Seasonal Cycles :: Deepen into Winter

Chinese Medicine, The Winter and the Water Element

At this time of year, water turns to ice and plants store their energy in their roots. Winter is considered a time of reflection, deep receptivity, and a time of building potency. The season of winter asks us to slow down and store up. 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine this season is related to the water element and Kidney energy. Kidney energy can become depleted with stress, over stimulation, and overwork. And so during this time of year it’s especially important to rest and rejuvenate and nourish new seeds of potential. This is also a wonderful time of year to focus on internal practices like meditation and contemplation.

Watch the video to learn how you can change your diet and lifestyle this time of year to come into harmony with this natural cycle of the seasons.

Food for Winter

Our diet this time of year should be more warming and building. Include more oily, moistening, and fatty foods. Use foods like hearty soups, stews, steamed winter greens and one pot meals to nourish and warm the body. This is also the best time of year to eat more animal protein.

Continue to stay hydrated - sip warm water throughout the day. Cold water and iced smoothies will slow down your digestion. If you absolutely can’t stop your morning smoothie consider adding some warming spices, drinking it warm, or replacing it with a warm broth or blended soup.

Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Winter, and the Water Element

There are small differences in the flavours suggested for this time of year according to Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, but you’ll definitely want to increase the natural flavours of sweet and a little salty and sour. Use foods like root veggies, squash, seaweeds, and miso soup. Warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg are great but avoid super spicy foods as they’ll make you sweat and actually cool you down. Think of foods and spices that warm your core.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine this season is related to the water element and Kidney energy. The Kidneys store our deepest Qi.

Traditionally the Kidneys are visually represented as a pot over an open flame. The water in the pot represents the yin of the body and the fire represents the yang. The fire basically steams the water or the Qi up into the body where it contributes to all the ways our body functions.

Kidney energy can be used in times of illness or change and can contribute to aging ease-fully. This type of Qi gets depleted with stress, over stimulation, and overwork. 

In order to protect and nurture the Kidney Qi this is the time of year to move slowly, rest, rejuvenate, and nourish new seeds of potential that are germinating. Sleep is especially important. Especially in our fast paced culture it’s important to sleep longer this time of year. If you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure to check out some of the other resources I have on sleep. 

The winter asks that we quiet the mind and heart so that we can listen to the calling of our souls. This is a time where receptivity and reflection reach their furthest extreme. This is a wonderful time of year to focus on our internal world and more internal practices such as meditation and contemplation. 

Heaviness, Cleansing and Self Care in the Winter

If you feel overly sluggish and have a hard time feeling motivated this time of year, or you have a kapha constitution, or even depression, make sure to set up a schedule where you’re staying active and engaged throughout the winter.

If you’d like to do a cleanse or detox this time of year its not generally advised to do a juice fast or something with a lot of raw food. Instead use broths and teas as a way to give your body a break from digestion. You can do a simple diet of steamed vegetables, grains, miso soup and seaweeds. And, especially if you live in a cold place, use saunas, steams, and get a message to support you.

And finally this is a great time of year to use natural oils on your skin to support the immune system and create a natural barrier between you and the outer elements. Check out the post about self massage for more info on which oils to use for your body type.

Let me know in the comments below what one thing you do to come into harmony with this season of winter.

Happy winter and I hope you enjoy this deep and rich time of year!

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