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How does Yin and Yang impact our wellbeing during the cooler seasons?

Written by Clare Lucas | Wednesday, 26 May 2021

chinese medicine

As Autumn draws to an end, it is a good opportunity to reflect on how the cooler seasons can impact our energy levels and what we need to nourish ourselves.

Autumn is a time of year when the soft warming colours of reds, burnt oranges and deep yellows fill our world and the trees turn and begin to shed. As the days become shorter, and the nights even colder, it sees us naturally turning inwards wanting to reflect and retreat.

Autumn is the transition between the Yang (the active energy of summer) to the Yin (the introverted season of winter). It’s our season for renewal, as we begin to prepare to completely turn inwards for nurturing and nourishment.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Taoist traditions, Autumn is the season of the metal element and is associated with the lung and large intestine. Both these organs are related to the process of ‘letting go’. We see this process taking place with the natural inspiration and expiration of the lungs. We exhale to rid our bodies of toxins and carbon dioxide and to make space for fresh new oxygen and prana or lifeforce to be inhaled. This same process takes place within us physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

With just a few days left in the season, it’s a good reminder that Autumn is the perfect time to let go of anything that is no longer serving you; anything you may be holding onto that creates stagnation in your life. We do this to create space for the new – new experiences, new growth, new opportunity.

The energy of our metal element sees us asking the big questions related to our core values and instincts at this time of year as well. The qualities of this element bring us strength, courage, persistence and determination – all qualities which are vital for the process of letting go and transformation.

How can we support this process?

We can support our lung function by practising pranayama (breathwork) or taking walks in the fresh crisp air. While this is beneficial for strengthening our lungs, to also support ourselves best during this Yin time of year we need to protect ourselves from the cool, damp air. Protecting the upper extremities will ensure we remain free from excessive wind and cold exposure while enjoying time outdoors in nature.

Adapting our diets to suit the change in seasons has been practised for thousands of years by all cultures around the world. In Taoist and Ayurvedic traditions, we work with foods and herbs to nourish the body according to the seasons, elements and constitutions.

Augmenting foods provide grounding, warmth and support for our Agni, or digestive system. It is important we constantly work to fuel our digestive fire so we are benefiting from the nutrients within our foods and ensuring our immune system remains strong.

Broths, soups, stews, root vegetables, cooked and warm foods are best in our Yin months. Bone broth is great for healing and supporting gut function, gastrointestinal lining, and a good source of collagen and protein. Where possible, source fresh, local and in-season produce. A great way to add an extra warming effect is to add warming herbs and spices to your meals. Herbs like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, turmeric, ginger, curcumin, cardamon, coriander seed, fennel and cayenne pepper are all traditional Ayurvedic herbs that are a delicious way to spice up your meals, enhance digestion and metabolism, support the cleansing process of ama (toxins) in the body, and of course, keep home cooking interesting!

Supplementing with herbs and tonics are great ways to enhance your health during these months. Reishi mushrooms are traditionally used for heart and immune health, supporting the liver, kidneys, and lungs, and nourish the Jing, Qi and Shen. Reishi mushrooms can also be beneficial for relieving stress and anxiety while supporting the nervous system.

For both Autumn and Winter, sipping on Tulsi tea helps to nourish Yin, Agni and promote internal warmth. Holy Basil, or Tulsi, is a beautiful sacred Ayurvedic herb that has been used for thousands of years to help relieve stress and anxiety. Holy basil has also been known for illness prevention and wound healing.

And my all-time favourite, adaptogens such as Ashwagandha (Withania) also promote immune, stress, and nervous system support. Helping to relieve exhaustion, nervousness and insomnia, Ashwagandha is great for supplementing during times of extreme stress, or even seasonal changes.

You can follow these same principles as we move from autumn into the depth of winter, which is the most Yin of our seasons. Implementing these practices will ensure you’re set up for a restful, nourished and supported winter for you to turn inward.

Clare Lucas

Clare is an Ayurvedic practitioner, a clinical Pilates instructor, Yoga and meditation teacher and a Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture student. She is passionate about the evolution of wellness in a modern age and hopes people can continue to find empowerment and access to traditional healing medicines and techniques.

Clare has a background in the medical industry where she has worked with pain specialists and surgeons doing clinical patient education. During her yoga training, she was introduced to Yin principles from a Buddhist Chinese Medicine Doctor, including doaism, the concepts of Qi, Yin Yang, Meridian & 5 phase theory. This resonated so strongly that Clare followed these concepts and enrolled at Endeavour to complete a Bachelor in Health Science studying Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.

Read more by Clare Lucas