Two thousand years ago, the following words of truth were spoken by one of the world’s legendary healers:
Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly, should proceed thus… Consider the seasons of the year, and what effects each of them produces – for they are not at all alike, but differ much from themselves in regard to their changes. ~Hippocrates, Greek physician of the Age of Pericles
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), practitioners consider each season when treating patients as well. Their belief is that when we’re not living in harmony with the season, we often get sick with things like colds and the flu.
Have you noticed in your own life that you tend to get sick at the same time every year? Or perhaps even suffer from a seasonal depression?
For many, this often happens during winter. But there are plenty of others who have struggles during other seasons, like spring and summer. Could it be, that these physical and emotional struggles are because we are resisting or ignoring the cycles of the earth?
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors lived more in balance with the natural world around them, waking and sleeping in accordance with the sun. Instead of pushing themselves hard in winter, they took more time to rest. They also ate foods in accordance with the seasons, depending on what was available.
On a cold and snowy winter’s morning, there is a beauty and perfection in the stillness of things. However, when we peek into our Western culture, this looks like one of the busiest times of year, with travel, end-of-year deadlines, holiday parties, shopping, wrapping, spending, buying, and dozens of festive celebrations, combined with excessively rich foods, and often more alcohol than normal.
It’s exhausting and taxing on our bodies. No wonder there are more cases of depression, sickness, and suicide during this time of year than any other.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, this is what’s happening to our life-force essence – or jing – during winter:
• Winter affects the kidneys. Just like the energy of a tree goes to its roots in the winter, so too does our life force flow to our kidneys – which the ancestors considered to be the “roots” of our body.
• The kidneys control the reception of chi or qi (physical life force) in the body, along with being the storehouse for jing, or your essence, that determines your constitution; it’s that which makes you you.
• The loss of jing accelerates aging, so it’s important to preserve your jing during this time. Keeping your kidneys and overall health in balance is the key to preserving jing.
• The primary emotion associated with kidneys is fear and depression, so if you’ve noticed feeling more fearful or worrisome, this may be a sure sign that something is off kilter.
Things that cause imbalance:
• Dehydration, not enough water. Make sure to get 8 glasses of H2O each day!
• Anything in excess, including food, alcohol, drugs, sex, and yes even too much exercise.
• Too much salt.
• Stress, which can be harmful anytime, is particularly damaging during winter, especially if it’s prolonged.
Ways to restore and maintain balance:
• Practice slow, yin yoga.
• Take long, slow-to-medium–paced walks.
• Develop a daily meditation practice.
• Practice Tai Chi or Qiqong.
• Get more sleep than you typically do.
• Eat supportive foods like bone broth and hearty soups; roasted nuts; dark leafy greens including cabbage, celery, asparagus, watercress, wheatgrass, endive, turnips; micro-algae like chlorella and spirulina; whole grains including oats, amaranth, and quinoa; root vegetables like sweet potatoes; cranberries and blueberries; ginger; and dark beans.
• If you feel yin deficient, try using the following essential oils in your bath or a diffuser: rose, geranium, eucalyptus, and ylang-ylang. Or simply smell it right out of the bottle!
Below, we’ve included one of our favorite tai chi meditations from master Steve Barker to help restore your life force energy.
So we officially give you permission. Slow down. Reboot. Take time. Listen and feel the flow of the planetary energies around you at this time of year. Nurture your kidneys, boost your jing and reflect on what really matters to you.
This is proven ancient wisdom, for sure!
Most excellent topic Cian. It's hard to live in balance with the seasons now a days. We have all of the food we want at the grocery store, out running our you know whats off to make that dollar so that we can pay the rent and on and on. I truly believe that we have tore ourselves up not living a simple life the way that people use to live. Not in much balance with nature any longer are we. Thank you for sharing this.