LATE SUMMER EARTH ELEMENT
Late summer is a time of coming back to the earth; settling, ripening, and mulling over what has been learnt. This is a time when ideas and experiences are coming to ground and enriching the soil to bring about the embodiment of form for the seasons to come. In the bounty offered by this season, we feel a grounding of the openness and blooming of summer. This is a period of reaping the harvest, so energetic forces come to a standstill, nourishing our interior selves as we absorb and rest, allowing ourselves simply to be.
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. Spring is governed by wood, which is associated with rising energy.
Each element governs a particular organ system in our body and has both a mental and spiritual aspect. Late summer presides over the stomach and spleen. At this time of the year we come to rest, indulge in long, leisurely social gatherings and creative, colourful cooking. Eating and having fun are in order. Letting go and having time to chat things over, as well as simply being yourself, are essential. Our yoga practice is devoted to expressing aspects of the earth—its roundness, bounty, and stillness. When a person’s earth element is healthy, they act in a spirit of goodwill and generosity, feeling that their needs are taken care of and that they have the energy and empathy to support a growing network. As we grow older and become robust and full of health, our capacity to give and to share knowledge should grow. This grounded ability provides a base for future generations speaks of the fecundity and boundless giving of this planet, the earth. Should a person’s stomach meridian be out of balance, they will tend to be overly ambitious or, alternatively, completely lacking in any vision about their future. They will be the kind of person you experience as energy draining because they require more from you than you have to give. They may be disengaged from the process of supporting themselves, unable to provide a safety net.
If an individual’s spleen meridian be unbalanced, they will seem to be overflowing, overly compassionate, emotionally unstable, and constantly in need of nourishment in the forms of food and support. They may appear sunken and have many problems around food consumption, as well as unable to support others and overly concerned with the disappointments in life. Yoga for the stomach involves strengthening and opening the front of our body, thereby expanding the capacity to become aware of the most appropriate path to choose, and to move effortlessly and effectively in this direction. This gives us confidence and knowledge that all is as it should be, and removes obstacles to the forward momentum that will occur in the following season. Yoga for the spleen focuses on stretching the belly, rounded poses, and extended inhalations and holding the breath. This teaches the body to absorb the full energy available: in food, and thought, and any other energetic experience.
During this season, chewing thoroughly, until a mouthful becomes two-thirds saliva, two-thirds food, is important. Drinking water with meals is discouraged. In late summer, we support the spleen and stomach and so search out food that is naturally yellow, round, sweet, and which contains slow-releasing sugars, such as: pumpkin, corn, carrots, and sweet potatoes. This time of the year is focused on nurturing yourself and others. Foods should be eaten when they’re fresh, lightly sautéed, or par boiled rather than when they’re baked, overcooked, or laden with sauces. Dairy should be avoided. Including stone fruits and plenty of grains which possess natural sweetness, such as sticky rice, amaranth, quinoa and millet.