Nourish your lungs this fall and winter by keeping warm, processing grief, and releasing emotions that aren't helpful anymore.
As we enter autumn, the air gets cooler and the wind picks up. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), this is the season of the lungs. The cold air, brisk wind, and shifting light tells the trees to drop their leaves in preparation for the winter, shedding what is no longer needed.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, fall is associated with Vata, the element of air and spirit. Vata is associated with qualities of wind, coldness, and dryness, just like the late fall and winter. Vata is also associated with intellect (much like the suit of swords in a Tarot deck, whose element is also air). Fall is a time when many of us turn inward from the external, extroverted pursuits of the summer to focus on more intellectual projects and spiritual pursuits.
As many of us know, this is a common season for coughs and colds. When we can align with the spiritual and natural energies of the autumn season, we’ll have an easier time staying spiritually, emotionally, and physically balanced.
The overabundance of wind and cold can cause stagnation in the lungs and keep us anxious and stuck in our heads. Warming up the body, especially the neck, can help protect us from this excess of wind energy.
Eat seasonal foods in the form of warm soups and stews. Our Ayurvedic agni, or digestive fire, is lower during the colder months, and it’s easier on our systems to digest cooked food.
Avoid raw, cold salads and fruits, and drink more hot tea.
Focus on warming seasonal flavors, like cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, and anise.
Use a hot water bottle or heating pad on your upper back or chest.
Wear a scarf, making sure you cover the back of the neck; this protects the lung meridian line from a TCM perspective.
According to TCM, lungs have an association with the emotion of grief. (Read the Spiritual Meaning of Lung Illnesses). When we do not take the time to rest and fully process our grief, it can get stuck in the lungs, making us more vulnerable to coughs and respiratory illnesses. Overthinking and being overly busy can sometimes be a defense against the emotion of sorrow.
Healing from grief requires us to find rest and comfort. Take some time off if you can, and comfort yourself in your favorite ways.
Rest with gentle distraction, such as with a comedy, a non-stressful game, or a good book.
Rest in stillness, such as in meditation and Restorative yoga, where you have an opportunity to feel any emotions that have been stuck in your lungs.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep—sleep supports your immune system and allows unconscious processing and healing.
If you’re having trouble sleeping due to overthinking, try a guided meditation like this one.
Ask for hugs and physical affection from loved ones if appropriate and desired.
Talk to a friend or a counselor for help processing your grief.
Release and Let Go
Part of the seasonal purpose of autumn is to invite release in preparation for the shift into winter. It is also the waning moon phase of the solar cycle, which is an ideal time for processing, organizing, and assessing your internal “harvest,” where you keep the pieces that are helpful and put away the pieces that are no longer useful to you.
Consider a ritual to let go of any thoughts, patterns, or anything else that no longer serves you. You could write them down and burn the paper, or have a little “funeral” for whatever it is you want to release.
Clean up your house: Donate old clothes, sort papers, and recycle whatever you don’t need to keep around.
Make lists: This is an ideal time to prioritize and clarify your intentions for the coming season, especially if you find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts.
Practice some pranayama to help you let go of anything you may be holding in your body. You may like to do this with a bodyworker, body-based counselor, or yoga teacher.
Above all, remember to pay attention to your body and your intuitions during this shifting season. Listening inwardly will go a long way toward cultivating health and wellness during the colder months.
Feeling an excess of Vata? Try these three herbs to soothe autumn anxiety.