In Classical Chinese and Taoist Medicine, the Lungs functions include:
- Governing Qi and respiration including the diffusing and descending of Qi
- Controlling Wei Qi circulation
- Controlling channels and blood vessels
- Regulating all physiological activities
- Regulating Water passages
- Housing the Corporeal Soul (Po)
The Lungs are the most ‘external’ of the Yin organs; they are the connection between the body and the outside world. Controlling the skin, and outer limit of the body.
“Corresponding to the temperament of this season, the Lung, the organ of Metal, sucks in and refines the Qi, sending it downwards to nourish our roots with pure Essence”
- ‘Between Heaven and Earth’ by Harriet Beinfield & Efrem Korngold
What Is Wei Qi?
The Lungs govern the circulation of our ‘Wei Qi’ or ‘protective Qi’ which can be translated to our ‘surface immunity’ or ‘defensive energy’. Think of it as an innate armour or protective barrier that resides on the surface of your body.
Protecting us against external invasion, Wei Qi is Yang in nature, and circulates on the surface between the skin and muscles and works to warm the body, supplying the skin with the energy to defend the body against any climatic or pathogenic forces (viruses and bacteria) that would otherwise penetrate the skin and cause disharmony.
The herbs we personally love to work with to nourish and strengthen the Lungs and circulation of Wei Qi are our QI Blend and Astragalus as well as many of our medicinal mushrooms as general Qi tonics.
The Lungs are associated with the emotions of sadness and grief
Through a Taoist perspective, there is a close connection between our emotions and breath. Think about how our breathing changes depending on different emotions we may be experiencing. Whether our breath becomes shallow, rough, or short when feeling angry, worried or frustrated, or when we are surprised or scared we may gasp. The emotions express themselves through the breath.
Dropping into reflective and grounding practices that allow you to feel into these emotions can greatly support your own process.
We love journalling, breath work, meditation, Qi Gong or just anything that connects us back to our breath.
The Metal Element
Corresponding with the Lungs, the Metal element is associated with the process of letting go of what no longer serves us, whilst learning and integrating the lessons contained within our experiences. Many of us can become stuck in the emotions we have experienced, and instead of learning the lessons and moving on, we energetically hold on and remain locked into the past.
The Lungs are said to be the ‘Seat of Wisdom’ in Chinese Medicine, thus the act of breathing deeply, releasing stagnant attachments and emotions, and extracting the lessons from those experiences embody the element of Metal, and cultivating wisdom from within.
The Spirit of the Lungs: The Po/Corporeal Soul
The Po (also known as the Corporeal Soul) is part of the five spiritual aspects of an individual: the Hun, Po, Yi, Zhi, and Shen, that correspond with the Liver, Lung, Spleen, Kidney, and Heart.
The Po is the spirit-mind stored by the Lungs, it arises from the mother at conception and and integrates with us at our first breath, and stays with the body upon death, disintegrating with out last breath. The Po is also known as the 'animal soul', therefore imagine the embodiment of one's primal physical instincts, and the body's basic physiological functions.
Related to the Metal Element and residing in the Lungs, it is perceived as the part of the soul that is connected to the physical body. Together, the Hun and Po are the two aspects of the soul, intertwined like Yin and Yang.
Responsible for physical movement, coordination and balance, when you think of Po, imagine your instinctive actions and impulses. When the Po is in balance, hearing, sight, smell and touch are all acute, and the autonomic functions of the body can work in harmony.
In a harmonious state, the Po supports our connection to the present moment through the breath. Someone with strong Po may breathe with ease, speaking with a clear strong voice.
If there is a deficiency of Po, one might experience a disconnection with the present moment and feel as though they are stuck in the past. There may be unresolved grief, a weak voice and the presence of respiratory issues. Remember, the Lungs are associated with grief and sorrow.
Another trait of the Po, is the capacity to experience emotion and discomfort without dwelling upon that experience. As the Po remains with us across our lifetime, it's connection to the experiences at that particular moment in space and time are felt and then released.
To support and nourish the Lungs and the Metal Element within the body, we recommend making changes to your lifestyle practices and eating habits, alongside the inner work that this element calls upon us.
The Lungs and Metal Element are in fact associated with the season of Autumn/Fall, so this is a particularly potent time to focus on this organ system of the body, but of course if you intuitively feel the pull to focus on this within yourself then we recommend doing so, regardless of the time of year.
To dive a little deeper, check out these articles and podcasts focusing on Autumn and the Lung Metal Season: