The sun sets with a beautiful orange pink glow as it is sitting closest to the earth this time of year. We can see and feel that early yin evening is upon us, as it now gets dark and chilly at 4:30 p.m. This is the time of year when nature retreats to build up reserves for the coming seasons, so following late summer, we can reap harvest energy in the fall. Chi (energy) is shifting inside and outside of our bodies to keep in balance with laws of the five elements, nature’s seasonal changes. Winter is the time of year where yin energy is at its strongest.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and five element theory, each season or cycle moves in phases throughout the year and is associated with organ functions. Each element represents energies that will act on each other either in harmony or dis-ease. Maintaining the flow of chi in our organs is essential for optimal balance and wellness to harmonize our body, mind and spirit.
Winter is associated with the water element, and the kidney meridian is known as “the controller of water.” Water represents our ability to flow and overcome obstacles. Here are some tips to keep the kidney chi healthy, moving, thriving and rejuvenating during winter hibernation:
- Warming foods are essential for nourishment, so in winter, slow cooking is the way to go. Think casseroles, curries, stews, soups, bone and or vegetable broths. Most importantly, choose many foods that are dark: black beans, eggplants, olives, black sesame seeds, soybeans, black garlic, lentils, black rice, mushrooms, fermented veggies, meat, squash, etc.
- Fiery spices and pungent flavors add zing and great taste and are natural medicines, so incorporate garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg, all spice, star anise, fennel and rosemary – so many yummy choices!
- Avoid cold foods like salad and raw vegetables as they are too cold and damage yang energy.
- In TCM, it is encouraged to migrate towards warm or room temperature drinks. Add a cup of hot tea, maybe chai or ginger, to your meal to warm your stomach, as the stomach is our gas tank and only warm fuel will get it going.
- Stay hydrated! Yes, even in winter you must drink your fluids and be sure to stay warm.
- Practice Pai Da, a patting self-massage therapy. Pat your body gently for three minutes along the inner sides of your legs up to your chest to activate the kidney channel. Then warm your hands by rubbing them and place them on your kidneys to warm yang.
- Enjoy warming therapies like hot Epsom salt baths. Add your favorite essential oils or a tea bag of rose or chai. A heating pad in bed can warm the kidneys, move blood and relieve pain such as common low back pain.
- Drink wine and or add vinegar to your dishes as it warms the blood and moves energy in the cold season.
- Last but not least, go to bed early and hibernate with deep restful sleep.
Diane Sheppard is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine with AcQpoint Wellness Center and can be reached at (760) 345.2200 or visit www.AcQPoint.com.