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Winter


With Storm Barra arrival last week and display of the force of nature involved, we can safely say that winter is here. Whereas other seasons we can see the growth or transformation taking place, Winter is the season where the most dramatic work is on a deep internal level. Just as the trees have lost their leaves, their growth still continues deep underground, so too we can focus on helping the deepest organ within the body – the Kidney/water element. As the most yin of the seasons. The cooler, darker nourishing energy works towards replenishing the body in preparation for abundant growth in the year to come. Winter is the season of the water and Kidney element. The Kidney holds our essence – a vital substance that can transform into Qi and other bodily substances as needed. Essence naturally declines as we get older – that is the explanation of the aging process, so anything we can do to help maintain the abundance of essence is key to feeling and looking youthful. Allowing the body’s Qi to become depleted forces the transformation of essence into Qi thus depleting it. In living in keeping with the seasons, we should be taking the time to nourish ourselves. Journaling and planning for the year ahead can be quite helpful now. Giving yourself the space to arrange your thoughts and plans and putting them on paper can give more clarity of mind and help boost confidence. It is a time for the conservation of energy, less vigorous exercises (think yoga, meditation, walking rather that sprints and distance running). This also ties in with the idea of not allowing the pores to remain open (sweating) at this time of year to prevent cold from invading the body (flu and colds start as “Wind Cold invading the Body” – resulting fever is heat produced by the defensive Qi fighting the invader). One Qigong exercise to boost Kidney Qi is called “Rowing on the calm lake” – while standing bend your knees and reach forward with both hands while breathing out. Breathe in as you draw the hands towards your belly (pulling the oars towards you/drawing in the qi). Repeat six times. Rise later and retire earlier in keeping with the shorter days. Overworking and not getting enough sleep in the winter can quickly deplete the Kidney qi leading to backache, weakness of the knees and issues with hearing. With the cold temperatures outside, it’s advisable no avoid eating too much cold and raw foods. It is a much better idea to eat warm foods (like slow cooked soups and stews), or at the very least allow foods to sit out of the fridge for a few minutes before eating. A list of foods to help tonify the kidneys can be found here. With some of the spectacular winter sun we get, it’s easy to be fooled in to thinking you don’t need to keep wrapped up. Don’t catch yourself out – dress in layers, use hats, scarves, gloves (back to keeping “Wind Cold” at bay) Emotionally, the Kidney element is associated with fear. Being in fearful situations, whether in real life or engrossed in a movie can weaken the kidney qi, so if scary movies are your thing be sure to balance the fear with something joyful. Or another way – standing at the top of a ski slope can be scary, but the exhilaration and joy of getting to the bottom balances it out. The tissue associated with the Kidney is marrow or bone. Chinese medicine shows that painful bones and joints can be as a result of depleted kidney qi. It also calls the brain the “Sea of Marrow” pointing to links between Kidney element health and cognitive function. In particular, poor memory is attributed to the Kidney element. But wait, the kidneys are not only about cold, dark nourishment. The acupuncture point in the middle of the back between the two kidneys is called Ming Men – the gate of life and some texts refer to the body having one kidney and one “Gate of Life”. Chinese medicine also shows that the kidneys as a pair have a dualistic nature – as the Kidney houses essence and the yin cooling nature, the gate of life houses the fire that provides fire for the whole body. This mingmen fire also provides fire for the digestion and also our defensive Qi (warm Qi flowing through the muscles and under the skin). Many of the foods we eat during winter like ginger and cinnamon are warming or hot in nature and help keep the mingmen fire lighting. The mingmen is also the source of one’s willpower, so nourishing both aspects of the kidneys will help towards succeeding with any plans for the year to come. In summary, winter is the season to wrap up, nourish yourself, replenish the reserves and allow a little more rest and relaxation than usual. If this article raises any questions, or if you would like to k ow more about how acupuncture can improve your winter then please get in touch by message, email (rory@roryryanacupuncture.ie) or on 0864059898 Happy Christmas, Rory

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