How to Conserve Your Energy to Live in Harmony with the Deep Winter By Dr. Tedi Fisher, TCM
When our goal is to live a life full of vitality and wellness, we need to take a deeper look into our everyday patterns, taking note of how we adapt from season to season. In Traditional Chinese medicine, or “TCM”, we associate each season with a specific organ and each organ is linked with a variety of bodily functions and emotions. For example, summer is associated with the heart and joy, spring the liver and anger, fall the lungs and grief, and winter the kidneys and fear. A fundamental philosophy of TCM is, if we are living in harmony with nature, we create an internal landscape which makes it difficult to foster disease. Our bodies become resilient and promote optimal health. This is preventative medicine at it’s finest, allowing us to live in harmony with each other and planet Earth. Wellness goes beyond individual health, to include the longevity of our planet.
The energy of winter is a cozy one. It’s the most yin, meaning the energy is slow, cold, feminine, internal, and dark. Our patterns and way of life should reflect and honour this shift. Plants stop growing or slow down significantly, birds fly south and bears hibernate . Our qi, or energy, goes deep within our bodies. Our sleep becomes longer and the pulse gets deeper and slower. Winter is the time to contemplate goals and visions, whereas, Spring (when everything is blossoming) is the time to act on those contemplations. Winter is the incubator for all of the amazing things you will manifest in the warmer months. Take this time to journal, meditate and have long luxurious sleeps. Sleep like the sun: go down early and wake up late.
Winter is associated with the kidney and bladder systems. The kidney is the reservoir of essence, the substance that preserves our whole body’s health. It’s looked at as the root of our health and plays a major role in fertility and hormone regulation. For example, the kidney system needs to be strong and balanced to give regular and easeful menstrual periods. In addition, a strong kidney system is fundamental in promoting longevity and our ability to stay healthy and energetic into our older years. When the kidney qi is weak, we age quicker, get grey hair earlier, lose teeth and have symptoms like infertility and impotence. The kidney is the cornerstone of health and needs to be taken care of, especially in the cold winter months when it’s most susceptible to depletion. When you invest in your kidney system now, you will reap the rewards later.
The following are some practical tips to strengthen and preserve kidney qi and essence in the winter months:
- Wear warm socks or slippers: The kidney meridians start at the bottom of the feet. When we are standing on cold floors or the feet are cold, it leaks the kidney qi out of the body, leaving that system depleted.
- Keep your lower back warm: The kidneys are located on the back of the body just below the ribs. They don’t like wind and cold. So keep your back warm and don’t sleep beside an open window with no protection from the elements. Wear a shirt or make sure the back is covered with your bed sheets.
- 3. Drink bone broth: Bone broth is an essence-nourishing drink full of collagen and nutrients to support the kidneys, immune function (wei qi) and digestive system (spleen and stomach qi). I recommend this a lot in the winter especially for people who have just had surgery, given birth or are feeling burnt out. Incorporating bone broth into your winter routine will replenish your qi, blood and essence.
- Incorporate warming herbs: Use spices and herbs like cinnamon, fennel, fried or dried ginger, pepper and clove. While avoiding raw and cold foods like salads and smoothies. The winter body wants things that are warming and easy to digest.
- Go see your TCM practitioner: You will get more specific advice based on your personal constitution with herbal recommendations that are tailored to your body. Acupuncture can help with seasonal transitions, seasonal affect disorder and optimizing your health.
Like hibernating bears, when we have a successful winter slumber, we awaken in the spring with a new zest for life and motivation to fulfill our deepest desires.