The Fifth Season in Traditional Chinese Medicine with Dr. Lydia Au of The Beauty Within

You are familiar with the four seasons; spring, summer, autumn, and winter. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes a fifth season. This fifth season is actually a season within a season – late summer. The time when we begin to slow our pace, cool down, and reflect. 

Why does Traditional Chinese Medicine add this separate fifth season? How is late summer distinct from summer and autumn?

Traditional Chinese Medicine recognizes that just as the seasons bring about changes in nature and the way of life, they also bring about changes within the body. Tuning into these changes and aligning with the seasons can help to increase health and overall well-being. 

Late summer is its season, a time of transition when we shift from the vibrant energy and expansive growth of spring and summer (yang energy) to the calm energy and slower pace of fall and winter (yin energy.)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are five elements – wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each of these elements corresponds to a season. In late summer, the earth element is the focus. This season is the time to ground your mind and body as you transition from an energetic summer to a calmer autumn. 

The earth element is also related to your digestive system. The digestive system helps to regulate and harmonize the body during periods of transition, such as the seasonal transition from summer to fall. 

Do you recommend any health/wellness practices to implement during this season?

Late Summer is the season of transition. It’s not a time to be stagnant or complacent. Instead, it’s a time to reconnect with your body, the earth, and honor your experiences. There are a few practices that I recommend implementing during this season. 

Grounding

Grounding electrically reconnects you to the earth. It’s a simple practice that essentially involves walking barefoot on the earth. This can be a walk on the beach or even your own backyard. I recommend at least 10 to 20 minutes of grounding first thing in the morning. During this time, leave distractions aside and focus on connecting with your body and breath. This is a great way to warm and wake up the body, calm your nervous system, ease tension, and bring you back to a place of balance. 

Movement 

Movement is one of the greatest ways to keep your qi and blood circulating. Not only does this benefit the body physically, but it can also help to prevent stress build-up and excessive worry. Late summer is more peaceful than summer but more active than fall. While you may have spent your summer doing active adventures, slow things down with a walk around the neighborhood or a nice swim to enjoy the last of the warm weather. Find what feels good for your body. 

Acupuncture 

Acupuncture offers benefits for pain, anxiety, and even skin, but at its core, acupuncture helps to encourage the movement of qi throughout the body. It helps keep things moving in every sense of the word, preventing stagnation in the mind and body and ensuring we move through the seasons with ease. 

Pause

Late summer signifies the shift from the strong, outward, yang energy to the calm, inward, yin energy. It’s a time to pause and take an intentional look at what is working and what is not, where you feel stress, and where you feel joy. It’s the time to reassess and reset as you move into autumn.

What’s your favorite aspect of Late Summer/what do you love most about this season?

Late summer is a time of reflection. It invites us to pause, and reflect on the year so far, so we can learn from our experiences and let go of what we no longer want to carry. As the season shifts from long, hot days to a more mild and comforting atmosphere, I find my body and mind relaxing and beginning to turn inward as I lean into the yin energy of autumn. It’s a time to journal or read through past journals. To evaluate my goals, create new goals, and practice gratitude, seeing how far I’ve come. 

This particular season comes with a renewed energy as I move through the rest of the year. 

Folks may have a general sense of how our skin changes across the seasons; how might we expect our skin to change in this fifth season?

Late summer is the season of dampness when summer’s dry heat ends, and moisture returns to the atmosphere as it prepares for fall rain. This is the time of year when humidity is at its peak. 

The added moisture in the air can cause the pores to open and become more susceptible to dirt and oil. For many, this leads to breakouts, acne, and even allergic reactions. Therefore, washing your face regularly and following a consistent skincare routine is crucial to keeping your skin healthy – year-round, but especially during this season. It may also be the time when you want to invest in extra skin treatments, such as facials, cosmic acupuncture, LED light treatment, or microneedling. As for your at-home routine, Exfoliating regularly can help to keep the skin clear and offer a deep clean for your pores. It’s also a time to moisturize with lighter moisturizers or oils rather than heavy creams. 

-Dr. Lydia Au, DACM, The Beauty Within

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