The Wonder of Winter: Five things to know
Written by Deanna Tasi, L.Ac.
The way to staying healthy with the seasons is adjusting our daily habits throughout the year. By doing a dance of reflection with the season, our body is better able to ward off illness and recover from chronic ailments.
One of the basic systems in Chinese medicine is the five elements or phases. These elements are meant to symbolize the movement that they are associated with, and not so much the physical attributes as we would associate in the West. Out of the five phases (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), Winter is represented by the water element. The movement of the water element is downward. If we observe our environment we’ll see the plants and animals, having already pulled their energy inward in the Fall, now hunker down through the Winter. By having an understanding of this movement, we can begin to think about and associate our healthy Winter habits with the rhythm of the environment around us.
Here are five ways of changing our patterns during the Winter to help us reflect this downward movement:
- Eat heavier foods that are nourishing. There are reasons that are holiday feasts include a spread of nutrient dense foods. Root vegetables, fatty meats and stews all help our body pull our energy down. By keeping our energy stored below we allow for deeper repairs in our body and we keep this energy from being swept away by the outside elements of cold, wind, and dampness.
- Moderate physical activity. While it’s important to keep moving throughout the year, with Winter brings moderation. It’s a good time of year to do more strength training than intense cardio. Combined with stretching, strength training is a great way to keep circulation up while avoiding exhaustion. Of course this varies for people, based on age and physical shape, but in general, if you feel tired after your workout, you’re probably doing too much.
- Our low back and knees need extra love. People with a history of back and knee problems may experience more aches and pains with the cold and damp weather. Our low back, knees (and ankles), are all governed by this water energy. If you’re experience extra aches in your joints this time of year, make sure you are keeping your range of motion up for each of these joints daily. Chinese medicine offers great remedies for achy backs and knees, so come see us if you’ve got an ache that you can’t shake.
- Sleep is magic! During the longest nights of the year, it’s important to allow yourself to sleep for longer. The ultimate downward movement, it is while we’re sleeping that our body does all of it’s repair work. The beauty of sleeping in the Winter is that this downward energy supports even greater repair work. It’s during this time of year that sleep can help resolve chronic issues. If your year was especially difficult or exhausting, this is the time of year to recover in preparation for the next year. And if you’re feeling tired during the day, a cat nap can be especially rejuvenating.
- Meditation will be more accessible. Getting a regular sitting practice going can be challenging for many people. During the Winter, you may find that you crave a quiet retreat. Enjoying this downward movement within you can offer you a renewed connection with your body and a peaceful mind. If you’re starting up a practice, begin with an amount of time that you are comfortable with committing to each day. And remember to always keep your spine in alignment during your sits (or refer back to #3)!
Bonus tip: February 1st marks the beginning of the lunar new year, the year of the Tiger. In this tradition, the new year is like a reset button. It’s a chance to let go of any negative ties from the last year. In preparation to welcome in the new year, tradition is to clean and get rid of anything you don’t want to bring into the new year. If possible, make time to get rid of clutter and do a deep clean by the end of the month.
Deanna Tasi L.Ac.
Tao to Wellness
809 Hearst Ave
Berkeley, CA 94710