Autumn – The Metal Element: integrating Chinese Medicine into your life and practice

freeimage-3377518-webAccording to the five element theory of Chinese Medicine, autumn corresponds to the metal element and the organs of the lungs and large intestine.

The Metal Element

When in balance, the metal element represents structure, boundaries and our ability to be neat and orderly. One is able to take in and let go. Metal governs our Wei (protective) Qi, thus it is responsible for our immune system, as well as our skin and hair. An excess of the metal characteristics will show up in people that are too rigid, dogmatic – think of the inflexible perfectionist! Signs of deficiency may be seen in those seem sloppy or careless with an inability to exercise discernment, with feelings of numbness or tendencies towards hoarding. As with everything in life, balance is key.


The organs

The lungs relate to the emotion of grief. As sentient beings, we will all experience grief and sadness at times in our lives and we should allow ourselves to experience these emotions. When lung qi is out of balance, one may be unable to fully process these emotions and they become stuck. Since the lungs are our organ of respiration, deficient qi renders us susceptible to catching seasonal viruses and lack of immune system function will make it hard for us to shake them off. We may also suffer with allergies, low energy and poor self esteem. 

As the leaves fall from the trees – nature’s way of letting go in preparation for winter – our large intestine represents our ability to let go of what no longer serves us. Indeed, you can think of this in literal terms: our large intestine is an organ of elimination!


We often relate spring cleaning with the arrival of spring time – and, of course this is a good time to clear away the cobwebs – yet to maintain a healthy balance of the metal element, autumn is also an important time of year to release and let go. Perhaps think about clearing out your cupboards, creating some order and routine in your daily life and letting go of what is weighing you down – whether that be all those clothes shoved in the back of the wardrobe; unbinding yourself from unhealthy relationships, of bad habits or thoughts that are unhelpful and lower your sense of self worth. Keeping a journal can also be helpful.


IMG_0905Yoga and the metal element

In our yoga practice, we can support ourselves through this season. If we recognise signs of deficiency as mentioned above, embracing precision and alignment in a well structured, active (yang) practice can be helpful – this may be in a hatha or flow class. Yin classes can be helpful if we feel we are too rigid when there is an excess of the metal qualities. I love to practice both for balance generally – at any time of year.

Chest openers in any style of yoga practice will stimulate the lung meridian and perhaps think about incorporating breathing practices (pranayama) into your day.

May you be happy, stable and healthy this autumn.

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