Can you feel the shift in the air? As autumn begins, the yang, expansive quality of summer gives way to descending yin. Nights are longer and mornings are cooler in the Northern Hemisphere, and the energy is more still, feminine, and introspective.
Autumn, ruled by Metal element in the Chinese Five Element theory, is a time of reflection and tuning inward.
As we’re still in the early, transitional period, our mind may still be racing and longing for summer’s playful energy while our body is ready to slow down into a gentler routine. Here are three tips to help you flow gracefully into autumn’s quiet energy.
1. Find your balance
In the I-Ching, the trigrams that represent Metal are Heaven and Lake: as above, so below. Metal is the divine essence that’s higher than Air and deeper than Earth. In your yoga practice, incorporate poses that reach for the sky while rooting for Earth.
Balancing poses such as Vrksasana (tree pose), Nataraja (lord of the dance), and Ardha Chandrasana (half moon) require the mind to focus within and the standing foot to ground, while the upper body reaches toward heaven. Off the mat, make efforts to stay grounded. As Earth produces Metal in the Chinese Five-Element Theory, we must be rooted and balanced before we can have clarity that’s associated with Metal.
2. Calm the mind
Metal governs the mind. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s also associated with the lungs, colon, the skin, and the breath. Backbends and chest-openers such as bridge, cobra, and camel are poses that help stimulate and expand lung capacity, while twists help detoxify the colon.
In both Yoga and TCM, the slower and more controlled the breath, the more prana (chi, or life force) we cultivate. Practice calming Pranayama techniques such as nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) and kumbhaka (breath retention) as part of your daily ritual to connect with spirit—the stillness that can be found in the pause between the breaths. As mystic poet Kabir says, God is “the breath inside the breath.”
3. Nourish the body
With the arrival of cooling yin, choose warm, nourishing foods to balance our internal chi. Eat foods rich in Earth element to ground, and consume Metal element foods to help clarify the mind and detox the body.
Earth element foods include corn, carrots, squash, pumpkin, cabbage, peas, and grains such as millet, rice, and polenta. Metal element foods include ginger, garlic, horseradish, chilies, white peppercorn, and root veggies.
Metal is the most elusive and hardest to understand element in the Chinese Five Element theory. It’s no wonder that Metal is the element most lacking in our modern world, yet we all need it. An imbalance of Metal can lead to depression, grief, lack of clarity, lack of empathy, and unhealthy attachment.
In the 8 limbs of Yoga, Metal is closest to "Samadhi," that rare state of super-consciousness, peace, and clarity that comes after "dhyana" (meditation, which is Earth element).
Stay grounded. Find your center and your balance. May we all flow with grace into the quiet stillness of autumn.