The days have been getting shorter for months and on December 21st, we reach the winter solstice which means it’s the longest night and shortest day of the year, and the official beginning of winter.
In Chinese Medicine, winter is considered the most yin time of year. Yin is dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This yin time is a time for rest relaxation and reflection. A time to take care of yourself.
The winter solstice is when yin exceeds yang, when light retreats and darkness is abundant. It is a time for storage and saving energy. Just like the trees and fields become bare to reserve vitality for the spring growing season, we can best serve ourselves and others by drawing inward, both in our actions and thoughts. Therefore it is important to support and nourish yang now, as this sets us up for health in the future. This is why the winter solstice is a time to be gentle with ourselves and do as much as we can to honour the darkness.
Winter is associated with the element Water. Water is the foundation of life, it also correlated with the colour black, the temperature cold, and the organ kidneys. The Kidney’s hold our most basic and fundamental energy. This means that winter is a great time to strengthen the kidneys. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys which is why many animals hibernate during the winter months. It is also a good time look inward, reflecting on ourselves with meditation, writing, or other inward practices. This Eastern definition of the Kidneys includes adrenal glands, which means this is a time to rest and prevent burn out. If we’re already feeling a little drained, it is even more important to recuperate and rest. Meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, mindful walking and other slow, intention filled exercise helps. Going to bed earlier, and sleeping in later is also very nourishing.
As our bodies slow down to conserve energy this time of year, Chinese dietary principles suggest that we should eat foods that naturally grow in the season – squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, apples, pears.
In winter our bodies need warming foods like soups and stews made with hearty vegetables and rich stocks cooked with animal bones. Cooking should be for longer periods using low heat and less water. This infuses the foods with heat that help to keep the body warm.
Foods that specifically nourish the kidneys are: black beans, kidney beans, broths cooked with bones, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and dark leafy greens.
On top of eating warming, seasonal food, it is important to keep your neck, ankles and lower back covered. Drink room temperature water or hot drinks like tea.
As mentioned above, winter is a time for rest, relaxation and reflection. I encourage you to reflect on the year that has just past and the new year to come. Which practices and routines make you feel truly happy and which need to be let go? What went well this past year? What would you like to do differently next year?
It is not necessary to take action, but rather to store up energy to make a solid, realistic plan that can come to fruition in the warmer months.
Nicole Albertson B.Sc, R.Ac
Active Living Chiropractic
565 Osprey Ave, Kelowna