Month: December 2016

Happy Winter Solstice

Winter officially started on December 21, 2016 in the Northern Hemisphere at 5:44 a.m. EST. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year. It’s the time of year when people want to spend more time indoors to avoid storms and colder temperatures. With reduced sunshine many people feel deprived of the sunlight and can go into a depression. That is one good reason to practice Qigong during these long, cold months, to help replenish depleted energy, move stagnant qi, and quiet overactive qi.

The element of winter is water (the most Yin of the five elements) and is associated with the kidneys and bladder. It is important to keep the neck, feet, and lower back areas covered and warm to prevent the cold from entering your body.

The kidneys are multifunctional including:

  •  Acting as a filter in the body.
  • Producing urine and sending it to the bladder.
  • Releasing and retaining water.
  • Removing wastes from the blood.
  • In TCM it storing the energy that goes to your cells.

There are many Qigong forms to choose from; make certain the form stimulates the kidneys with some massaging and, if possible, targets the kidney and bladder meridians.

Your diet should change in the winter months as well. According to the Daoist Monk, Zhou Xuan Yun ( , the food you eat has an affect on your body’s ability to stay balanced and combat illness during seasonal changes. He also recommends staying indoors to conserve Yang energy.

Your winter diet should consist of:

  • Warming food: chicken, coriander, fennel, meats.
  • Herbs to remove cold: garlic, onions, black pepper, ginger.
  • Foods that strengthen the kidneys: sweet potato, kidney beans, millet.
  • More root vegetables such as carrots, root squashes (acorn, butternut, delicate, spaghetti, etc.), beets, parsnips, celeriac (celery root).

You should eat less of or avoid:

  • Foods with salt, which slows blood circulation and increases fluid retention.
  • Raw foods, which cool the body; salads are OK if eaten in the afternoon after the body has had a chance to warm up.
  • Caffeine, which is hard on the kidneys (try tea or decaf. instead).
  • Spicy foods, they cause sweating which releases heat from the body.

If you practice these simple dietary and exercises on a regular basis or as the seasons change you will be rewarded with good health and increased awareness of your body.

Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong is For Everyone

People these days take Tai Chi for many reasons but most people take it because of the positive health benefits:

– Improves flexibility
– Increases blood circulation, muscle strength and physical stamina
– Promotes relaxation
– Has been known to lower blood pressure
– Decreases the risk of falling by achieving better balance

And much more!

People with MS and Parkinson’s reap these benefits but it also has a more profound affect on them because of their disease.

With regular practice the meditative qualities of Tai Chi and Qigong can help reduce depression, as shown in the published study in August 2014 of BMC Neurology. The National MS Society recommends meditation for MS patients. Meditation helps relax the mind, creating a spiritual euphoria for some people. Relaxing the mind sends signals to the muscles to relax as well, which is so important for these individuals since they tend to have tight, spastic muscles.

Let’s talk about how it can improve balance. The constant shifting of weight from one leg to the other or one side to another for those sitting, and keeping the head erect generally over time improves a person’s balance. That’s good for the general population. Because MS affects people in different ways–some are mobile but have weakness in one side of their body or in certain limbs; some can stand and walk without assistive devices; some use walkers and can manage standing for short periods of time; and there are those who have little control of their movements and are in wheelchairs. Holding the head erect and keeping a straight spine in Wu Chi position is a struggle. Tai Chi can still work for all of these situations – with adjustments to the movements. Over time Tai Chi and Qigong can have positive affects on balance whether sitting or standing, strengthen limbs and increase endurance of holding postures and, of course, mental stability, from meditation.

For me personally, for now I am completely mobile and only use a small device to assist in walking. I practice daily and have recently started standing meditation (Zhan Zhang). Believe it or not the standing meditation alone helps improve the balance but I’ll leave that for a future posting.

Continue to practice the forms you know and over time you will see a difference physically, mentally and emotionally.