flu” solutions. What is the “flu season” and how do we protect ourselves from falling ill? Do bacteria really proliferate during these months or are we more susceptible to illness? A quick look at the environment and our habits shows us what is really changing in these coming months…
During the colder months, we will likely spend a lot more time indoors and be less active. And Vitamin D which is synthesized naturally by the body upon exposure to sunlight will be much harder to come by as the sun disappears for days on end. It turns out that Vitamin D is such a crucial element in keeping our immune systems fully functioning that by maintaining adequate levels we severely reduce the risk of contracting the flu. We can further support our immune system by eating well, minimizing our intake of processed sugars, getting regular exercise, having adequate rest and keeping a positive outlook on life and our surroundings.
Living in harmony with the season really does ensure harmony within us!
Parts of this article published in the November 2011 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.