Chinese Medicine follows the wisdom of the natural rhythms. One of the earliest books on Chinese Medicine, the Nei Jing, offers specific examples of how to stay healthy as the seasons change. At the very heart of it, this medicine is about prevention and empowerment. There are so many small steps we can take in our daily life to ensure greater health, vitality and stronger immune systems. This particular transition, the one towards colder weather, the turning into Fall, is seen as especially important. Autumn is the season of the Lungs, which have a direct role in the health of our immunity.
We intuitively know that Fall is the season of letting go. We watch as leaves turn golden, orange, red, then drift sweetly to the ground. As we walk through the world, we breathe in the scent of drying leaves, crisp decay. Often we experience sadness as we grieve naturally for what has reached the end of its cycle, for what no longer is, for what we must release. Sadness and grief are the emotion associated with the Lungs and are considered a healthy human experience. They become problematic and begin to affect our health when we cannot move through our grief, when we cannot express it, or when it becomes overwhelming. Chinese Medicine offers us ways to strengthen the Lungs and opportunities to increase our resiliency.
Welcoming new routines and healthy habits are one way we can harmonize ourselves with the changing season. Here are a few options for strengthening our Lungs this time of year:
- Begin by standing with feet shoulder width apart, arms relaxed by your sides, reaching up the crown of the head.
- Take several breaths to let go of tension in the body while maintaining a gentle lift through the top of your head.
- Settle the weight evenly through both feet, knees soft.
- Inhale, float your arms up in front of you, palms face down, to the level of your shoulders.
- Exhale, drop the shoulders and extend out through your fingertips (arms are straight out in front of you, palms face down, shoulder height)
- Inhale and open your arms towards a “T” shape, but keep your hands in your peripheral vision (don’t let them open too wide).
- Exhale, turn your palms up and draw the hands back in front of your chest, arms extended.
- Inhale, palms turn down, open your arms.
- Exhale, turn palms up, close the arms.
- Inhale, palms down, open.
- Exhale, palms up, close.
- Inhale, open.
- Exhale, close.
- Continue with your breath.
The movement of the arms helps to use all five lobes of the lungs and the slow, rhythmic breathing massages the internal organs by pumping the diaphragm. Commit to either a set repetition (9, 18, etc) or an amount of time (5 minutes, 15 minutes, etc) and explore movement and breath. Qigong is easy, relaxing and one feels good after doing it.
- When you have finished your practice, let the arms float by your sides with an exhale.
- Stack your palms over the low belly (beneath the navel), let your eyes close and breathe deeply for a few minutes.
Lung Nourishing Foods:
We can also use dietary choices to strengthen the Lungs. Foods that are especially nourishing to the Lungs include:
- delicious crisp apples
- ripe fresh pears
- garlic, onion, ginger
- cabbage, broccoli
- white rice, miso
- radish, black pepper
- navy beans, soy beans, white beans
Pranayama (Breathing Exercises) for the Lungs:
Any type of breathing exercise is beneficial for the Lungs. If you have considered deep breathing and its benefits, it’s a great time of year to carve out a few minutes each morning or evening to sit in a comfortable position and practice slow, rhythmic deep breathing. Focus on the inhales and exhales having the same length (a count of 4 or 6, for example). Set a timer for 7 or 9 minutes and explore the practice. A pranayama practice such as Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is especially beneficial to the body at this time fo year.
Healthy Habits for the Lungs:
In addition to the Lungs associated with the emotion of Grief, there is also a benevolent quality of order associated with the Lungs. We may find ourselves organizing and inviting in new routines or schedules. This intrinsic sense of order and organization also strengthens and benefits the Lungs. Feeling called to clean out the closet? Do it. It’s good for the Lungs. Finally, community and a sense of belonging contribute to healthy Lungs.
If you are interested in learning beginning Tai Chi and Qigong, I am hosting community practice at Revolver Yoga Studio, Sunday mornings at 7:00am, beginning October 8th, 2017. A strong Tai Chi community was something I was blessed with for 13 years and am looking forward to creating that space for others. In the spirit of my teacher, I will not charge for lessons, but there will be a donation basket to contribute to the studio (cost of lights, heat, tea, etc).