The Winter Season & TCM

five elements

Winter: Time for Inward Reflection

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the different seasons are associated with the five elements: Fire, Earth, Wood, Metal and Water. The winter season is related with the Water element, and just as water is tranquil and quiet, nature during the winter season is calm, peaceful and at rest. This resting time allows nature to work internally, storing energy and preparing for spring.

This is why TCM says that winter is the season for inward reflection; a time to replenish ones mind, body and spirit. Neil Gumenick says in his article The Season of Water,”Like the seed that cannot sprout until it has gathered sufficient strength, our ideas and plans cannot manifest with strength if our energy is dispersed or drained.” Taking time to sit still and reflect, allows us to be within the energy of the Water element. With busy schedules and hectic lives we cannot expect our bodies to keep up without giving it the time and rest it needs.

Body

In the body, the organ systems associated with water are the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. The kidneys are said to spark the energy of the entire body. To keep the kidneys healthy, it is important to keep them warm and well hydrated. When outside, make sure your lower back is kept warm. Avoid ice water and enjoy “warm” foods in the winter, like hearty soup, roasted nuts, or cups of ginger or cinnamon tea. Other foods that strengthen the kidneys include: black beans, kidney beans, seaweed and steamed greens. TCM says the kidneys are responsible for healthy teeth, bones, bone marrow.

Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to the urinary bladder as a reservoir where the waters in the body collect. When the bladder is not functioning properly, the entire system is in danger of filling up with toxic wastes. Depression, fatigue, or difficulty adapting to new circumstances are considered symptoms of an imbalance in this organ. Acupuncture and herbal remedies, attention to diet, exercise and meditation can be used to revitalize the organ functions.

Emotion

The water element is associated with the emotion of fear. In a healthy way, fear is the emotion that moves us to remain alert and aware of our surroundings and situation. When there is a deficiency in the water energy, fear can manifest into a chronic anxiety or an intense phobia. TCM says that excess fear injures the kidney energy, which in turn, increases fear.

Symptoms Associated with Imbalances in Water Energy

Low back pain
Knee pain and weakness
Problems with urinary retention
Fatigue/shortness of breath
Vertigo/dizziness
Sexual problems, lack of excitement, premature ejaculation, vaginal dryness
Anxiety and excessive fear
High blood pressure
Inflexibility and resistance to change

How to keep Happy and Healthy this winter

Take time to Listen and Recharge: Use this time to rediscover more about yourself through reflection, reading, paying attention to your dreams, meditation and/or keeping a journal.
Nourish yourself well: Drink plenty of water. Winter sucks moisture out of your body so it is very important to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. Eat warming foods.
Keep warm: Dress according to the weather. Chinese medicine says it is important to protect the neck, shoulders and back from the wind. Be sure to wear a scarf.
Get more Rest: Winter is the time for us to recharge and in order to do so, we should do our best to go to bed earlier in the evenings.
Practice Fluid Movement: Tai chi, qigong, yoga and dance mimic the flow of water and are great for the winter months. These fluid exercises allow you to become more centered, aware of your breathing and aware of what’s going on within yourself.

References:

Elias, Jason. “winter: The Season of Stillness: The Element of Water.” Five Element Healing. 2010. Web. 2015.

Gumenick, Neil. “Cycles: Winter: The Season of Water.” The Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture, Inc. 1997. Web. 2015.

Olson, Karen. “Five Elements for Five Seasons.” Experience Life. Lifetime Fitness, Inc. 2007. Web. 2015.

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