Winter is the time of rest and retreat, stillness and quiet. It is a usual cycle that allows the nature and all living beings to slow down and rejuvenate. However, with Covid lockdown it feels like we went into hibernation for an extra three months. The isolation, distancing, stagnation, loneliness, fear and anxiety also happened to be exactly the issues that winter tends to trigger or exacerbate when we are out balance.
The reason for that is winter marks the embodiment of the yin energy for the year. Yin energy is dark, cold, slow and inward directed. In Traditional Chinese Medicine winter is associated with the water element which governs the Kidneys and Bladder organs. When the water element is out of balance, fear and anxiety becomes an issue and causes the energy to become trapped in the chest.
Blocked Kidney energy/ Yin Deficiency cause us to doubt own strength, make us feel alone or dis-connected, paralyzes and freezes us, so that we feel like we are in the long period of winter darkness. In response to the fear, you may seek to withdraw or control your environment and become restless and driven.
Physiologically, fear increases adrenaline production, and we can exhibit symptoms of burn-out, colds and chest infections, along with lower back pain, knee pain/weakness, water retention, fatigue, vertigo/dizziness.
Regenerate the Kidney Qi
An important phase of your spiritual development is carried out during the Winter. It marks the ending of the old and the start of a fresh cycle. Water is the most yin of all the elements and therefor is a powerful time to do emotional inventory, reflect on our relationships, goals and life’s purpose, uncover deep seeded fears and shine the light on old distractive patterns.
To promote healthy Kidney Qi flow, explore the following questions:
- Can I be still, both physically and mentally? How often do I allow myself to just be?
- Am I trying to control my behavior with others and my external environment? Why? What happens if I let go?
- Do I tend to withdraw from difficult emotions or people? What am I running away from?
- Does my need for connection come from being disconnected from myself? Do I feel lonely?
- Do I trust my instinct to keep me safe or am I stuck in fight & flight?
- What my anxiety and fears are really about?
Allow yourself to sit with what is and get in touch with your inner wisdom. Don’t judge, just observe from a space of compassion. Awareness and acceptance bring healing. Find a trusted practitioner to help you to see the blind spots and support though the process.
To stave off the ‘winter blues’, keep Yin & Yang balance and prevent stagnation it is important to move and keep your blood circulating. Having a regular practice of Yoga, walking and other light activities are great ways to do this. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing and keep your lower back warm (Kidney area). If you sweat during exercise it is important not to let your body temperature cool while still having moisture on your skin. The combination of moisture and wind is an easy way to weaken the body’s defense Wei Qi (immune system) and catch a cold.
Women, keep your ankles covered as this is where the important Kidney meridian points are that effect your reproductive health. Bring back the old fashion ankle warmers! Take a warm bath or do an infrared sauna session at least once a week to retain body heat and support Kidney Yin Qi.
The best foods to eat during winter to help stay healthy with a strong immune system are the ones that grow naturally during this season such as root vegetables, squashes, mushrooms winter greens, citrus fruits, apples and pears. Our bodies need warm foods in winter so this is the season to bake, roast and stew. Slow cooked soups and stews made with rich broths with animal bones are nourishing for the whole family.
Specific foods that nourish and warm the Kidneys are black sesame seeds, kidney beans, black beans, black rice, bone broth, slow cooked lamb, chicken, chestnuts, walnuts and dark leafy greens.
Adding a small amount of unrefined sea salt to home cooking is helpful as the salty taste is associated with the Kidney. Salt is Yin and cooling and moves energy down and in, just like the nature of winter. Salt has a grounding and moistening effect, and can soften hardness such as muscle knots. It enhances digestion, is calming and improves concentration.
If you need help with self-reflection this winter, support with overcoming fear, anxiety and other triggered emotions and finding your new ‘normal’, kinesiology is a wonderful gentle tool to unpack, destress and create flow for new beginnings.