Written by Nicolette Truscott
One of the most fundamental principles of Chinese medicine is living in harmony with the cycles in nature. Autumn is the beginning of the yin seasons, when the air starts to cool and dry, the trees lose their leaves and the days get shorter leading to longer nights. It is assigned the nature of metal: contracting and cool.
The organs associated with the autumn season in Chinese Medicine are the Lungs and the Large Intestine. During this time the body is more susceptible to dryness: dry skin, dry coughs and constipation tend to become more frequent.
Autumn is also a time of introspection and letting go, where we have a tendency to start turning inward. Just as the trees start to lose their leaves and make space for new spring growth, it is also a good time for us to let go of things we may have been holding onto that no longer serve us to make space for the new to come. We can use tools such as journaling, meditation and the breath (especially in this season related to the Lung) to help us in this process.
1. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
2. Breathe in slowly through the nose so that the hand on your stomach rises gently. Take care not push your stomach out, but let it rise gently as you take in a breath. Your chest should stay relaxed and move little.
3. Then breathe out slowly through the mouth so that the hand on your stomach falls as your stomach moves down. Again, your chest should stay relaxed and move very little while you are breathing out. As you breathe out feel your shoulders and the back of your neck loosening and sinking lower and lower as the air leaves your body. Imagine that each breath is washing tension out of your muscles. Say the word ‘relax’ or ‘release’ to yourself, each time you breathe out. If you find steps 2 and 3 difficult at first, sit or stand in front of a mirror and practise.
4. Once you have learned steps 2 and 3, you need to learn to breathe slowly, to develop the pattern of deep and slow breathing that is characteristic of relaxed states. To do this, add a slight pause each time after breathing in and a longer pause after breathing out. Alternatively, count to 3 in your head while breathing in, and to 4 while breathing out. Either method will help you slow down your breathing and deepen your relaxation.
Food preparation: in accordance with the cooling in environment at this time of year, food should be cooked and eaten warm to aid digestion. This is a great time to switch from green salads and smoothies to porridge, soups and stews. Using longer cooking methods such as stewing, baking and roasting.
Eating seasonally and locally wherever possible: In a time when most food is abundantly available to us all year round this basic notion has been somewhat lost in modern times. Look for what is available at farmer’s markets. Some food in season for autumn include:
• Vegetables: pumpkin, beetroot, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms, leeks, sweet potato, parsnips, carrots
• Fruits: apples, grapes, figs, plums, persimmon, pears, lemons
• Grains: oats, rice
Hydration: as this is a season where dryness dominates, and the temperature drop makes thirst less apparent, it is important to make sure that you are still drinking enough water. This is a good time to incorporate some herbal teas.
Recipe: BAKED PEARS TO HELP RELIEVE DRY COUGH WITH LITTLE PHLEGM
Ingredients (serves 2):
• 2 nashi pears
• 1 small lemon
• 1 pinch cinnamon
• 1 pinch nutmeg
• 1 pinch cloves
• 1/2 inch of ginger- grated
• 3-4 crushed walnuts
• Small drizzle honey
Preheat oven to 175C. Cut the pears in half and carefully core the centre. Squeeze lemon juice over the flesh of each pear. Place the pears on an oven tray (flesh side up) and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with spices. Add crushed walnuts to the centres of each half and put back into the oven to bake for another 15-20 minutes until the pears are tender and walnuts golden brown. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!
Ingredient breakdown according to TCM:
• Pears- cools and lubricates the Lungs and Large Intestines, aids in clearing coughs, reducing constipation and moisturizing the skin.
• Lemon- assists replenishing fluids
• Honey- moistens the lung and lubricates the large intestine
• Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger- pungent spices to assist in breaking up phlegm and assist to increase digestion
• Walnuts- help the kidneys (TCM) assist the Lung to help stop wheezing
In short, to embrace living with the seasons in Autumn we should be getting to bed early & rise with the sun. Activate your lungs in the morning with a brisk walk or deep breathing exercises. Wear warmer clothing, protecting your neck with a scarf or warm jacket and eat warm nourishing cooked foods. Tie up those loose ends, clean out your cupboards and practice letting go to make space for new growth come the rebirth of Spring :0)