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Breathe into Fall: The Season of the Lung

Autumn leaves

The leaves are changing and the air is becoming crisp. Fall is here!

As the days become shorter, there are more hours of darkness. We spend more time indoors as the cold sets.

We experience a loss of warmth and light from Summer's end.

During this time of year, some of us may feel reserved or solemn. There is even a diagnosis for this change of emotions with the seasons, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), in which, some display sadness and grief for the loss of Spring and Summer.

Autumn also marks the forthcoming of cold and flu season. Sure, we are indoors more than usual during the colder seasons, but I think our tendency for respiratory illness this time year goes deeper than the obvious.

Meridian Pathways

Let's revisit the basics. Our bodies are made of energy. In the traditions and beliefs of Chinese medicine, the Autumn season represents the peak of Lung energy. Not necessarily the lung organ, but rather, the essence or Qi (pronounced chi) of the Lung. Qi or life energy flows through the body via energy highways called meridians. Blockage of our energy flow, especially during peak seasonal times, can contribute to the manifestation of imbalance and disease (or diss-ease).

Lung Qi is a Yin meridian that controls our breath and energy. When there is an imbalance in this energy, it affects our whole respiratory system-nose, throat, chest, and lungs. The peak hours of Lung Qi is between 3am-5am. So, if you're awaking consistently during this time period, then consider if there might be a Lung Qi imbalance at play.

With respect to our emotions, Lung Qi is connected to grief, disappointment, sadness, anxiety, shame, sorrow and despair when we are imbalanced. When in balance, Lung Qi reflects self-protection, high self-esteem, integrity, dignity, and grounding.

I'd like to share a personal story of when my Lung Qi was imbalanced. When I lost my Bigma (maternal grandmother) in January 2015, it was during a very hectic time in my life. I didn't take the time to grieve her loss. Shortly after returning West from her memorial in Virginia, I became ill with one of the most severe respiratory illnesses I've ever had. My cold bypassed the introductory sniffles and went full blast into bronchitis. Not only that, it was tough to treat. My arsenal of herbs and aromatherapy breathing treatments were barely treating it. I was afraid I would soon have to rely on antibiotics if I didn't get better. Finally, it took having the deepest and hardest cry over the loss of my dearest matriarch, as well as, grieving other personal losses before my bronchitis finally began to swiftly heal. A great lesson in how your body's energy can be your biggest ally or worst enemy depending on whether you allow the natural flow and balance to occur or not.

This Autumn season, I invite you all to give your Lung Qi and respiratory organs some love by breathing into Fall. Additionally, take time to acknowledge if there may be any event, person, or aspect in your life that deserves grieving so you can release and move forward.

Below are helpful tips and exercises on how to better balance your Lung Qi this Fall:

  • Taking walks in the crisp, Autumn air.

  • Daily breathing exercises:

  • Try breathing in for 4 counts, hold in breath for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, then hold at bottom of exhale for 4 counts. This is called Four-Square breathing. Do at least 3 rounds, but 5 rounds is optimal.

  • Another breathing exercise is inhaling 3 short inhales in a row until lungs fill then exhaling 3 short exhales in a row until lungs are empty.

  • Yoga/Tai Chi/Qigong: this will reinforce breath-work and help the flow of Qi/energy.

  • Healing Lung Qi Foods: Lung energy is best supported by pungent foods. Feel free to eat extra servings of the foods below:

  • Spices: Garlic, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, chili

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Onions

  • Pears

  • Miso

  • Broccoli

  • Navy beans

  • Celery

  • Banana

  • Eggs

  • Cabbage

  • Leeks

  • Almonds

  • Walnuts

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