Winter – from a Chinese perspective
Winter in our western culture, is a season that has most recently brought disruption and chaos. Just think back to the floods in 2014, the snow in 2013. We have to deal with the dark mornings and dark afternoons – very few of us think about our Winter season with a sense of awe and appreciation.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, Winter is a beautiful season, bringing with it many teachings of how man can live in accord with nature.
In the TCM theory, Winter is the deepest Yin time as opposed to the highest Yang time of Summer. Yin is dark, slow, and cold and turns inwards. Yang is light, warm, fast and turns outward. By being in accord with nature, we copy nature and so we may think about taking more rest, not exercising or partying so much, going to bed earlier, rising earlier and eating foods which are nutritious such as easily digestible stews and soups.
All of the most important organs of the body have a correlation to nature in TCM and patterns of the organ systems are used to make sense of the body. In Chinese Medicine the Kidney system is connected to Winter. The Kidney system involves the physical Kidneys and the Bladder. One of the six important functions is to “Control Water” Too much water and we become bloated, too little water, we become dry. Just like our weather! The organ functions from a TCM perspective are very different to those in Western medicine.
Another important TCM function is to “Store “Jing”. Jing is the essence we are born with. It is our life energy and we can over spend our energy. We can contribute to our Jing energy by resting through Winter, by gentle restorative exercise such as meditation, Tai Qi or Qi Gong and by eating appropriate foods and taking Chinese Herbs or vitamins and supplements.
The TCM Kidney system also “Controls development and reproduction.” In my clinic, I focus on women who are trying to conceive their longed for family. They may be struggling to conceive naturally or having to undergo reproductive therapy such as IUI or IVF. Of course we are capable of conceiving throughout Winter but interestingly, I find my clients tend to conceive more from early Spring and through Summer and Autumn when the energy has increased and there is more light.
Eating the appropriate foods is essential to contributing and conserving our Jing. Food as medicine is important in TCM, particularly as our diets have changed so much with seasonal foods now available all year round and with the use of pesticides which has made our food deficient in vital nutrients and vitamins. Avoiding cold, raw food such as salads, making sure vegetables are cooked or better, steamed to conserve their goodness. Other foods such as shrimp, mussels, walnuts, lamb, onions, radish, turnips, cinnamon, peppermint, and royal jelly should be given precedence.
So, take the opportunity to relax. Winter means calming your mind, resting and building your energy with good exercise and good foods. By giving our bodies this time, we will literally spring up with the new plants, flowers and blossom, moving out of Winter completely revitalised.
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