The following post is an article I wrote for the October 2013 Edition of the Colne Engaine Parish Magazine:
The seasons have turned and autumn has arrived in the Colne Valley. The ancient Chinese placed a good deal of importance on the seasons and their effect on people’s health and wellbeing. In particular, the changeover between seasons was seen as a powerful time during which we should take care to adjust our lifestyle to the shifting climate or run the risk of developing illness.
According to Chinese Medical 5 Element theory, autumn is seen as the season of the Metal element. After the expansive growth and heat of Summer (represented by the Fire Element) reaches its peak, there must inevitably be a turnaround and decline. Metal represents this process; it has a quality of drawing inwards in preparation for winter. We can see this manifesting in the world around us, as the nights draw in and the trees begin the process of shedding their leaves and drawing nutrients in and down to their roots. The ancient Chinese saw the human body as small-scale representation of the wider environment and, as a part of nature, perceived that our biology is also subject to the changes of the Metal element. They formulated exercises and lifestyle suggestions to help us make the transition to autumn smoothly and to help harmonise and strengthen our system to maximise health and wellbeing.
In the human body, the Metal element is represented by the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. I should add a note here to explain that the meridians are a system of vessels running through the body, each named for a major organ. In the Chinese Medical view these meridians encompass a variety of physiological functions that may be different or broader than the Western Medical understanding of the organ for which they are named (more on this another time).
The Lung meridian is seen as being intimately involved with the immune system; it is believed to be the first defence against pathogens and, therefore, also often the first place to develop problems when an illness invades. In order to keep the Lung meridian healthy and avoid falling victim to autumn and winter colds and flu, Chinese Medicine advises that we should pay attention to our breathing. Spending 5-10 minutes a day sitting relaxed and upright while breathing gently down to the lower belly, will maximise air intake, reduce stress and help strengthen the Lung meridian. We should also avoid sitting hunched over, which is thought to close off the Lung meridian, and take care to keep the neck warm and shielded from exposure to cold and wind.
Acupuncture was used for centuries by the Chinese to help to harmonise people with the changing seasons. Using acupuncture points on the Lung meridian, acupuncturists can help to regulate and strengthen the immune system to help to guard against illness. Alternatively, in cases where an illness has invaded, the points can also be used to help the body to expel the pathogen and make a quick and complete recovery.
If any readers would like to know more about anything that I’ve mentioned in this article, please do get in touch.
Rob Veater LicAc BSc(Hons.)