In Chinese Medicine theory, there are five natural elements that exist within and outside the body. Each season belongs to a particular element and has unique correspondences. By studying the patterns and cycles of nature, we can learn how to support our own health and thrive throughout the seasons.
WINTER’S ASSOCIATIONS IN CHINESE MEDICINE
YIN ORGAN: KIDNEYS
YANG ORGAN: URINARY BLADDER
SPIRIT: ZHI (WILLPOWER)
COLOR: BLACK/DARK BLUE
SENSE ORGANS: EARS
VIRTUES: STRENGTH, COURAGE, WISDOM
The ancient Chinese text The Huang Di Nei Jing ("The Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor"), contains some of the oldest teachings about winter and its relationship to the Kidneys:
“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 happy 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.”
The kidneys are the source of our most basic and fundamental energy (or Qi) in the body so it is essential to nourish them. Ever wonder why you might feel more tired or get sick more often in the winter? Your kidney Qi is depleted. Acupuncture is a great way to support your Qi.
Some tips for becoming more tuned into the winter season include:
Sip a warming tea throughout the day (Ginger or cinnamon)
Eat warming and nourishing soups and stews. Kidneys are also strengthened from good quality animal protein and especially bone broth. Drinking 1 cup of bone broth a day will help to build blood, qi and add some cayenne for extra support of getting that blood circulating.
Other foods that tonify kidneys are: Black beans, chestnuts, lamb, chicken, walnuts, black sesame seeds, molasses, and dark leafy greens.
Bone broth has many health benefits. It is highly nutritious, protects the joints, helps fight osteoarthritis, helps reduce inflammation and heal the gut, aid in sleep, and may support weight loss.
Your kidneys will also appreciate lightly incorporating minerals like sea salt (non-iodized) into your diet this time of year.
Get regular acupuncture to support the tonifying and smooth flow of qi and blood throughout your body.
Practice Qi gong. Doing even 10-20 min a day can go a long way in terms of stilling the mind, cultivating your qi, and bringing a sense of calm to your nervous system.
Take quiet walks by the water. Since water is the element associated with winter, spending time near a body of water can help bring more balance to that element within ourselves.
Go inwards: spend more time with yourself tuning into what lies deep within. It is also a great time to get more sleep! Take time every day to sit quietly, meditate and be in reflection.