Today, September 22, 2017, is marked at least in part by the autumnal equinox. At least that is so here in the northeast.

Do you know what the term equinox refers to? To make sure I knew, I looked it up.

According to Wikipedia, an equinox is the moment during which the plane of the Earth’s equator passes across the center of the sun’s disk. This moment takes place here, in the Northampton-Amherst, MA area, at 4:02PM.

If you know Latin, you know that “equi” means equal, and “nox” means night. You may also know that the September equinox is one of two days in the year when the length of nighttime darkness is approximately (very approximately) equal to the hours of daytime light.

While this is true for most of the globe, what about the North and South Poles? What’s happening there?

In the North Pole, today marks an autumnal shift, from six months of daylight, 24 hours per day, to six months of darkness, 24 hours each day. At the North Pole, the sun is setting for the first time in a year!

In the South Pole, the opposite is taking place. The sun is rising for the first time since a year ago! At the southern-most tip of our planet, today’s equinox is vernal, launching six months of spring-to-summer daylight, 24 hours per day.

Here in Amherst, MA, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the equinox. That’s because each year early September seems to throw me off-balance, and I’ve been wondering why.

Oh sure, some of the reasons are clear: summertime pleasures and privileges have had to recede in the face of changing weather patterns and a fresh academic year; the children are back in school; and work offers a host of new projects, responsibilities, and aspirations.

This tends to be a busy season, filled with excitement and opportunity. Also ripe with an abundance of colorful farm produce and flowers, which I love.

How could I, or anyone in our area, possibly feel anything other than thrilled by all that early autumn offers?

Specifically, I’ve wanted to understand how the bi-annual equinox event affects us, beyond the obvious reduction in light.

Cosmic Energy Shift

Did you know that for a period of approximately ten weeks, before, during, and after the equinox, there is a universal surge of energy in nature?

This dynamic change is mirrored in our environment in a variety of ways:

• Oceanic tides turn.

• Weather patterns change: temperatures cool; winds, rainfall, and storms increase.

• The decrease in daylight hours sends out a signal that the time has come for certain other transitions. For example: for some animals, it’s time to ovulate; for other animals, it’s time to prepare for hibernation. For most plants, it’s time to slow down their growth and prepare for wintertime dormancy.

For farmers, it’s time to harvest autumnal crops and start preparing the soil for a rest. And for the rest of us, now is a good time to make different choices that match the energy of the season, in the foods we eat and the ways we cook them, in the clothes we wear, and in the activities we take on.

Physiological Effects

The energy surge that turns tides also often causes physiological symptoms in humans.

Perhaps you already know that the human body is 70% water. Apparently, equinox-related forces pull on the fluids in our bodies, right down to the cellular level.

This ‘pull’ on cellular fluids in turn cleanses our cells and triggers biochemical changes.

When our bodies experience excessive stress from diet or other lifestyle factors, the cleansing action can create imbalances, showing up as liver stress and acidic blood. It’s no wonder that during autumn, even late summer, we see a spike in acute illness!

The most common ailments of this period include colds, flues, headaches, joint pains, fatigue, and mood swings.

Tips for Autumnal Wellness

What can you and I do to ease our way through the various equinox-related shifts? Eastern philosophy emphasizes that especially during the time of the equinoxes, we need to support our bodies in order to retain good health.

1) There are a number of ways to take special care. Some of these include seeking out such healing modalities as energy work, tai chi, or meditation; acupuncture, massage, or herbal medicine.

2) Now is also great time to simplify your lifestyle choices, taking extra time for rest and quiet.

3) Additionally, it pays to pay attention to your diet. Move away from light, cooling summertime foods towards the more dense, warming autumnal foods that will nourish and ground you through the cooler months.

For example: bone broths and vegetable broths, soups and stews; root veggies and squashes; cruciferous veggies (cabbages, kale, collards, broccoli); chard, spinach and other dark greens.

4) Ease your body’s natural cleansing efforts by incorporating into your care routines a few supportive habits, like dry-brushing your skin, taking epsom salt baths, and using castor oil packs before bed.

5) Most of all, listen to your body!

Now that I understand more about the many internal and external changes that come with the autumnal equinox, I hold a deeper appreciation for the month of September. I also feel renewed inspiration to support myself in familiar and new ways.

What about you?

By taking extra care through the autumn, we will strengthen our immune systems and are more likely to enjoy a healthy, vibrant, and harmonious fall and winter.

Cheers to your health on this autumnal equinox and throughout the fall!

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