Fall is here! The long warm days are almost gone (except for in So. Cal where I’m still sweating! It was 99° today!). My fortunate friends and relatives on the East coast will soon be enjoying the brilliant colors of autumn, and eventually, even here, I’ll be snuggling up under the afghan my grandmother made me, watching the sun take an earlier bedtime.
In Autumn, just as the sap of the tree withdraws from its branches to be stored in its trunk in hopes of an early spring, likewise the “Yang” of the body begins to turn inward, building a storage of nutrients in order to fuel us through the long and cold winter. Like the animals who scurry around at first sign of falling leaves, collecting nuts and reserves for the winter, we too can take the opportunity to nourish our bodies, build our immune system and prepare for whatever mother nature may have in store.
Stay warm. If you read my blog-post Scarves – Not just for Fashion, then you already know that warm clothes are your first line of defense against the cooler weather, and especially the scarf should be worn whenever the winds are blowing. Be mindful to shield yourself from the November rains as well and keep your feet dry. Whenever possible, carry an extra pair socks (this goes out especially to you city folks).
Eat foods rich in nutrients. One of the best parts of fall is the harvest. Plants have been soaking in the summer sun and using the rich soil to grow brightly colored vegetables for your soups and stews. Winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets and pumpkin (among others) will soon be reaching their peek and appearing at the local farmers’ markets. Sour foods such as sauerkraut, olives and pickles, apples, plums and yogurt are also recommended in order to stimulate the process of contraction in the body. When cooking, use less water and simmer at lower temperatures for a longer period of time. Sauteing and baking, which release the fragrant essence of food, is also recommended.
Supplement the Lung. In Chinese Medicine, the organ associated with Fall is the Lung. The Lung is also referred to as the “delicate canopy” and it is very susceptible to dryness. In California, the Santa Ana winds are starting to blow and many of us are experiencing what is called Lung dryness. To understand this, think of a canopy of leaves in a forest. As the sap withdraws from the leaves, they begin dry up. The lungs are much like leaves. They can easily dry out if they are not supplemented by moistening factors. Foods such as millet, spinach and especially pears can help to moisten the Lungs and prevent dryness.
Conserve your energy. While it is important to continue with a healthy exercise regimen, the same routine that worked for you all summer long may be too exhausting for the colder months. Perhaps it’s time to set aside the boxing gloves and give Yoga or Tai Chi a try. The body will appreciate this change and you’ll receive many therapeutic benefits from it as well. Most importantly, if you do continue with your strenuous workouts, get plenty of rest afterward. Our bodies know how much rest we need and if we’re deprived, the body will let us know.
While it’s still warm outside, it’s important to prepare so that we don’t find ourselves battling the winter flu without the proper reserves to manage it. And if you do end up in bed with the sniffles, allow the time to get well… And see if you can get someone to make you some tasty soup, filled with all the goodies of Fall.