YIN AND WINTER
Have you ever noticed how you feel in different seasons? Both mentally and physically, we tend to respond to the environment around us. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on this concept. It’s rooted in the observation of nature and the unique dynamics to which nature adheres. No season is a more perfect example than winter.
During winter, the temperature is colder and the days are shorter. In response, nature slows down. Animals hibernate, plants and trees grow more slowly, elements become more dense and damp. Every living thing turns within to nurture itself.
In the theory of Yin and Yang common to Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter reflects the utmost yin quality. In TCM, we’re taught to heed the environmental conditions in order to live in harmony with nature. Activity should slow, rests should be extended, and food should come from dense nutrients—perhaps stewed over extended periods of time.
The organ most correlated with this season is the kidney. The kidney houses the body’s original “Qi” (basis of energy). It also stores “essence,” which is the dense form that produces bone marrow and spinal fluid. This correlation makes it is easy to see why the kidney is so important to brain health and bone development in TCM. In addition to being the body’s primary source of yin, the kidneys serve as the “ming men fire” or “gate of vitality.” This gate lies deep between the two kidneys—opening their yang dimension. An equal representation of both yin and yang makes the kidneys truly unique.
The winter is a great time to support the kidney and its related functions. While good nutrition, hydration, and keeping the low back warm and protected during winter are all important, Yin Yoga is an excellent practice to support the kidneys physically.
Yin Yoga’s sustained holds stimulate tendon, ligament, and bone health. Its slow and prolonged movements are in harmony with winter’s yin character, while the active breath helps stoke the inner ming men fire to balance the kidney’s yang attributes.
In that light, Yoga for Relaxation would be the perfect addition to your winter regimen—and help keep you in harmony with life.