Fall officially begins this weekend. New seasons are an opportunity to assess our states of health and realign with our natural rhythms. From an acupuncture perspective, fall is about refinement. It's time to pare down, to let go of the excesses we allowed ourselves in summer and focus on what's necessary for winter.
In acupuncture theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. Weather and climate, particularly during the transition from one season to another, factor significantly into acupuncture diagnoses and treatment plans.
The transition into fall is especially noteworthy because it signifies moving from the more active seasons to the more passive. This has significant implications for how we feel and how we prevent and treat illness.
In acupuncture, each season is linked with a natural element, organ and emotion. The element, organ and emotion of fall are, respectively, metal, Lung and grief. These three things usher us throughout the season, serving as barometers for where we're at and offering insight on how to be better.
With metal, Lung and grief as our guides, here are seven acupuncture tips for staying healthy this fall.
Make a list of your priorities
Fall is when we ought to embrace our metal-esque qualities: strong, definitive, focused, discerning. It is time to get down to business, to gain clarity about what really matters to us.
As satisfying as this can be, it also can be overwhelming. If I hunker down at work, how will I make time for the kids? If I focus on cooking healthy meals and eating at home to save money, how will I socialize with friends? Make a list of which priorities deserve your attention. Write them down and glance at the list periodically throughout the season.
Fall heightens our innate ability to get stuff done. Take advantage of it by reminding yourself where to focus.
Wear a scarf
Acupuncturists are always going on about wearing scarves. It's for good reason.
Lung, the organ associated with fall, is considered the most exterior organ. It is the first line of defense against external pathogenic factors. As the weather turns cold and the wind picks up, the Lung organ is extra vulnerable.
Further, pathogenic factors such as cold and wind invade the body at the back of the neck, so keeping that area protected is very important in the fall. Even if it's sunny, always bring a scarf when you head outside.
Do acupressure on Lung 7
One of the best points for strengthening the Lung organ is Lung 7. It helps promote the descending function of the Lungs, which makes it a great point for cough, shortness of breath and nasal congestion.
Lung 7 also is one of the most effective points for neck pain and stiffness. As mentioned above, wearing a scarf helps, but for protecting yourself against any residual wind and the resulting head and neck tension, Lung 7 will come in handy.
Lung 7 is easy to access yourself. Make a thumbs-up sign. When you do that, you'll see a depression at the base of your thumb (referred to as the anatomical snuffbox). From that depression, Lung 7 is located approximately two finger widths up your arm (see picture here ).
Dryness of all kinds is common in fall. Since Lung is the most exterior organ, it is the organ that relates most closely to the skin. Dry skin and even rashes tend to show up in fall. Drink a lot of water and keep your skin hydrated with non-alcoholic (alcohol will dry you out more) moisturizer.
Another reason to stay hydrated is to regulate digestion. The Lung's paired organ is the Large intestine, so sometimes digestive issues can flare up this time of year. Constipation, due to the dryness of the season, is most common, especially in people who struggle with the "letting go" aspect of transitioning into fall.
Use a neti pot
As fall encourages us to let go of the inessential priorities in our lives, many of us also find ourselves letting go from our nasal passages. Bring on the tissues! Fall is the most common time of year for the onset of nasal infections and post-nasal drip, both of which plague many people well into winter. Keep a neti pot in the shower and use it regularly throughout the season to help keep your nasal passages clear.
The emotion associated with fall is grief. This is the time of year to pull inward, to grieve letting go and to reflect on any unresolved sadness. This can be an adjustment after the surge of energy and mood that many of us experience during summer, but it is normal to feel somewhat somber and pensive in the fall.
The inability to settle into this emotional shift, or transition out of it, may suggest an imbalance. However, before labeling yourself with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD -- a common biomedical diagnosis for people who feel depressed in the colder, darker months -- consider that you may be experiencing a natural heightened awareness of grief. If you sense it might be more than that, by all means, see your doctor.
Eat warm foods
Step away from the salad! The cool, raw, refreshing salads of summer will not do you any favors come fall. Just as we need to start keeping our bodies warmer on the outside, we need to stay warm on the inside as well.
In fall, eat warm, cooked food. Instead of cold cereal with milk, choose oatmeal. Trade the salads for oven-roasted veggies over brown rice. When cooking, throw in some onions, ginger, garlic or mustard; according to Chinese medical dietary theory, these pungent foods benefit the Lung system.
Veggie wise, root vegetables such as beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash are ideal. If you go for out-of-season vegetables, make sure they are cooked. If you're craving fruit, reach for something seasonal such as apples, pears, grapes, figs or persimmons.
Wishing you a happy and healthy fall.
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