The ancient Chinese viewed the year as consisting of five seasons rather than our Western idea of having four. You may have noticed a shift in temperatures, air pressure and the sweetness of your surroundings. We are now immersed in Late Summer, perhaps referred to in the West as an Indian Summer. A season of abundance and harvest, it corresponds to the Earth element and the Spleen/Stomach (Sp/St) organ systems. A sweet time of year, nature is bountiful, the Earths luscious fruits and vegetables are bursting for harvest. That sweet quality is no coincidence!, it is a disharmonious Sp/St that causes that craving for sugary goodies. Late summer is an important transitional season, slowly preparing us for the yin seasons ahead. You may struggle with fatigue as a response to this season, triggered by over-exertion or emotional stress from the activities of Summer Fire. Priorities rest, yoga and eating nourishing, earthy foods to boost your energy.
The Spleen is the largest lymphoid organ and responsible for filtering blood. It plays a major part in our immune and lymphatic system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is responsible for lifting the energy of the body, specifically to keep the organs in place. It creates a lightness of the mood, which is the easy going attitude of a person.
To keep the Spleen/Stomach happy, here are a few suggestions:
Excessive cognitive function, worry and overthinking can lead to digestive problems, a feeling of sinking (prolapse) and weight gain. Remember to take regular breaks at work or from studies. Clear your mind by doing some pranayama, yoga nidra or a mindfulness app.
Boost your lymph by doing inversions, lying with your legs up the wall is great.
Raw, sweet, rich or fried food overtaxes the Sp/St's ability to transform and transport so avoid bananas, peanuts, salads and dairy. Replace with well-cooked or steamed foods and include orange coloured root vegetables, chestnuts and mushrooms- all seasonal produce.
The Sp/St loves ANY kind of stretching! Below is a simple yoga sequence to help harmonise this organ system.
Yin Yoga Sequence for Late Summer
In this practice we will draw on the meridian theory of TCM, paying attention to target our Heart, Kidney, Spleen and Stomach Meridians through the Yin poses. Remember your Yin practice principles: Come to your appropriate edge (no forcing, no pushing, no pain); Soften the outer muscles of the body; Resolve to be still; and hold the poses for roughly 2-3 minutes. When entering and leaving a pose, do so slowly and gently. Remember, there may be some discomfort, discomfort is good. Pain is not, we want to avoid pain, tingling or pins and needles completely when practicing Yin Yoga.
Begin in your cross legged position. Find your tall spine. Allow your eyes to close and take a few deep breaths.
The important thing to remember for this breathing technique is that your inhale is passive and your exhale is a forceful, powerful movement. Start this practice at a slow pace, and with time you can build some speed.
Sit in an upright position and rest your hands on your lower belly
Inhale deeply through your nose, as if filling your belly with air.
In a quick motion, forcefully exhale all the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in toward your spine.
Allow your lungs to fill up naturally, with no effort as your belly expands.
Perform this cycle 10 - 20 times at a pace comfortable for you. Repeat 2-3 times.
Wide Leg Child’s Pose with Hands in Prayer
Have your big toes touching, knees apart and sink your hips towards your heels. Extend the arms out in front, bend the elbows and bring palms to a prayer position. Allow your hands to move towards the back of your head. You can have a blanket under the knees or behind the knees for support.
Standing with the feet hip-width apart, turn the toes out slightly. Squat down and bring your arms in front of you, hands in prayer and elbows pushing lightly against the legs. To come out, sit on the mat and straighten the legs.
Lie on your front, placing elbows slightly forward from the shoulders, palms facing down. Relax your legs and buttocks. Check what feels most comfortable for the neck - head upright, head dropping down or a block as a support under forehead.
From Down Dog bring your left knee to your left wrist. Lower down your back knee and untuck your toes. Coming down on to your forearms, perhaps allowing your head to rest on a block. Be very mindful here, if the knee is causing pain or discomfort come out of the pose and try it lying down on the back. Crossing left ankle over right knee.
Whatever version you are in, slowly and gently come out of the pose, stretch out in down dog. Repeat on the other side.
Start with both legs extended in front of you. Cross the left leg over the right, knee to knee, come on to the outside of the left ankle. If it feels okay, fold forward over the legs. Repeat Half Shoelace on the right side
Sit with your legs out in front of you, sitting on a cushion of folded blanket if you have tight hamstrings or lower back issues. Bend the knees slightly, or more if you need. Fold over your legs, allowing the spine to round. Not needing to reach with the arms, let the hands rest where they land and the head to relax
Lie on your back, bend both knees. Open your arms to the side and drop the knees to one side. Repeat on the other.
A blog by DAO Yoga. DAO Yoga is a collaboration between myself and Lena Fong.. Lena is an yoga teacher, doula and acupuncturist. For 15 years, she ran a successful private acupuncture practice within Edinburgh's largest complementary health clinic, Mulberry House. In addition, she has undergone over 500 hours in yoga teacher training. With her experience and expertise, she now shares her insights into the prevention of illness and the importance of harmonising one's lifestyle to enjoy good health.
Giovanni Maciocia. Foundations of Chinese Medicine.
Bernie Clark. The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga.