Just like other traditions, such as ayurveda and shamanism, Chinese medicine uses nature to understand the human body. Within the Chinese medical system, five elements correspond with the human body, with nature, and with the seasons.
The element metal dominates the lungs and the large intestine.
While the lungs and the large intestine are organs, they are also channels of energy that are used in acupuncture. Many acupoints on the lung and the large intestine channel address:
- Grief and sadness
- Our immune system
- The protective field that surrounds the body
- Skin disorders
- The inability to inhale life
- The inability to eliminate and expel waste
According to the Chinese medical system, the lungs govern the opening and closing of the pores in our skin. If the lungs are weak, the skin and protective field of the body is also weak.
Because the lungs control the pores, the energy of lungs determines how much or how little we perspire. If you have ever spent time in a sauna or enjoyed physically challenging activity, you know the cleansing value of sweat!
Often, a weak respiratory system means that the immune system may also suffer from an imbalance.
In the human body, the large intestine communicates with the lymph system and houses immune-boosting bacteria. It may come as no surprise then that the large intestine channel is paired with the lungs in Chinese medicine.
The large intestine also dominates one of our main pathways of elimination.
For example, when we are constipated, not only do we feel uncomfortable, but stagnant toxins begin circulating throughout the body and often make an appearance in the skin!
Breath in and of itself also detoxifies the body. Every surge of oxygen is an opportunity for cells to release carbon dioxide and cellular debris.
Besides nourishing the body with oxygen and cleansing the body, breath is also one of our most valuable teachers.
And fortunately, it is something that we have access every second of our lives.
With each inhale, there is an exhale: very simply, the lungs demonstrate our ability to receive and to release.
The American poet Li-Young Lee often tells his listeners the story of when his father taught him a simple meditation that goes like this:
- With every inhale silently say, “Thank you.”
- With each exhale say, “Goodbye.”
When we say, “thank you” with our breath, we inhale and embrace the gift within each fresh, new moment.
When we exhale and say, “goodbye,” we release the good and the bad. We hold on to nothing.
Spend five minutes saying, “thank you” and “goodbye,” and you will look at the world a little differently.
With breath and with the mental exercise of “thank you” and “goodbye,” we can gently strengthen the energy of the lungs and the large intestine.
As we pass from the summer season into autumn, I invite you to inhale the rich scent of leaves and soil. And exhale fully, knowing that new opportunities await you!
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Donna Gates, bestselling author of The Body Ecology Diet and The Baby Boomer Diet, is on a mission to change the way the world eats. Over the past 25 years, she has become one of the most beloved and respected authorities in the field of digestive health, diet and nutrition, enjoying a worldwide reputation as an expert in candida, adrenal fatigue, autism, autoimmune diseases, weight loss and anti-aging.
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