AUTUMN METAL ELEMENT
As the warmth of the summer recedes and autumn starts to alter our surroundings, our bodies and our minds, we need to act in accordance with these changes. This will be reflected in our activities, how we dress, our daily rhythms and the goals we set. It is important to spend time outdoors watching the dawn, feeling the evening chill and the tickle of the autumn winds.
The yogic way of thinking recognises we should act in accordance with our surroundings and this is why we strive to move in a way that supports, and is supported by, our environment. This guiding principle means that our daily rhythms and activities, what we do, what we wear and so, accord with the seasons. Of course, working fixed hours in air-conditioned offices, and feeling pressured by constant demands, including after-hour schedules of exercise and entertainment often alienates us from the world around us.
As we come to know ourselves and to respect our bodies we understand that we should eat what feels right. In a culture that all too often uses food as entertainment and comfort, we may initially need to work hard to alter the patterns of eating we’ve
grown up with, however, the benefits of eating appropriately not only support us but also the planet. For example, local and organically-grown produce will involve less packaging.
According to the Oriental view of the cosmos everything, including the seasons, are governed or described by what are known as the five elements. These are: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Autumn is governed by metal, which is associated with contraction. Each element governs a particular organ system in our body and has both a mental and spiritual aspect. Metal presides over the lungs and large intestines. This is the time of consolidation; eliminating the unnecessary and choosing what is right for you. In preparation for winter, the life force in the leaves is re-absorbed back into the plant, leaves start to fall and fruit drops. In the same way, our energy is no longer focused on external pursuits, such as long, leisurely social gatherings, excessive eating and holiday activities. Instead, we embark on the major work of the year, whatever that may be.
When a person’s metal element is healthy, they will think and act with clarity, with good judgement. Through the efficient elimination of toxins, they will feel vital, optimistic, and live in the present with a strong sense of connection to both their body and surroundings. Should their large intestine be weak, an individual will tend to be pushy and stubborn and suffer from repetitive thoughts. They will work hard but not efficiently. The decisions they make will be poor because of a lack of clear judgement. They may have a tight mouth, experience headaches and soreness in the left shoulder. Their hips may feel heavy. Should the lung system be weak, a person may feel lethargic, depressed, and withdrawn. Life will feel monotonous. At the other extreme, with overactive lungs, they will tend to be overly optimistic, have a wide-eyed stare, and suffer from insomnia. To remedy these imbalances, the yoga we practice focuses on strengthening the ‘hara’, the energy centre in the lower belly, which becomes the store for the warmth and power that will see us through winter. Correspondingly we open the upper torso, the lungs, and clear the pathways for flow of air. During this season, chewing thoroughly, until a mouthful becomes two-thirds saliva, two-thirds food, is important. Drinking water with meals is discouraged. Choose the cleanest ingredients and rather than deep frying, which is too heavy, and stir fries, which are too light, concentrate on baking, pressure cooking, and boiling. In autumn we eat leafy vegetables rich in minerals, such as kale, watercress, and spinach. Ground vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli support the lungs, as do pungents such as ginger, shallots, and onions. To strengthen the large intestine, eat root vegetables, fermented foods, and a variety of grains. Kuzu, which aids contraction, is a good inclusion in an autumn diet.
In addition to practising yoga, long, hard walks are recommended.