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 (www.daoistgate.com) , 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.