Winter Hibernation – Slow down and conserve your energy.
In the Five Element cycle the Water phase is the energy of winter; the cooler and darker days inviting us to rest and reflect. In this most Yin season, there is an energetic predisposition of retraction as our Ki flows more deeply inside us.
Imagine the force of a wave, or waterfall and the will of the ocean. Yet at the same time the power, serenity, and stillness of a deep lake. We all have these different forms of Water within us - oceans, rivers, ponds, and reservoirs are all expressions of the Water element. Our Blood circulation, lymphatic system, tears, saliva, perspiration, urine, sexual secretions etc. These are all affected by the Water element.
In preparation for winter our focus turns to strengthening the Water element’s organ system pair, the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder, and practice that which we observe in nature: stillness and conservation.
MENTAL & EMOTIONAL HEALTH
Are you known for your determined nature and a tendency to be self-sufficient and independent ?
The wisdom of water is to flow. Water moves effortlessly and takes the exact form of whatever contains it. A balanced Water element grants us the ability to move smoothly through the season with strength, courage, and willpower. There’s a sense of flow and ease, and an alignment to one’s purpose or destiny.
The emotion associated with the Water element is fear. In appropriate amounts fear is essential to survival because it enables us to navigate situations with care and caution. When the Water element is out of balance one might experience excess fear, phobias, and lack of courage - looking ahead and imagining threats that may happen in life and fearing the worst. For some, the Ki of the season can easily contribute to depression, loneliness, and seasonal affective disorder. Others may feel relief for an opportunity to pause and self-reflect.
In Shiatsu emotions are simply considered expressions of energy. Energy is neutral and our emotions are therefore not inherently “good” or “bad”; they are what we make of them. Taking quiet time to connect with fear and allowing it to be there, to give it space, is a potent way to balance Kidney Qi and the Water element.
In our bodies, Water is represented by the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. This time of year, over-work and lack of sleep easily depletes the Water element and especially the Kidneys.
In Chinese Medicine theory, the Kidneys are the storehouse of our vital energy and our Jing. Jing relates to our genetics and governs growth, reproduction, and how we move through the cycles of life. Our bones, joints, teeth, ears, brain, and marrow are all influenced by the Kidneys.
The Kidneys provide the driving Qi Energy and will power needed to overcome obstacles and press forward to accomplish our goals in life and live out our fullest potential.
Our body will let us know when we are exhausting these reserves because symptoms such as needing to urinate frequently, reduced libido, exhaustion, or experiencing mild aches and pains in your joints (especially those of the knees and lower back) will arise.
In women, menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness may be related to imbalances in the Kidney organ-meridian system too.
To maintain a healthy Water element we need to support our Kidneys. We can do this by slowing down, getting plenty of rest, eating well and in-season (more on winter-time foods next time!) and drinking warm water (such as herbal teas).
Try practicing Qigong (a blend of moving meditation and exercise) for the same reason.
FOOD & DIET
Let Food Be Thy Medicine!
The taste associated with the Water element is saltiness, so a little bit of salt is considered beneficial for you. You don’t need too much though – you can get what you need by eating naturally salty foods like prawns, or by adding a sprinkling of seaweed flakes to your soup, or stir-fry now and then. Try Miso in your stews & casseroles for a little bit of saltiness & that umami flavour!
When it comes to winter foods, think cosy and long cooked like vegetable soups and stews and warming teas, using spices like garlic, ginger, and cardamom.
Foods to avoid include sugars, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, frozen foods (no ice cream!) and raw foods.
Keep an eye out for our next post on looking after your Water element.
WAYS TO TEND TO YOUR INNER WATER
Seasonal Self-care – Five Tips for Winter
- Make sure your stay warm, keep your kidneys warm, wear slippers (the first Kidney meridian point is on the base of your foot!)
- Focus on foods that share the qualities of the Water element : colours are dark, taste is naturally salty (no added salt !), content is hydrating and nourishing
- Drink warm water, such as herbal teas
- Find stillness in your day. Schedule more time to discover yourself through reflection. Meditation, yoga, journaling, Qi Gong, and breathwork are great winter activities.
- Stay socially connected. Avoid becoming too isolated. Socialising is good for your physical wellbeing and your mental health, and helps keep you feeling energised and vital, especially as you get older
- Take time to rest and restore your energy as this will support your Ki and overall immune system. Try to go to bed a bit earlier if needed and slow down when you can. Balance satisfying activity and challenge with rest and quietness.
- Come and have a Shiatsu ! This will support your Kidney energy which in turn can strengthen your will, willpower, ambition, drive and motivation. Shiatsu is a dynamic from of bodywork which harmonizes and supports your overall energy base as well as addressing particular element imbalances within your body which could be manifesting on a physical and/or emotional level.