This the second article in a short seasonal series, which focuses on the body. The previous article introduced the concept of Five Element acupuncture theory and the seasonal associations of Fall.
In the body we turn our attention to the Lungs, Large Intestines, and our skin. It might seem odd that those organs would be paired along with the skin, but a slightly deeper look reveals the connections.
In this pandemic year, we are hyper aware of the Lungs’ vulnerability to the Covid-19 virus, which is why the science shows that wearing a mask (making sure to cover the nose) and staying 6 feet away from other people (so you don’t inhale their “talk rain” droplets) when out in public can help protect our lungs from the virus.
Keeping our lungs healthy can be done with simple Qi Gong exercises, massage, getting fresh air. Good posture (and some yoga poses) will help open and release the very tops and bottoms of the lung. Being able to completely inhale and exhale is important but often underrated! If you’ve ever felt dull after sitting in an airplane or being cooped up in an office building (or even your house or apartment for a long stretch, oh I don’t know like the last 6 months??), you know that taking a deep breath of fresh air is invigorating for the body and mind.
The Large Intestines are what most people associate with “letting go”. Having regular bowel movements are as important to health as is eating a varied diet. Once all the beneficial nutrients and fluids have been retained by the body, the Large Intestine pushes the dregs out to be eliminated. Although the body’s waste products may have negative connotations, it is an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. If compromised, it can result in toxicity and poisoning from within. Once we reach age 50-55, it behooves us to schedule a colonoscopy to make sure our colon isn’t harboring abnormalities that could become problematic or cancerous. Although constipation, diarrhea and irritable bowels are the obvious signs of malfunction, it can include fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, abdominal bloat, and even skin problems.
Our skin is the largest organ, and because it is so durable, we often take it for granted. A salt or sugar scrub or vigorous scrubbing with a skin brush can help exfoliate dead skin, and leave it feeling softer and less dull. An Epsom salt bath is often recommended after a dietary cleanse to release remaining toxins through the skin. And also, a bath is relaxing, a place where we can let go of the tensions of the day. Moisturizer and body oils can keep your skin soft through the cool months. But when the Metal element is in disharmony, we can experience skin problems such as acne, rashes, eczema, psoriasis and even canker sores.
In acupuncture theory, our Defensive Qi (called Wei Qi), is influenced by the Lungs and flows just under the skin. And when Defensive Qi is strong, we have good resistance to attack by exterior pathogenic factors, such as virus and seasonal colds.
Do you need help creating or fine-tuning a plan for how to keep your Defensive Qi strong this fall and winter? What? You don’t have a plan?! Then maybe we should talk about that! With the pandemic still an issue, this makes common sense.
The Metal Element also includes the pungent taste, the color white, and the emotion of grief. It includes the ability to receive inspiration, which is the Spirit aspect of the Lung’s ability to inhale. “Letting go” is the domain of the Large Intestines, which have the function of eliminating bodily waste, as well as “letting go” at other levels: the mental ability to let go of ideas, relationships or habits that no longer serve. The Metal voice is the sound of weeping. So Fall vibrates through many dimensions (as do all the Elements and seasons). I’ll explore those other aspects in the rest of this series.
So… here’s how to become more aware of and care for the Metal aspect of your body:
- ACTIVITY: Notice your breath: count the length of your inhalations and exhalations. Doing this alone for 5 minutes is a simple effective mindfulness meditation.
- ACTIVITY: Consider doing some simple stretches to open the chest, which will cause you to breathe deeper
- DAILY HABITS: Eat beans and green veggies and drink enough water (half your weight in ounces) to have regular easy-to-pass bowel movements daily
- SELF-CARE: Brush and/or exfoliate your skin once or twice a week
- SELF-CARE: Keep your Defensive Qi strong: if you don’t currently have a plan (or know what that means) let’s talk about what works for you.
And please do look for the next article, which will address the Metal aspect of the mind.