We have entered Lì Dōng 立冬 (Nov. 7), the Beginning of Winter seasonal node marked by shorter days and colder weather. Winter is the time of “closing and storage” (閉藏) and is the most Yin time of the year. It is a season for deep rest, storage, hibernation and slowing down. Our culture does not emphasize REST as a way to resource ourselves but it is vital and necessary for our overall health and wellbeing, and to safeguard against burning out.
The kidneys and bladder are associated with the Winter season. They are like your batteries that store your energy. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the Kidneys store vital life energy. They also influence such things as reproduction, brain, bone, health fluid secretions and emotions like anxiety, fear and courage. Overworked kidneys may manifest as anxiety, infertility, adrenal or chronic fatigue, low back pain, weak knees, urination issues and others.
When your Kidneys and Bladder energies are in harmony and alignment you feel:
- Engaged and empowered by your Will (power)
- Have capacity to manage stress levels
- Have consistent quality rest and sleep
- Have healthy cognitive brain function
- Have strong and stable back and knees
To keep your battery levels (Kidneys and Bladder) in good shape and maintain balance in your system, make sure to find ways of resourcing yourself to manage stress and overactivity. Be aware of what you are up to. Activities that deplete include: intaking too much alcohol, poor food quality or eating habits, overwork, excessive physical activity, and lack of sleep and relaxation.
Eat well to nourish and recharge the batteries
Consume appropriate fats and high protein foods can help build strength and nourish the Yin: mutton, beef, goose, duck, eggs, Chinese yam, sesame, glutinous rice, dates, longan, black fungus, bamboo shoot, mushrooms, leek and roasted nuts.
Foods that support: miso, millet, barely, soy sauce, seaweed, bone broth, warm hearty soups, small dark beans, celery, asparagus, chicory root, burdock root, horsetail, whole grains, citrus peels, steamed winter greens, most black colored foods nourish the kidneys. The color black is energetically associated with the kidneys.
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It is advisable to eat more food with bitter flavors while reducing salty flavors so as to promote a healthy heart and reduce the workload for the kidneys. Foods with bitter flavors include apricot, asparagus, celery, coffee, tea, grapefruit, hops, kohlrabi, lettuce, radish leaves, kale, vinegar and wine.
Some people may eat too many hotpots or high calorie foods causing excessive heat to accumulate in the lungs and stomach. They may experience problems such as bronchitis, sore throats, peptic ulcers and skin problems, thus it is necessary to balance with certain amount of cool dishes and water in winter.
Winter is also a good time to boost the natural constitution of the body and improve symptoms associated with chronic conditions. Since a person’s appetite tends to increase over winter when they have a lower metabolic rate, absorbed nutrients from foods can be stored more easily.
Winter Wellness Tips:
This is a time to take stock of all that has occurred in your life this year and turn inward, tap into the inner stillness and silence within. Honor your whole being by breathing a bit deeper into your belly allowing space for your experiences to process via resting, DEEP RESTING.
1. Rest and Digest
Gently place the palms of your hands just below your navel with on hand on top of the other, simply rest here, take a couple deep slow breaths inhaling through the nose and exhale releasing all your frustrations, worries, stress, ____(fill in the blank, whatever it is that is causing constriction in your being). Scan and feel into your body, locate the area of tension and breathe into that space and then let it go into the earth.
2. Acupressure to safeguard against external pathogens
Press and massage the acupoints for 3-5 minutes. Massage Feng Chi (GB 20) on a daily basis can help ward off colds and relax neck stiffness. If there are concurrent nasal congestions, massage Ying Xiang (LI 20). Hold until there is a sensation of clearing in the sinuses.
3. Manage your temperament
Since the movement of Kidney is a movement of downward storage, anger forcing the Qi to rise depletes Kidney (i.e., it is the opposite movement of Kidney) and impairs the storage of Qi which is the natural and essential movement of Winter.
4. Prepare for a restful sleep
Place a hot water bottle or heating pads on your back in your kidney area and the sole of your feet before you turning in to sleep. This is good if you have back pain or a tendency to have cold hands and feet, it will also support you by calming the anxious energy as you unwind from the day.
5. Be present and really enjoy the food you eat
Be present and really enjoy the food you prepare and eat. Be present and mindful in the process of preparing the food, wether alone or in the company of loved ones. Using slow heat cooking methods like stewing and baking. Eat warm nourishing foods and warm teas. Avoid eating cold and raw food or drinking lots of cold fluids that require more of your body’s energy to process and digest.
6. Slooow down to rest and restore
Slow down and refrain from too much activity, head to bed earlier, sleep in a little longer, eat a bit more and reserve some time every day to go inward and relate to yourself.
7. Keep your body warm
Dress appropriately for the cold weather by covering the nape of the neck with a scarf or turtle neck and keep the abdominal region warm.
Do these exercises as often as you like, they will help to replenish and nourish your Kidneys and Bladder and your overall well being. Honor and listen to what your body needs in the moment.