health tips for winter
“During the Winter months all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period, just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls. This is a time when yin dominates yang. Therefore one should refrain from overusing the yang energy. Retire early and get up with the sunrise, which is later in Winter. Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a sweet secret. Stay warm, avoid the cold, and keep the skin covered. Avoid sweating. The theory of the Winter season is one of conservation and storage. Without such practice the result will be injury to the Kidney energy. This will cause weakness, shrinking of muscles, and coldness; then the body loses its ability to open and move about in the Spring.” ~Neijing Suwen, 240 B.C.
In Chinese Medicine, winter is associated with the vital root organs of the Kidneys, Adrenal Glands and Urinary Bladder. According to Yuanchen of the Ming Dynasty “the kidney is the ocean of the human body . . . All the essences and fluids of the body’s various pathways pour into the kidney.”
Located just beneath the Kidneys – behind the navel – is an energetic portal known as the Gate of Life or Ming Men. The Huangting Jing states that ‘The igniting spark between the kidneys is the origin of the various processes of human life.’ This essential life fire supports the Kidneys to purify the blood, store the sexual and pranic essences, and stimulate the body’s Qi when depleted. Ming Men is the center of Prenatal Qi or essential life force and may be comparable what yogis refer to as the store of kundalini.
During winter, we naturally consume more Qi (to stay warm and vital) and consequently, our kidney qi is more easily depleted. To remain healthy and balanced, it’s essential to take extra care during the winter months. Classic Chinese texts offer these practices to strengthen our Kidney qi and overall immunity:
- Fall to sleep early and rise late – after the sun’s rays have warmed the earth
- Enjoy cooked, warming meals. Hearty soups, whole grains, roasted vegetables, and most meats (if that’s your jam) help warm the body’s core and keep us nourished. Kidney beans, walnuts and beef are also warming and particularly recommended to strengthen Kidney Qi.
- It’s natural to gain a bit of weight during the winter months to conserve warmth, so no worries, you’ll easily shed the extras in Spring.
- Build community and spend time with friends and family – it’s not surprising that this time of year is marked by festivals of light in most of the world’s religions
- Take time for quiet and reflection, ease up pressures to do: Be*
- Bundle up – be sure to keep the lower back (Kidneys) warm, and the upper back, back of your neck and throat protected – the areas most susceptible to wind, chill and other foreign invaders. Consider extra layers and hot showers on colder days
- Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga, meditation and other simple relaxation/movement therapies can help release stress and maintain a sense of balance and ease
- Acupuncture, body work, essences, herbs and other holistic remedies can offer great support and reconnect you with other methods of self-care and vitality
- Support the immune system by massaging the ear lobes, below the occiput (base of your skull), along the neck and at the armpits (to promote lymph drainage)
- Enjoy sex – but in moderation: sexual activity easily depletes Kidney Qi.