Autumn: Embracing Internal Cultivation

The Autumn equinox (September 23) happens today, where the day is as long as the night. It marks the changing of the seasons, where the decline of warmth and the increase of cold converge. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory, autumn is the time where Yin begins to grow dominant as Yang begins its decline. 

Though we enjoy Indian Summers in the Bay Area, the days will become shorter, and the air will become cooler. Trees lose their leaves and drop their fruit (which carry seeds for new life). They gather their energy into their roots, and thus expend less outward energy. For us, this season is also about this transition: releasing the things we no longer need and gathering resources. Our energy shifts from outward and turns inward in preparation for the upcoming winter. 

Autumn is associated with the metal element, which corresponds to the Lung and Large Intestines. The Lungs have the closest connection to the exterior and are our first line of defense. They’re associated with the immune system and govern the circulation of Wei Qi, the protective Qi which defends our body from external attacks by viruses like colds and flu. The Lung’s pair organ is the Large Intestine, responsible refining solid wastes and eliminating what is toxic and unnecessary from our body.

Grief is the emotion of Autumn. We may notice feelings of sadness and nostalgia during this seasonal change. By accepting and honoring these feelings, we can try to gently move through sadness to cultivate compassion.

Embrace the inward nature of autumn and consider these tips for internal cultivation:

  • Support your Lungs with the breath. Practice 5-15 minutes a day of deep diaphragmatic breathing. Begin with 1 minute of inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth - to let go and ground. Then switch to both inhaling and exhaling through your nose - to bring your focus inward. Be in your body and feel all the sensations present.

  • Spend time in nature and invigorate your senses. Visually soak in the beauty of your surroundings, smell the fresh air, listen to the sounds of nature, feel the cool, crisp air against your skin.

  • Eat warming foods. Transition from the cooling foods of summer (ex: raw foods and salads), and instead eat more cooked foods like soups and stews. Include root vegetables (sweet potato, yams, carrots, turnips, beets, squash, lotus), cabbage, cauliflower, kale and all dark leafy greens, asparagus, beans, pears, apples, nuts, water chestnuts, rice, leeks, scallion, daikon. Add a moderate amount of warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, mustard, horseradish.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Autumn weather tends toward dryness. The Lung and Large Intestine organs both require hydration for optimal elimination (healthy mucosal and bowel movements).

  • Let go. Autumn is the time for gathering resources and letting go of things you no longer need. Declutter your home and donate old clothing to charity, clear your calender of extraneous obligations, organize your computer and/or photos and delete anything you don’t need to keep.

  • Supply your natural medicine cabinet. With herbs and supplements to help your immune system to fend against the upcoming cold and flu season.

  • Prioritize self care. Make time for gentle exercise, yoga or stretching, get adequate sleep, and come visit us at DHH for acupuncture and herbal medicine to support your wellness.

A season of focused energy, autumn is a great time to embrace internal cultivation and to prepare yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally for the next phase of the season cycle!