Everything in Chinese medicine and philosophy comes down to one thing: Yin-Yang. You may think Yin and Yang are two things, separate and different. But one cannot exist without the other. Conceptually, there cannot be light without dark, cold without hot, fast without slow. Each designates and engenders the other in the constant movement of nature and the universe. Because Yin-Yang is in this constant motion, it is important that we remain aware of its flow. Yin becomes Yang and Yang becomes Yin over and over again -- throughout our day, our life, our bodies, and our environment -- and when Yin-Yang is in balance, we are in balance. In Chinese medicine, we pay close attention to this balance as it is the basis for our overall health and wellness.
Next week, on November 6, Daylight savings time ends. The gradual movement of shortening days will abruptly shift. Our evenings will be dark and our mornings once again light. For early risers, this may be a welcomed time of year. Getting out of bed will no longer be in darkness as we "gain" that additional hour. But with the sun suddenly setting an hour earlier, our evenings may feel cut short, and the smooth transition into the Yin of night and Winter disrupted. This occurrence is a good example of how Yin-Yang can be affected by things that are out of our control, but also opens up an opportunity to learn how to balance our mind, body, and spirit throughout the seasons and our lives. Preparing for Yin Right now in the Northern Hemisphere, we are in Autumn, the time of Yin within Yang. And each day as the nights grow colder and the days grow shorter, we find ourselves closer to winter, the Yin time of year. Just as the fruit that has fallen from the tree fertilizes the soil for next year's crop, we too can utilize what is left of the Summer's Yang energy to prepare for our own Winter months ahead.
Prepare your body
The Lung organ governs this time of year. The Lungs in Chinese medicine are referred to as the delicate canopy. When you think about this, picture the fall leaves, and how dry and fragile they become as the season shifts. It's likewise natural for our Lungs to be affected by the dryness of our climate, and also more susceptible to upper respiratory illnesses this time of year. Fortunately, there are ways you can nourish your Lungs and support their health.
Diet as well as the use of herbs you may already have in your pantry is a great way to support the Lung.
Pears - Pears, especially Asian pears are great for moistening and clearing phlegm from the Lungs. Serving a cooked pear with honey can be a warm and delicious way to help soothe a sore throat or dry cough.
Garlic - All members of the onion family, including garlic, are beneficial to the Lungs. Garlic in particular is an excellent immune booster and can easily be added to any savory dish. Time to start cooking up those delicious Fall soups!
Peppermint - Peppermint is cooling but can also help with dryness, as well as open up the sinuses, and improve breathing. It can be added to tea or used as an essential oil during breathwork.
Breathwork at any time of year is beneficial but it is particularly beneficial to support the Lungs and ease us into this time of constriction. Reminding ourselves to take a few minutes each day for simple breathing exercises can ease both the mind and the body and support healthy Lung function.
Try this simple breathing exercise to support the Lungs
Inhale slowly through your nostrils.
Purse your lips, as if about to blow on something.
Breathe out as slowly as possible through pursed lips.
Repeat 4 or 5 times
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise, especially this time of year, and can be modified to accommodate what you are capable of in the practice. Yin yoga in particular focuses on the breath and gentle stretches to nourish the connective tissue of our joints, as well as balance the yin and yang in our bodies.
Look for Yin or Restorative yoga class at a studio near you, or search for Yin yoga videos on Youtube. My personal favorite is Yoga with Adriene.
Prepare your home
Just as we rake up the fallen leaves and compost what's left of our Summer gardens, it's important to spend some time preparing the inside of our homes as well. When the Winter arrives, you'll likely be spending more time indoors, with the windows shut and the drying heat on. It's helpful to declutter your common areas and pack away anything you won't need again until Spring or Summer. Make sure to keep dust in check too. And if you suffer from seasonal melancholy, perhaps bring in some cheerful colors or decor that make you smile.
Prepare your mind
In today's society, life doesn't really change much, even though our bodies and the seasons do. Taking a few quiet moments for meditation in the morning and again before bed can help keep your energy where it needs to be. Even just 5 minutes a day of quiet meditation has been proven to reduce stress, enhance our mood, and support a healthy body!
Your acupuncturist is trained to notice where your body is not balanced. Through asking questions and observation, she can recognize what systems in your body need attention and which acupuncture points to use during your treatment. Coming in for a treatment at the start of each season or whenever you're "feeling off" is a great way to bring your body back into balance and ensure a smoother Yin-Yang flow.