Nurturing Yourself Through Winter

January 20, 2008 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

Happy New Year to everyone! Now that winter has officially arrived, I’d like to offer some suggestions for living happily and in harmony with this season.

According to Chinese medical philosophy, winter is governed by the element of water, which is associated with the Kidney organ system. The Kidney represents the original source of life energy in the body. It is the energy associated with sprirituality, sexuality and reproduction. It is also the reserve we tap into when we “dig deep” and push ourselves beyond our own energy level. Taking care of this resource can help us heal better, age gracefully, and be more resilient in times of stress and change.

By nature winter is a more inward or “yin” time, a time for replenishing, resting, and balancing out the “yang” activity of the summertime. I encourage you to embrace this – it’s a good time for quieter activities, such as reading, meditation, cooking, crafts and other hobbies. Don’t expect the same level of activity from yourself that you have in warmer, brighter times of the year. Also, ancient Chinese texts actually advise going to bed earlier and sleeping later in winter, so feel free!

In the interest of balance, I’ve also included some suggestions for keeping your energy moving and your spirits up while it’s dark and cold out. Take good care, and stay warm! 

Seasonal Suggestions for Winter:

To Nourish and Replenish:

  1. Meditation in any form is the single best way to nourish Kidney energy.  Simply sitting quietly for 5 minutes a day, doing nothing, can have tremendous benefits.  A quiet, meditative yoga practice is similarly nurturing.  The Cambridge Insight Meditation Center offers beginner classes in several formats.  Classes are gentle, practical, and non-denominational.  Look for details on their website, www.cimc.info.
  2. Eat soup! Hot cooked food is best for your body this time of year, and soup is easy to digest, nourishing, and comforting. Try making a big batch on the weekend, freezing some, and eating the rest throughout the week.
  3. Keep your center warm.  Our core energy is located in the low back and abdomen, so protecting these areas can help preserve Kidney energy.  Especially if you wear low-waisted clothing styles, make sure your core area is covered when you go outside.  (Don’t forget a scarf, too!)

To Keep Energy Moving:

  1. Keep up social contacts. Relationships of all kinds nourish the heart, or fire element, in Chinese medicine. This warmth can help balance the isolation and cold of winter. Consider hosting a party or a brunch – people will be grateful you got them out of the house and seeing friends!
  2. Get some sunlight. Sun is a main source of fire element in the body, and it’s hard to get enough this time of year. Try to go out in the morning or during the workday if possible, and make plans to get outside on the weekends. It’s a good antidote for cabin fever, too!
  3. Move your body. There is a tendency for energy to stagnate in cold weather, and keeping your qi flowing will improve your energy and spirits. Try a dance class at the Dance Complex in Central Square (www.dancecomplex.org); or, check out Fit For Fun, also in Cambridge, for group exercise options and one-on-one health coaching (www.getfitforfun.net).

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