Welcome to Winter
Do you hear nature's language and feel the changing energy that each season brings?
From December 21st until March 20th, we enter and live through the season of winter. There is a hush and slowness to this season, and you’ll notice animals hibernate to conserve their energy during the colder and shorter days.
Nature's energy draws down to the root system and this time of the year is also for you to nourish your inner reserves and engage in quieter practices that encourage both rest and introspection.
On this page, you will learn about the ancient system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for seasonal advice and have an array of winter self-care practices to choose from.
Winter’s Associations in Chinese Medicine is as follows:
Element – Water
Organ Pair – Kidneys & Bladder
Sense Organ – Ears
Emotion – Fear
Flavour – Salty
Colour – Black
Let’s learn a little about the water element and the kidney and bladder function from a TCM perspective.
In Chinese medicine, winter is represented by the water element and the organ pair of the kidneys and bladder.
What this means is that winter is the most favourable time of the year to nurture and heal this organ system, especially if you are showing signs of kidney imbalance.
The Kidneys are responsible for controlling water and in TCM they also hold and supply the body's vital energy. As such, it could be argued that the water element is perhaps the most important of all the elements given that it both feeds and nourishes our vitality and longevity.
We inherit our kidney essence which is known as Jing from our parents. It is given to us at birth, and it is said that when we have used all our kidney essence, we are no more. And so whilst this is predetermined, how we choose to live our lives determines how quickly it is used up.
Lifestyle habits that deplete the kidneys are a lack of soulful rest and proper relaxation, sleep imbalances, overexertion, substance abuse, work and life imbalance, unhealthy diet, excess stimulation such as drugs and caffeine, and living in a fearful state regarding the future.
This organ system is also associated with our bones, lower back, our sense of hearing, reproduction, aging, brain function and feelings of willpower. The adrenals also form part of the Kidney system, so stress highly depletes kidney function as well as not prioritising rest.
Kidney chi will naturally decline with age and major life transitions such as menopause. As it depletes we might begin to see things like the greying and thinning of hair, hearing problems, low libido, loss of teeth, urinary problems, forgetfulness, and weakness in the bones and joints.
Signs that you might be you may be deficient in kidney chi.
Your body is quite the communicator and TCM pays close attention to both emotional and physical systems as they are intricately connected. Often, emotions can cause us physical symptoms.
Your body uses symptoms to urge you to take a look at your lifestyle on a deeper level. Take a look at some of the ways the kidney energy system might communicate through symptoms:
Feelings of isolation, forgetfulness, detachment, or fear.
Problems with the bones, particularly lower back and teeth, rigid joints, and weak knees because the kidneys are related to the bones, joints, and marrow.
The kidneys open out to the ears in TCM (look at the shape of them) and therefore symptoms such as tinnitus, ear pain and hearing loss can all be signs of kidney deficiency.
Coldness in the body due to lack of kidney yang.
Hot flushes, hot palms and feet due to lack of kidney yin.
Premature aging due to lack of kidney essence (Jing) and poor lifestyle choices such as grey hair, wrinkles, and early menopause and reproductive issues.
Fatigue - you may find that you get sick easily, or lack in energy, yawn a lot and become easily fatigued or lethargic – motivation may be low towards relationships and projects
Fear or even a lack of fear because this is the root emotion of the kidneys. This might show up as being overly fearful, tearful, or having anxiety, panic attacks and nervousness. At the other end of the scale, having a lack of fear or being an adrenalin junkie could point to excess kidney chi.
Urinary problems such as incontinence, scanty flow, recurring UTI’s or a frequent need to go to the toilet can all be symptoms of imbalanced kidney energy
Building and Preserving Kidney Energy
So, how do we nourish the water element and build our kidney chi at this time of year?
The key advice to support your kidney essence is through rest, retreat, and keeping warm especially if you find any of the above symptoms expressing themselves through you.
I remember a book I read describing the winter season as the season of the soul and the water element is very much concerned with our purpose in life. Slow down, introspect, reflect and nourish. Remember, water is the birthing place of all things.
Here are my top tips for the water element:
Keep warm internally and externally. Avoid too much cold both inside and outside. Make sure your body is warm, especially the kidney areas and feet. Bring warmth into your living space too, through crystals, positive images, fabrics, and photos. Light candles and fires, use hot water bottles and wrap up. Eat warm foods and avoid cold foods like ice, salads, smoothies etc
Avoid being around cold people. You want emotional warmth, self-care and being around people who love and support you. Think of smaller more intimate groups rather big groups and outings.
Detoxify – lighten the load on the kidneys. This doesn’t mean grueling detoxes but things like massages are heating and good for moving toxins Sauna’s would be perfect and also reduce your exposure to artificial foods, lights and chemicals e.g. in body care and cleaning products.
Recharge. Phone analogy – switch off, plug in and recharge. Avoid becoming over-tired, busy and stimulated. Go to bed earlier and sleep longer during the winter.
Retreat from outward noise and busyness. Lessen the time you spend on your phone, and computers (especially in the evening). Increase alone time.
Relax. Avoid things that overstimulate the kidneys and adrenals e.g. stressful situations and stimulants. Engage in activities that quieten and calm the mind and do things that help enhance the introspection of the season….deep breathing, meditation, relaxation like yoga nidra.
Review. Avoid starting new projects, that is for the spring but begin using the introspection of the season to help you to get clear and focused on your direction. Plant the seeds for the spring
Move, but not too hard: Avoid more physical activities and exercises – now is not the time to be pounding the pavement instead slow down with yin yoga and qigong both of which help to preserve muscles and distribute warmth and fluid.
Salty flavour. Add food from the sea like samphire, seaweed, and kelp in your diet. Be aware however that too much will cause water retention.
Rub: Kidney rubs and ear rubs to nourish and strengthen the kidneys.
Ginger foot soaks: Activates the Kidney meridian on the foot to build the Kidney’s energetic function.
The colour of the water element is blue: Did you know that colour directly affects mood? Blue is associated with cool, calm, hopeful, protected, cleansed, relaxed, and reassuring. Wear blue or why not accessorise yourself and your home with it.
I have just given you a lot of information. Don’t worry about taking it all in now, but pause for a moment and thing of what has resonated with you?
Open your journal and write:
Write about why you think the teachings of winter are important to you today in your life. How is winter your teacher?
What is your relationship like with rest? How you can cultivate a calmer more restful energy during the winter
Write a list of self-care activities that you could do during the winter. No editing just all possibilities.
Below you will find movement practices of a slower nature. Enjoy nourishing the joints, and practicing some qigong, somatics, yin and restorative yoga. Mediation is great to practice in the wintertime so you'll find plenty of practices including some yoga nidra to rest deeply to. I hope you enjoy them.
Meditations and Yogs Nidra's.
Click on the image for more information on the time length of the practice as well as the practice link.
Get comfy for a yoga nidra
26 minutes long
10 minute time-out
15 minutes meditation
20 minutes with a 3min 30 sec intro to help you set up.
11 minutes of restful bliss
9 minutes of spaciousness
12 minute manifestation practice
10 minute meditation to be done at the end of the day.
Try some acupressure and acupressure to destress and get better sleep or why not do some gentle movement and then rest deeply as you listen to a yoga nidra. You'll also find a variety of movements designed to help you through the winter season.
Join me for a live recorded rest and restore class starting with gentle movement and then a yoga nidra.
This sequence is designed for the evening or just before you go to sleep.
You will need 2 blankets and a clear unobstructed wall as this is where our practice will take place.
Learn simple acupressure points to help you relax and sleep in this live-recorded class
Get bed ready as we pull out physical and mental tension to prepare the body for rest and relaxation. You will need a blanket or 2 and a yoga strap (an at-home alternative can be a belt or scarf).
A really short introduction to a somatic practice but long enough to experience some of the benefits of this amazing, restoring, calming and nourishing practice.
The gift of rest. Take 10 minutes - you will need a blanket for this practice.
You can practice this in and of itself or before a more dynamic practice as an ideal way to look after everyday joint health and wake up the energy systems of the body.
Imagine being able to start each day with more mental clarity, physical vitality and emotional stability. Well, this is exactly what is on offer with the regular practice of morning qigong.
A 30-minute class to not only get the body moving as we do a slow flow but to let the mind rest in the body and unite with the breath.
Slowing down to restore and rebalance is exactly what restorative yoga is all about. We start with a little seated movement before finding deep rest in a few restorative poses. As the name suggests, you will need a chair for this practice along with a couple of blankets or a blanket and a cushion.
A floor-based practice to keep low and slow. Our practice today invites us to drop into the body and become interested in how it feels in space and time which helps us to draw the mind in too.
Get ready to unwind with this yin yoga practice for the back and legs. There's a two-minute introduction to help you get set up and then, the whole class is done from our backs.
Lay back and relax.
Get rid of painful knots and find relief with this glute and piriformis myofascial release class.
You will need x2 tennis balls or x2 myofascial release balls.
New for Mid-Jan
Get warm and cosy for a yoga nidra practice which you can do day or night.
It is just under 24 minutes long.
Activate and balance the water element for more ease and flow using mudra's, meditation and positive intention statements.
Download the workbook that goes along with this recording