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Living in Harmony with Autumn

Posted Oct 31 2008 9:09am

Autumn is the time of year when yang energy — which is more active, external, and warm — begins to turn to yin energy, which is the cooler, more nourishing, and more internal aspect of life. This transition goes more smoothly if you can embrace the changes and the gifts of this season.

The season of fall is associated with the metal element in Chinese medicine. Metal expresses preciousness and value, making this an especially good time to treasure what we have - both internal and external resources and joys. On the flip side, metal is also associated with feelings of grief, sadness and loss. If you’re feeling a little blue heading into winter, you’re right in tune with the seasons.  Be gentle with yourself, and those around you too.

The Lung is the physical organ system associated with metal. The Chinese lung involves literal lung functions, as well as the mouth, nose, throat, and skin. As the most external organ, it also represents our first line of defense against disease, and plays an important part in the immune system. It’s no secret this is a time of year when we are prone to catching colds; taking care of your Lung qi can help you avoid colds and fight them off more quickly if they do take hold.  See below for some suggestions!

  1. Allow yourself to sleep more, and earlier. The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, a pivotal Chinese medical text, advises going to sleep with the sunset and getting up at sunrise in the fall. It’s natural to need more sleep as the weather gets colder, and getting up early allows you to take advantage of as much sunlight as possible. If you can get outside early in the day, this also helps boost your energy and mood, and adjusts your internal clock with the season.
  2. Allow your focus to become more internal. The season of fall and the Metal element are associated with order, stability, and mental activity. It’s a good time to organize your priorities and schedule, finish projects, and focus on work, home, and family.
  3. Shift your diet away from raw, cold foods, such as salads, and add more cooked, substantial food. Root vegetables in particular are said to be good for the Lung, and will help your overall energy and immune functioning, as well as satisfy the natural craving for heavier, starchier food. See below for a yummy, easy recipe.
  4. Be aware of any tendency toward sadness, depression, or feelings of low self-worth, and make an extra effort to take care of them. These feelings come up more easily this time of year, and they are especially draining for the Lungs. Keeping your spirits up will also help keep up your resistance to colds and flu.
  5. Protect yourself against illness: wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, dress warmly and keep your neck covered, and make sure you’re eating well and sleeping enough. For more detailed tips on avoiding colds and flu, check out the other articles in the “respiratory” category on this blog.

Rosemary Roasted Autumn Vegetables

Peel and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices:

1 small butternut squash
1 small rutabega
1 large red onion
2 parsnips
(feel free to substitute or add other vegetables, such as potatoes, yams, beets, carrots, and/or jerusalem artichoke)

6-8 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (dried works too; use a little less)
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large casserole dish, combine all the ingredients and mix well with your hands.  Roast for 30 minutes.  Stir the vegetables and bake again until everything is tender, about 20 minutes more.

      
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