Updated: Sep 6, 2021
As summer days begin to shorten, we find ourselves in late summer. Known as the fifth season in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the month of September is often associated with getting back to routine and back to school. Not surprisingly, there’s a sense of anticipation of the months to come which can lead to worry and nervousness. In addition, changes in the natural world around us can create physical, emotional and energetic conditions in the body that lead to concern and anxiety.
The good news is that honoring the energetic qualities of late summer can help us to make lifestyle changes and adopt practices to ease worry and unhealthy ways of being.
What are some of these imbalances we can feel late summer? How can we more skillfully care of ourselves this time of year?
In TCM, the associated organs and energy meridians of late summer are the spleen and stomach which are most likely to be out of balance this time of year. When these energy channels are out of balance we can feel anxiety, worry, nervousness with excessive thinking. When we’re stuck in thinking, it’s hard to stay connected to our bodies and find balance.
When the stomach and spleen meridians are balanced we feel more connected to the world around us, a sense of contentment, and an ability to be at ease in the midst of all that is happening. We fell at home inside ourselves wherever we are.
Here are suggestions for on-the-mat and off-the-mat practices for self-care during the fifth season to help us find composure, balance of mind and serenity.
The metaphor for balance is like the stability of a mountain; in spite of tumultuous weather, the mountain remains firm and steadfast. Next time you notice worry, visualize the peace and stability of the mountain even as the severe weather (worry, anxiety) huffs and puffs. Imagining the mountain can help to ground you and remind you that all things come and go; when we see and don’t react we have access to a wider perspective into life.
With the propensity for excessive worry in late summer, excess electro-magnetic energy of cell phones and computers can cause a rising energy in the body which decreases melatonin production via blue light exposure. See if you can make a special effort over the next few weeks to disconnect two hours before you go to bed. Perhaps consider lighting a candle, reading or listening to music to ground your energy for a better night’s sleep.
Simple breath work
By focusing our attention on something simple we can gather our attention. Imagine breath coming in through the crown of the head, moving all the way down the front of the body to the tailbone. On the exhale, imagine the breath moving up the back body toward the back of the neck. Repeat 10 times and notice how this dissipates your worry.
The spleen and stomach are the two organs most affected by our diet. If you live in cooler parts like San Francisco, late summer is the time to choose smart sugars that won’t clog up the spleen pathway, including apples, carrots, dates, figs, grapes, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes and squash. These smart sugars also regulate the body’s blood sugar, which decreases the strain on the pancreas. If you live in warmer parts, continue to eat more detoxifying foods like lemons, limes, cucumber, mint.
A therapeutic Yin Yoga pose for alleviating worry and cultivating ease in the mind is Saddle. What’s delicious about the pose is that it stimulates the thighs, hip flexors and front body where the stomach and spleen meridians are located.
Holding Saddle for two minutes (can be held up to 6 mins) helps to increase and distribute chi to remove energy stagnation in the front body, the part of the body that is most likely to experience sluggishness and stagnation this time of year. Practicing Saddle each day during late summer can inspire the natural intelligence of the body to integrate for more vibrancy and well-being.
Please see my short video here for how to do Saddle. Make sure to set your timer for 2 mins 30 seconds to allow time to settle into the pose.
So, why don’t you join me for my weekly Yin Yoga classes in September to balance our body, heart and mind for late summer? Aligning with the energetic qualities of the natural world offers us more vibrant and peaceful living. What a gift. Reserve your spot here.