Winter is the most Yin aspect of the seasons in Chinese Medicine. Thinking of animals that traditionally hibernate, this is how we can feel at this time of year. It is a time for self-reflection and to take time to nourish ourselves. Our grandparents were right and at this time of year we should leave the salads behind and turn to warming foods such as soups and stews. We should also stick with vegetables that are in season such as root vegetables, winter greens, and squashes. Long slow cooking with whole grains such as pearl barley will offer nourishment that your body will thank you for at this time of year. This philosophy is well rooted in TCM and using locally grown, organic vegetables as much as possible will help you to remain healthy through the dark months of winter.
Our mothers and grandmothers were also right in keeping our kidneys warm, the Japanese have a traditional garment called a haramaki or as it’s called in the West a Japanese belly warmer. This is a piece of cloth which wraps around your middle and keeps your body’s core warm and thus raises your whole body temperature.Winter is a time for embracing the indoors and creating a warm, cosy environment – something which many of the Scandinavian countries practice with Hygge . Many people are invigorated by the winter and enjoy the energising feeling of being outdoors in the snow and the cold. It is a good idea for everyone to try to spend some time outdoors even in the winter, vitamin D top ups from the light at this time of year are vital for good health. It can also help to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder from which many people suffer at this time of year. You should however always wrap up warmly to deter the invasion of cold and flu bugs. Winter in TCM is associated with the Kidney and are the source of our fundamental energy or Qi. It is a time which we can work on strengthen our Kidneys. Foods that nourish our Kidneys include black beans, kidney beans, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and dark leafy green vegetables. This nourishing can be achieved by not only eating well but resting and sleeping well. It is an opportunity to take time to practise some form of meditation and nourish your soul. Whichever sort of person you are winter can be enjoyed if you live, eat and exercise appropriately to the season.
Always remember that just as in the Yin /Yang symbol there are little moments of Yang to enjoy at this time of year such as Christmas, Diwali and other festivals of light that serve to remind us that this is a transitioning time moving towards the light and new growth that will follow with the Spring.