Spring will be here soon but for the moment the temperatures have dropped and Winter is still with us. The changing of the seasons is a natural cycle and is a great example of the concept of Yin and Yang. It can be said that Yang is light, hot, male, movement and all that is opposite to Yin and relatively Yin is dark, cold, female, stillness and so forth, but there is always Yang within Yin and Yin within Yang ready to emerge.
The Yin/Yang cycle of the year peaks at the highest of Yang (heat, lightest) on the longest day in June and falls to the lowest of Yin (cold, darkest) on the shortest day in December. From this the year can be broken down into five phases. From Winter, Spring breaks forth with life and forges outwards and upwards; from Spring, Summer warms and nurtures; from Summer, late Summer ripens nature’s bounty: from Late Summer, Autumn lets go and starts to slow down and from Autumn, Winter slows to a near standstill until the shortest day whereby Winter starts to reach out to Spring again. Winter is a time to slow down, to nourish, to reflect, to take stock of the past year and to prepare for the coming of the next year.
Daoist’s (a religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin) related the interconnectedness of the world to everything around them so that the macrocosm often reflected the microcosm and visa versa. Chinese Medicine (CM) takes many of these tenets and uses them in relation to the body.
The five phases or seasons each correspond to an element and these in turn all have an assigned organ (Yin and Yang), colour, emotion, sinew etc which relates to them. Winter is the water element that relates to cold and its Yin/Yang organs are Kidney and Bladder. From a Western perspective the main function of the Kidneys (Yin) is to sift the blood and make urine (water) and the Bladder (Yang) is hollow and holds and eliminates urine. From a CM perspective the Kidneys are viscera (the internal organs in the main cavities of the body) are seen as the deepest organ and the root of the whole body. The Kidneys govern all water, the bones (the deepest structure of the body), produces marrow (the deepest substance in the body which is the basis of blood), fills the spine and brain, manifests in the hair, opens in the ears (resembles the Kidneys or a foetus), controls the lower orifices, looks after our inherent force and overseas our growth, ageing and reproduction. Kidneys’ colour is blue or black, the emotion is fear and the flavour is salty. All of the other elements, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal have similar themes but different distinctions.
What can we do in relation to Winter and our body/mind?
Generally, it important to learn how to manage the stress of life and to deal with our inner fears. If we feel threatened all the time and do not rest then our adrenals, which sit on top of our kidneys, will be working constantly keeping us in a state of fight or flight, increasing our Yang and over time will therefore be depleting us (our Yin).
Winter is the perfect time to nourish our Yin, to take stock and rest our body/mind. The holiday period over Christmas is a great opportunity to slow down, recover, make new resolutions and plan for the future. Many cultures even see this as the best time to go into retreat and do extended meditation.
Food around this time of year is all about storage for those long nights and hunkering down. Roasting, slow cooking, stews, broths and fermenting have all got aspects and processes that would be beneficial to the body around Winter.
Black/dark, blue and salty foods are of greatest benefit although too much of anything, and especially salt which has a strong connection to the Water element absorbing and increasing its volume/viscosity, will be of detriment. Some examples of these foods are beef, beetroot, black soybean, blueberries, bone marrow, date, fig, grape, kale, kelp, kidney beans, leafy greens, liver, mussel, nettle, octopus, oxtail, oyster, parsley, sardine, seaweed, spinach, stout, squid, sweet rice, tempeh, walnut, watercress
Be Good to Yourself
Having Acupuncture and/or Osteopathy (remember Kidneys govern the bones) at this time is most important. It will not only help us in our efforts to reenergise but will nourish our bodies and rest our minds, rejuvenating us out from our lowest ebb.
Acupuncture can help to rebalance our Yin and Yang and can aid our Kidney energy to recharge and therefore boost our Yin substances. Osteopathy can support and strengthen the lower back, increase the mobility of the spine to ease any compression around that area to free the Kidneys of any stress and help with its function, therefore Winter is the ideal time for a maintenance visit of either Acupuncture or Osteopathy.