The calendar and the weather are in total agreement this week that Fall has arrived. Have you felt a difference in your body, mind, or emotions? Perhaps more tired, more quiet, more serious, more reflective, or more focused on a new endeavour? Maybe a scratchy throat, or headache?
We are linked with nature, and an outer shift in the seasons ignites changes within us.
Transitioning from season to season is often when we are susceptible to illness. Fall in particular is associated with cold and flu season, and often blamed on the extra or re-exposure to germs with the kids back in school and maybe our own return to indoor routines such as work or the gym. However we co-exist with millions of different bacteria and viruses on a daily basis, all year long. Is getting sick, really just all about germs?
Ancient health systems don’t think so. Through history they have promoted prevention as key for optimal health.
For example, Ayurveda promotes detoxification practices when seasons change. While winter to spring is most important, summer to fall detoxification is also extremely beneficial. It clears excess heat stagnant in the liver, and assists the body’s desire to rest and reset.
We have an innate wisdom such as how our eating patterns change. Cravings for fruit, salads, and other cooling foods, are replaced for root vegetables, soups, and warm spices. We don’t even think about it. Our bodies just know that is what we need right now. We are in harmony with nature’s cycles and in listening to this guidance support our individual health, including having a healthy fall and winter. If we do “catch” something, our immune system will do what it is designed to do.
Ayurvedic principles coincide with oriental teachings, with Fall the beginning of the yin cycle (contraction), versus the yang (expansion) of spring and summer.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the transition from Summer to Fall is a time of instable Qi (Vital Energy). Autumn is associated with the element “Metal”, and the Large Intestine and Lungs. The lungs are the receptor of Qi. They are considered Yin, and their counterpart, the large intestine is Yang. Things that affect the lungs often also affect the colon.
While we associate the large intestine as an elimination organ, did you know that the largest elimination organ is the Lungs? Whether you are experiencing respiratory, bowel, other toxicity symptoms or not, TCM agrees that detoxification right now is ideal as a preventative approach to a healthy Fall and winter.
In TCM, lungs are considered a “tender” organ, and susceptible to wind and cold. In Ayurveda, we are entering the Vata Dosha, which is related to air. Both encourage us to dress appropriately for the cooler weather, including scarves to shelter our necks from the wind. Protecting the skin, lungs, throat, and nose from the elements can help prevent colds and flu. It’s not the cold and air that necessarily makes us susceptible, but their effects on the meridians and energy flow in the body.
On the physical level, detoxification can include biotherapeutic drainage remedies, dry brushing, herbs, nutraceuticals, colonics, greens, fresh juices, and exercise. An individualized approach is best. Please don’t simply buy a kit from the store that can often make things worse.
Breath! Breathing exercises such as Qi Gong, or various Pranayama techniques are extra beneficial in Fall for the lungs and large intestine.
Sleep! As Mother Earth prepares for her nap we need extra rest, too. Resist “pushing through” your fatigue. If you are feeling tired, adjust your schedule and get the rest for which your body is asking. Doing so will save you time down the road, because you’ve avoided getting sick and being “forced” to slow down or stop altogether. Sleeping is not a weakness. (Such an unbalanced yang notion! Your worth is not based on what you get done.) Our bodies heal and rebuild when we are sleeping. Align with the shorter days and less light by going to bed earlier and getting 8 hours of sleep each night.
A mind and body connection is now well established in the west. Our emotional health is key to our physical health.
Feel! Emotions associated with both the lungs and large intestine are sadness and grief, and an inability to “let go” or “process” emotions. The word “motion” is in the word emotion. Yes, it’s can uncomfortable, and often requires help, but as Marianne Williamson often says, “you must burn through the edge to come out the other side”. Take advantage of the current yin energy to release any emotions that aren’t serving you. Big or small. If the feelings are too much to do on your own, their are many different modalities to explore that can help you.
Try incorporating these ancient health teachings with what you know about diet, nutritional, and herbal immune supports to help you tune into your inner healer this Fall. You are the expert on you :)