13 May The Yin Call Within – A Winter Health Guide
Are you confused about how to manage your health? With all of the different paradigms, wellness gurus and online health blogs it’s easy to get disorientated and forget how to ‘tune in’ to find your own balance. If this is you, read on for our Traditional Chinese Medicine winter health guide, packed with tips and tools to help you to harmonise with the seasons and feel your own way forward.
You are a part of nature so tune into it for guidance! Nature slows down during winter – tree sap retreats, growth slows to an apparent standstill, animals hibernate and store food. If you’re always operating at full tilt chances are you’re not heeding the signalling of your body to modulate your pace. Eventually, your fatigued, depleted, disconnected, self will force you to slow down for your own good.
Whether you resist it or not, all living systems follow this natural cycle of expansion and contraction, ebb and flow, growth and decay. All of nature undergoes a cyclical death of the old to allow for renewal and rebirth as spent elements are discarded or repurposed, regathered and revitalised for the next growth phase. By synching with the restorative energy of winter and by taking adequate nourishment and rest you will build greater reserves of vitality and strength to support you during times of heightened activity.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) winter is the ultimate yin time – governing water, passivity, receptivity, the deep feminine, the unseen flow of life, the kidneys and bladder and the emotion of fear. Winter is the time to withdraw, to sink into the watery realm of introspection and to feel into how you really are.
Winter/Kidney associations in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Over thousands of years of observation the masters of TCM discovered and recorded the relationships between elements in the natural world and organs of the body and their associated energy pathways (meridians). For example, they noticed that kidney activity is dominant from 5pm-7pm. Below are some more common associations.
Yin organ – kidneys
Yang (complementary) organ – bladder
Element – water
Colour – black
Flavours – salty, bitter
Emotion – fear
Direction – north
Sense organ – ears
Tissue – bone
Quality – cold
Time (kidney) – 5-7pm
What your kidneys do and why you must protect them
Your kidneys store your vital foundation essence known in TCM as jing. This is your baseline vitality that makes up your unique constitution. You can’t get more jing from food or air in the same way that you get chi (prana, qi) from external sources. By tonifying and strengthening your kidney/bladder function you can optimise the quality of your precious jing vital essence so that it supports your overall health better.
Store jing (vital essence)
Govern birth, growth, reproduction and development
Gover water element
Control bone tissue
Control reception of chi (qi, prana, lifeforce)
Control lower two gates (orifices)
Produces marrow and nourishes brain tissue
Open into the ears
Manifest in hair and nails (association with bone)
Centre or ‘house’ of will power
Gate of vitality (ming men the source of jing) is located between the kidneys
This well-spring (or reserve of abundant Qi & Jing) gets depleted & so you have to nourish it, faster & better than you depleted it.Amy Rhodes, Dark Moon Alchmy
Signs of depleted jing essence include…
Mental fog, confusion, lack of clarity
Lack of inspiration or enthusiasm for life
Premature ageing – a body and mind that ages quicker than it should
What to include on the to-do list for winter health maintenance
1. Tonify and support your kidneys. This is the big one during winter!
2. Favour slow cooked/Thermomix food that is cooked longer at lower temperatures to retain nutrients.
Foods to favour during winter include: slow cooked foods and most black foods (e.g. black sesame) nourish the kidneys. Also include: organic bone broth, warm hearty soups, micro-algae (chlorella, spirulina), steamed winter greens, small dark beans, lettuce, endive, watercress, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, rye, oats, quinoa, amaranth, millet, barley (whole grains), miso, organic soy sauce, seaweeds, roasted nuts, dried foods, moderate salt, adequate water.
3. Reduce stressors in your life. If you can’t remove them entirely, at least find away to retreat and take them out of your life for a while. Devise a long term plan to free yourself from long term negative stressors and fear inducing situations that deplete jing and speed up the ageing process.
Things that harm kidney health and deplete jing include: excess salt, dehydration and inadequate water intake, excess ejaculation/masturbation (depletes jing), multiple consecutive pregnancies (depletes jing), prolonged stress and fear (fight or flight).
4. Try to feel into those subconscious fears and fear triggers – the memories, feelings and parts of yourself that you habitually avoid. Any shadow therapies like breath work, primal scream therapy, holographic kinesiology, soul retrieval, family constellation work and womb work, can help you to make peace with the hidden and inherited stressors and deep fears that tie up your energy when you try to stay above them.
A bit more feeling into fear…
Why is it so common for many of us to resist this call into stillness? In part, this is because of the demands of our modern lifestyles to keep producing, keep performing, keep improving, but it is also because of the relationship between our kidneys and fear. Fear is our most primitive emotion. It asks us to face our impermanence and to become reacquainted with the unknown, undefined void beyond identity, ownership and control. During winter we are reconnected with this ‘womb’ memory of darkness, emptiness, the unborn and those subconscious murky depths that hold the memory of our familial and collective experience. It is natural to fear this deeper dive beyond the safety of our organised, mind-dominated reality and to brave the storehouse of inherited beliefs and familial and cultural wounding that we carry with us as a kind of ’tissue memory’. Hence our comfort with mod-cons and every distractions and our discomfort with stillness and the unknown.
Winter health support at Maple St Acupuncture
So, here you are at the end of Autumn – nature’s time for detoxifying old mental, emotional and physical waste. You are being tuned to winter’s call – the season for rest, restoration and revitalisation. Hopefully, by now you have cleared out old debris so that we are rebuilding with clean, clear foundation tissue and energy. (Read our Autumn Detox Guide if you haven’t done your annual clean out yet).
To help you to embrace this yin cycle you can support and strengthen your kidneys with herbal tonics (Dark Moon Alchemy Yin and Jing Tonics), acupuncture, massage, breathing exercises and structural adjustment, so that these remarkable organs are better equipped to perform the tasks of rebuilding our foundation (jing) energy for growth and repair and of transforming fear. Read on to discover how Maple St Acupuncture can optimise your health this season.
Dark Moon Alchemy is a manifestation of all that can be brought forth, when one truly nourishes the spaces within.Amy Rhodes, www.darkmoonalchemy.com