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Winter wisdom

The legendary Yellow Emperor, who is considered to be the founder of Traditional Chinese Medicine, states in his ancient text The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: “In winter all is hidden. Winter is the season of retirement into depth. At this time, you must not disturb or disperse the yang (fire, active) energy so that you can allow the yin reserves to be re-established within you.”

This depth—our core—is the place where we are afraid to journey, so in this season of darkness we try to fill it with what appears to be light. We celebrate the holidays, eat and drink heartily, socialize frequently, and try to avoid the aloneness that winter calls us in to, without realizing that the entry to our inner world is most accessible during this time of the year.

Stillness like water

However, it is important to leave time to rest. Rest allows nature to work internally, and store energy in preparation for spring. This makes it a time for inward reflection: a time to replenish one’s mind, body, and spirit. Just like the seed that cannot sprout until it has gathered sufficient strength, our ideas and plans cannot manifest with strength if our energy is dispersed or drained.

Physically: imagine a reservoir

In the body, the organ systems associated with water are the kidneys and bladder. The kidneys are said to spark the energy of the entire body and are responsible for healthy teeth, bones, and bone marrow. To keep the kidneys healthy, it is important to keep them warm and well hydrated. Thus, the key to a healthy winter is making sure the body is well clad; we advise particular focus on the lower back.

Traditional Chinese Medicine imagines the urinary bladder as a reservoir where the waters in the body collect. When the bladder is not functioning properly, the entire system is in danger of filling up with toxic wastes. Depression, fatigue, or difficulty adapting to new circumstances are considered symptoms of an imbalance in this organ. Acupuncture and herbal remedies, attention to diet, exercise and meditation can be used to revitalize the organ functions.

Spiritually: the ways of fear

Water is associated with the emotion of fear. The positive element of fear is that it encourages us to remain alert; however, when there is a deficiency in the water energy, fear can manifest as chronic anxiety or result in intense phobia. TCM believes that excess fear injures the kidney energy, which in turn, increases fear.

Achieving a mind/body/spirit balance this winter:

Take time: Use this time to rediscover more about yourself through reflection. Try reading, praying recording your dreams, meditation and/or keeping a journal. It doesn’t have to be an intimidating exercise; even twenty minutes of a conscious time out will help.

Nourish Yourself: Drink plenty of water. Winter sucks moisture out of your body so it is very important to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. Eat warming foods.

Get Rest: Winter is the time for us to recharge. Going to bed earlier than usual is key.

Practice Fluid Movement: Tai chi, qigong, yoga, and dance practices that mimic the flow of water and are great for winter. These fluid exercises allow you to become more centered, aware of your breathing and aware of your inner self.

The Ayurvedic winter diet: our doctor shares

AGNI (roughly translated as the digestive fire or metabolic potency) gains strength in the winter; agni is linked to the Pitta dosha which is like the powerhouse for all metabolic process. We can think about an increase in fire as dual: while it is a source of strength, fire also consumes all the fuel that it comes into contact with. Productive and destructive, fire needs to be balanced.

Here are some simple dietary tips for balancing your fire this winter:

- Add warming herbs and spices (like cinnamon) to your diet: use them to add flavor to your tea or desert.
- Consume foods that have a predominantly sweet or sour taste; this will help the the Agni to act as fuel and provide energy, heat, nourishment.
- Choose more lentils, legumes and fats to keep the body in balance.
- Avoid astringent and bitter foods to keep vata (the ‘air dosha’) in check. - Eat plenty of rice and cereals.
- Keep alcohol intake to the minimum.

This winter we wish that you:

Seize the sun like the stream of hibiscus flowers that dot our paths.

Perceive the light that runs through the shadows after sunset.

Probe a history, like the pigeons who visit Anayu at noon.

Retreat into peace, for a long afternoon, or lifetime Saunter, like when you were here last, not particularly with purpose.


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