As I drive to my Qigong classes it’s noticable how nature is changing once again.
Living so close to the countryside we get to enjoy the whole spectacle of the seasons as they play out in all their glory.
And especially at this time as we dive into Autumn we’re starting to notice the gradual changes.
The days are becoming shorter and the nights longer.
The leaves are falling and nature is starting to turn inwards in preparation for Winter.
Nature’s colours are transforming, from vibrant greens to reds and yellows. The variety of rusty reds, mustard yellows & browns are a feast for the eyes.
Autumn marks the slowing down of growth & is the season of the harvest. A time where we gather in natures produce before we rest for Winter.
I always look forward to this time of year. It’s around now that our Quince tree is heavily laden with fruit.
Before we moved into our house I had never seen, let alone tasted a Quince!
The first year of harvesting the crop was very exciting.
Having collected them all off the tree (which was a huge job in itself!) we were suddenly confronted with the stark reality in front of us.
What to do with several huge containers of fruit!
All I can say is thank you google! 😉
We suddenly became experts in Jam and chutney making. It was a very sticky learning curve.
But many pots later…
We are now no longer short of ideas for Christmas presents! 😉
Autumn is also the right time for our bodies to gather & store our energy for the cold months ahead.
Paying attention to the seasonal changes and how they affect our health & wellbeing is at the core of traditional Chinese medicine and health cultivation.
And it has been researched, explored and documented over centuries.
It is at the transition between seasons that we begin to adapt and make the appropriate changes to move forwards into the new season, with subtle shifts to our diet, exercise, work and sleep.
We are inextricably connected with nature and as the Yin & Yang of the climate changes, so does the Yin and Yang of the human body.
How can we cultivate our health in Autumn?
Autumn is a time where nature reaches its peak, signalling the decline of summer Yang qi, whilst Yin Qi starts to grow. As we’re gently nudged into hibernation mode, it feels natural to slow down and prepare for the months ahead.
One of the best and perhaps oldest sources of information which helps us understand how we can adapt best to the seasons is the Huang Di Nei Jing or The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.
If we glance at Chapter 2 for a moment it sheds some interesting light on the best way to prepare for Autumn.
“The three months of Autumn are called the period of tranquillity of one’s conduct.
The atmosphere of Heaven is quick and the atmosphere of the earth is clear.
People should retire early at night and rise early in the morning with the crowing of the rooster.
They should have their minds at peace in order to lessen the punishment of Autumn.
Soul and spirit should be gathered together in order to make the breath of Autumn tranquil, and to keep their Lungs pure they should not give vent to their desires. (Do not direct your mind to the outside)
All this is in harmony with the atmosphere/Qi of Autumn and all this is the method/Way for the protection of one’s harvest/nourish gathering
Opposing the laws of Autumn will harm the lungs.
For them Winter will bring indigestion and diarrhoea; thus they will have little to support their storing of Winter. “
The writer of this ancient classic suggests that as we move from the warmer months to more cold spells we must take steps to adapt wisely to this change.
Autumn is the time to focus on gathering & storing.
It is suggested that we take care of our sleep, going to bed early and getting up early in the morning.
Proper sleep is vital for every aspect of our health. Lack of it can soon lead to problems and potentially weaken our immune system.
5 Tips for better sleep!
- Avoid looking at your smartphone or laptop just before bed.
There is lots of evidence that shows how looking at the phone screen just before you go to sleep is very disruptive for your sleep pattern!
- Eating before bedtime
Try to eat lightly for your last meal of the day. This allows your body to direct it’s resources appropriately and is not over worked with digestion whilst you sleep.
- Soak your feet in warm water
Soaking your feet in warm water for about 15mins really helps improve the circulation in your legs, relaxes the body and reduces stress.
Massaging the soles of the feet can work wonders if you’re feeling stressed out. It has a huge range of health benefits too!
- Drinking tea and coffee
Tea and coffee are powerful stimulants and will leave you feeling awake and energised just when you want to rest and fall asleep.
Also drinking water too late will make you get up in the middle of the night to pee.
- Calm the mind before going to sleep
The ancient text advises us to calm the mind before closing one’s eyes for sleep. Have you noticed how you feel after listening to your favourite thriller audiobook or to something sad?
Going to bed feeling emotionally agitated disturbs the balance of Qi and very often leads to poor sleep and possibly nightmares.
Autumn encourages us to look inwards and reassess our lives. To notice what is still important and what is not.
It is a good time to do an ‘Autumn clean!’ Completing the tasks and goals we set in Spring & summer and enjoying the fruits of our labours.
Looking inward at this time of year gives us the opportunity to become aware of and release anything we don’t need anymore, including negative emotions, limiting beliefs or behaviour patterns.
However, this is not always that easy at the beginning.
So how can we start to become more aware?
Here’s one simple technique you can try right now …
Take a deep breath in through your nose and gently sigh your breath out through your mouth.
Repeat this one more time.
Now just breathe normally, in & out through the nose and let yourself settle in your chair.
Become aware of your body, sitting in your chair.
And with each breath out, allow yourself to relax a little more.
Try this for a few minutes.
How did you get on?
Did you feel more relaxed afterwards?
What did you let go of?
Were you surprised that you had been holding on to all that tension?
As you get more familiar with this simple exercise, you’ll find that you naturally become more and more aware of what you have been unconsciously holding onto for perhaps many years.
With that awareness you will gradually find a way of releasing & letting go on many levels. Physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically.
Autumn is dominated by the Metal element. The two organs associated with Metal are the Lungs and Large Intestine.
The Lungs and Large Intestine are responsible for gathering what our body needs & releasing what our body no longer needs.
When the Lungs and Large intestine are well balanced we will naturally be more intune with ourselves and more able to let go of our grief with compassion & acceptance.
In traditional Chinese medicine the Lungs are associated with Grief, whilst the Large intestine with our capacity to Let go.
When either is out of balance we can find it much harder to let go of grief and other strong emotions. We might also be more prone to greater sadness and depression.
We can also be more prone to suffering other Lung related conditions such as continual coughs and colds or Large intestine disorders such as constipation.
Breathing is a very powerful way of letting go of emotions whilst at the same time enhancing the respiratory system.
When performed together with certain Qigong movements it can also help to stimulate and regulate bowel movement.
In Qigong we develop the breathing in a practice called whole body breathing. This is a powerful method which encourages the whole body to participate in the breathing process.
The benefits of this way of breathing are huge.
Apart from improving respiration it is a deeply relaxing practice. It also starts to subtly massage the internal organs and stimulates the connective tissue supporting these organs.
It will stimulate the circulation, boost the immune system as well as assisting the digestive system.
The overall effect is to strengthen our inner resilience and lead to increased longevity.
There are other ways that we can nourish the Lungs in Autumn and prevent problems appearing in Winter.
Eating seasonally is an inspiring and motivating way to approach our diet.
Fruits in season at this time of year include apples, pears, quince and autumn fruiting raspberries.
This is the season where root vegetables come to the fore.
There are so many to choose from including beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, celeriac, celery, carrots, cauliflower, chard, chillies, jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, marrow, mushrooms, onions and shallots, pak choi, parsnips, rocket, spinach, swede and turnip, winter squash and pumpkins.
A hearty stew or nourishing soup always goes down a treat here.
Have fun and try out a few new recipes.
Click Here for some Autumn recipe ideas are a few ideas
Or for a vegetarian option try this FREE resource
In Chinese medicine the Lungs and Large intestine are particularly susceptible from dryness in Autumn.
Moistening foods such as pears, apples, apricots, figs, persimmons, carrots, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, pinenuts, almonds, tofu, spinach, barley, millet all help to avoid dryness.
How to exercise in Autumn
“Gathering and “storing” is the focus of exercise in Autumn. This means the nourishment of internal Yin essence and Yang Qi.
Static Qigong or Zhan Zhuang is an excellent method of building resilience from within and is a great form of exercise at this time of year.
It helps develop a strong internal connection and awareness which is vital for releasing and letting go of tension. Whether that tension is physical, mental or emotional.
Five animal qigong is perhaps one of the most ancient forms of qigong. It will not only build a very strong & flexible body but it also powerfully stimulates our breathing capacity.
Both these methods can be practised by people of all ages and physical abilities, however care should be taken to approach them from your own situation and current health.
Adapting to the Cold in Autumn
As tempting as it is to stay indoors when it starts to get colder, getting outdoors and exercising is something to consider!
The weather in Autumn is cool but not yet too cold to endure. This is a great time to get out and allow the body to adapt to the cold conditions through moderate exercising.
As Autumn progresses the temperature changes and it rains much more continuously. We then must adapt our clothes to the changing climate.
It is very important that if you have a lowered immunity or suffer from a chronic lung disorder then this has to be taken into consideration. Otherwise it might aggravate your condition.
Moistening the skin
The first half of Autumn is characterised by dryness and can cause a range of symptoms including dry skin, dry mouth, increased wrinkles, dry throat, and a hoarse voice.
It can also cause hair loss, thirst and constipation.
This is called Autumn dryness and can be the catalyst for further infections such as colds, skin disorders and rhinitis.
These can be prevented through nourishing Yin essence and preventing dryness.
One important way we can assist our body is to control the room temperature & humidity at the correct levels.
Air conditioning and heating should be monitored carefully as these can also cause dryness.
Skin creams can also be helpful in moistening the skin and maintaining smoothness.
Embracing the beauty of Autumn
Autumn is a season of transition from summer to winter. Take time to enjoy the outdoors and discover a new walk. Have fun kicking the leaves and hearing the twigs crunching underfoot.
There’s nothing better than finding a cosy pub afterwards and settling in by the fireside with a comforting drink amongst friends and family.
Enjoy also the moments of rest. Those valuable moments where we allow ourselves to let go fully.
It is in letting go that we create space to experience life with more Joy.
If this has resonated with you I would love to hear your thoughts.
Wishing you all abundant health and good Qi