Staying Healthy with the Seasons: Winter
Now that the Solstice has passed the Winter season is officially here and with the first snow storm of the year it finally feels like it.
Chinese Medicine suggests that to maintain optimum health we should live our lives in Harmony with our environments and the seasons. Winter is a time of darkness and stillness when nature seems to be in a state of hibernation, rest and recharging. It is a reminder that we should do the same, slow down, conserve your strength allow your yin energy to be restored so that when spring comes, the gathering energy will burst forth with new growth. Winter is associated with the Water element, most yin of all the five elements. The color of the water element is blue, its direction is north, its flavor is salty, its emotion is fear and the associated organs are bladder and kidneys. There is also a strong correlation between the water element and our reproductive organs. The hours when bladder energy is at it peak are 3 to 5 p.m.; kidney is 5 to 7 p.m.
Our kidneys regulate water metabolism, our sex organs and fertility, bones, teeth, hair and hearing. In other words, kidney energy is very important to health. Most Americans have some imbalance in their kidney energy because of our diets, high stress lifestyle and excesses of all kinds that lead to kidney depletion.
If we deplete ourselves acupressure, proper rest and diet, exercises like yoga, qigong or tai chi can help restore healthy organ function.
Here are some suggestions on how to eat and exercise for Kidney Health.
Traditional Foods to Strengthen Kidney Qi
• Warm hearty soups made with root vegetables…turnips, onions, potatoes, also dark leafy green vegetables, asparagus, as well as, whole grains, and a little meat. • Use garlic and ginger as warming condiments. • Herbal teas…nettle, juniper, ginseng, and burdock. • Drink plenty of room temperature water throughout the day. • Black beans and kidney beans…kidney shaped foods. • Blueberries, blackberries, mulberry, black beans... blue and black foods. • Seeds…Flax, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. • Walnuts and chestnuts.
Clearing the Meridians
In TCM being healthy is about staying balanced, so avoiding extremes. But it is also about having a, free flowing, unobstructed flow of Qi energy through your meridians. Try these simple Qigong movements designed to clear the Kidney and Bladder meridians and nourish the Water element.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, arms gently relaxed by the side of the body and lift your head gently as if it is being pulled upward by a string.
2. Take long, deep breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth and relax your body, releasing any tension.
3. Clear your mind and release all worries.
4. Continue with your deep breathing and relaxation. Connect with the energy of the universe.
5. Take a deep breath.
6. Raise both of your hands up to your collar bones. As you exhale make the “Wooooo” sound and allow your palms to travel down over your chest, abdomen, down the inside of your legs, to your ankles. This will clear the Kidney meridian.
7. Take another deep breath.
8. As you exhale make the “Wooooo” sound and allow your palms to travel up the back of your legs to the kidneys. This will clear the Bladder meridian.
9. Take another deep breath.
10. Place your hands over your kidneys. Exhale and again make the “Wooooo” sound as you visualize sending a flow of blue light energy out your palms into your kidneys.
11. With your hands still over the kidneys, move your hips in a wide circle like working with a hula hoop first clockwise, then counter-clockwise, nine times in each direction. This with strengthen the Kidney Qi.
12. Allow your hands to relax back to your sides.