Autumn has finally arrived here in the northern hemisphere after an extended summer that didn’t want to end.

According to Chinese Energetic Medicine, autumn is the season to take care of your Lungs as the atmospheric conditions this time of year can tax them. The Lungs are especially crucial because they are one of only two organs that can bring fresh Qi into the body (the other one is the Spleen). They are also considered to be “exposed” to the outside world and are sensitive to irritants, allergens, and germs.

Much like spring cleaning, there are a few things you can do this time of year to fortify yourself against this seasonal shift and to prepare for the most Yin time of year, winter, when we go into hibernation mode:

  • Spend more time outdoors to gather more Air Qi before the trees go to sleep for the winter.
  • Eat lots of fresh harvest foods, like squash and sweet potatoes, which are rich in Food Qi.
  • Start removing raw and cold foods from your diet while adding in slow-cooked foods like soups and stews.
  • Have your air ducts cleaned to reduce the number of irritants you breathe while in your home. This is especially important if you have pets.
  • Wash all your winter sweaters, coats, couch throws, etc. to get rid of any dust they may have collected while in storage.
  • Prepare for extended time indoors: clear clutter, swap out seasonal clothes, donate things you don’t need anymore — all with the intention of making your indoor spaces inviting and cozy, places where you don’t mind spending lots of time.
  • Finish or put away any unfinished household projects. This is a really personal tip because I really don’t like staring at my honey-do list all winter.

If you practice yoga and mindfulness, there are some things you can do in your personal practice to promote the gathering and circulation of Air Qi while honoring the natural rhythm of winding down this time of year:

  • Add in cleansing pranayama (breathwork), such as simple, alternate nostril breathing, to keep the lungs clear and better able to take in Air Qi.
  • Start shifting away from demanding workouts toward more nourishing practices like yin yoga, restorative yoga, and yoga nidra. Don’t eliminate your vigorous workouts all together — exercise is an excellent way to ward off sadness (indicative of Lung Qi imbalance). Just start dialing back the intensity.
  • Close your practices and classes with gratitude meditations, also to offset sadness and melancholy.
  • As you transition into autumn, the intention is to reduce your energy expenditure in favor of gathering and storing. Cultivate a conservation mindset. This time of year, your system wants to power down, but often our lifestyle and responsibilities don’t allow that. So, in the areas of your life where you can do something about it, make conservation a priority so that you stay happy and healthy through the quiet seasons.

Finally, here are a few simple yoga poses to add to your autumn routine:

Guest post by studio BE senior mindfulness teacher Jennifer O'Sullivan.

Feature photo by Alex Geertz