Chinese medicine is not only a way to treat acute disease and discomfort, but also a system offering guidance about living healthy and harmoniously at any phase of life. Aside from the medicinal aspect — acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and nutrition therapy – this system reflects the beliefs ancient Chinese had about living everyday life. This larger vision of health meant eating according to your body’s natural physiology, balancing work and rest and making seasonal adjustments.
Living in harmony with the seasons involves adjusting our lifestyles to flow with the external environment rather than resist it. Yin and yang are both opposite and complementary concepts in Chinese medicine. Yang signifies movement, light and energy while yin signifies stillness, darkness and rest. Winter then, with its cold temperatures and shorter days, is the yin time of year.
What does this mean to you? The colder and slower energy of winter is the perfect time to bolster yin energy by nourishing your body and mind. It’s a time to nourish and consolidate energy rather than expend it. Warm soups, reading by the fire, meditating, yoga or Qi Gong are all ways to enhance your health during the winter. Seasonal foods such as squash, winter greens and root vegetables are excellent yin-nourishing foods. Warming foods help to bolster our strength during this cold season. Think cumin, garlic, onion, fennel, anise, clove and cinnamon. Warm apple cider with clove and cinnamon, roasted squash or bone marrow soup are all excellent yin-enhancing foods. (See our previous Blog post featuring a bone marrow soup recipe: http://www.heritageacupuncture.com/nourished-to-the-bone-with-marrow-soup/).
Honoring the yin nature of winter can make this season a rejuvenating time. Take this season of contemplation to reflect on the previous year and consider how to integrate these lessons into the future. Take care of your body by treating yourself to an acupuncture session or a healing massage. As humans with obligations, we can’t hibernate during winter but we can read, rest and rejuvenate. Slowing down, staying warm and nourishing the mind and body is one of the most valuable gifts of health you can give yourself.