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All About Indian Summer

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

summer scene having fun

Although Indian summer is not often recognized as a full-fledged season, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it represents the critical fifth season and the balance point between yin and yang. The number five plays an important role in TCM theory; there are five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) and five flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, salty, and pungent), and it follows that there are also five seasons.

In the transition between the warmer, yang seasons (spring and summer) and the cooler, yin seasons (fall and winter), lies the idyllic season of Indian summer. The climate is neither too warm nor too cool, the long days of light feel infinite and ethereal, and time seems to come to a standstill. In the cycle of life, Indian summer represents the stable foundation of our middle-aged years, a time when we have finished the striving and achieving of our youth (i.e. spring and summer) and not yet begun to slow down into our mature years (fall and winter). It is a season for taking stock of our lives, being present in the moment, and relaxing into all that life has to offer.

In terms of physical symptoms and personality characteristics, Indian Summer body types are generally neutral. They do not display the characteristics of heat shown in Spring and Summer body types, or the cold of Fall and Winter types. They lie in the exact center of the spectrum between extreme heat and extreme cold. In theory, this means that Indian Summer types should be the most adaptable of all body types to the surrounding environment. As the seasons fluctuate between hot and cold, the neutral character of Indian Summer types allows them to attune to nature's cycles and eat and live seasonally throughout the year.

While other body types should focus on eating warming or cooling foods and engaging in yin or yang activities to balance their respective body types, the balance of hot/cold and yin/yang is less critical for Indian Summer body types. For these types, building qi and sustaining energy is the key. This can be accomplished by eating easily digestible foods with high quality qi, as well as foods that that are naturally sweet and rich in complex carbohydrates. Emphasizing core strength and postural alignment will also help these types to bolster the body's energetic center (known in TCM as the dan tian) and live with a sturdy initiative and solid foundation amidst any changes the seasons may bring.

Photo by: Kichigin/

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