Turning Inward for Winter: Nurturing the Water Element

Yes, it’s true. Winter IS coming. It’s time to prepare for days filled with soft, quiet snow, and long, cold nights. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter is the most “yin” time of year; this season is associated with water, darkness, cold, slow movement, and an inward movement of energy. Aligning ourselves with this change of energy allows us to effectively rejuvenate our body and spirit, and maintain optimal health.

Ironically, the month of December is one of the busiest times for many of us as we plan holiday visits with friends and/or family, race around buying gifts, while maintaining our usual work schedule.  So how can we nurture ourselves in ways that are in harmony with the season?

  1. Strengthen your kidneys with bone broths and/or root vegetables. In TCM, winter relates to the kidneys. The kidneys are associated with the bones, and with water. Bone broths are a great way to nourish the kidneys, and protect against stress and being overworked. The kidneys also love slow cooked seasonal foods like squashes, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, and a small amount of sea salt. Here’s a delicious recipe for Winter Stew to boost your kidney Qi, and a more detailed list of foods that nourish kidney yin.
  2. Rejuvenate your kidneys by getting lots of rest and sleep, especially between 10pm and midnight. In TCM the energy of the kidneys supports the functioning of all the other internal organs. This means that when the kidneys are depleted, all the other organs suffer. Adequate rest and sleep are an integral part of nourishing the kidneys so that they can continue to maintain your overall health. This winter, take time to rest and relax whenever you can. Also, the most rejuvenating sleep occurs between 10pm and midnight, so aim to get to bed by then. Your whole body will thank you!
  3. Bring your focus inward, and lovingly acknowledge your fears through meditation, writing, and contemplation.
    Slowing down and focusing on inner activity rather than outward activity at this time is particularly rewarding. Since the kidneys are connected to long-term memory and also hold the energy of fear, consider taking some time to write or think about what memories are coming up for you this season, and how they connect to unacknowledged or unaddressed fears you may have. It’s also interesting to note that the kidneys are associated with willpower, which is subtly linked to our fears. The desire to avoid our fears often leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms like emotional eating, drinking, drugs, etc; our willpower is essentially drained by the power of fear. On the other hand, lovingly admitting our fears, and finding healthy ways to address them increases willpower and brings us into better alignment with ourselves.
  4. Get acupuncture and moxibustion to boost your kidney Qi as well as your Defensive Qi (immune system) during the dark months. Regular treatments will keep your energy and spirits up, and also keep colds and flu at bay. Start now! You can click here to book your next appointment online!
  5. Take vitamin D! Your body typically synthesizes vitamin D through exposure to sunlight on the skin, which is pretty hard to accomplish during the winters in the north. Supplement with vitamin D to increase your body’s immune function, reduce inflammation, and strengthen your bones. Which bring us to the last thing…
  6. Pay special attention to your low back and your knees. According to TCM theory the kidneys are directly connected to the bones, and are specifically linked to chronic low back pain, as well as any kind of knee pain. If you’re dealing with either situation, now is an ideal time to address it. Stay tuned next month to find out more about what your knee pain is trying to tell you!

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