Warming up to Winter



Are you an “all the year rounder,” or does winter quite literally find you quaking in your boots?

Perhaps a new perspective would help. Welcome to the season of hibernation and hope, of magic and creativity.

We have all had enough of restrictions on our daily movements, lack of access to our friends, family, and fun. However, did you know that, according to the Five Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), winter belongs to the Water element and the climate of Cold. Just like a bear, it is a time for hibernation, a time of going inward, conserving energy, conserving our body fat, to make it through the season. You may be ready to launch into new programs, do a juice cleanse, and hit the ground running, but according to TCM , and the organs associated with the Water element - your kidneys and bladder - this may not be the ideal time for that. These organs- also associated with the emotion of fear, the colour blue/black and the flavour of salty - would be better served by keeping to a diet of warm, nourishing foods, staying well hydrated and finding ways to honour the darkness, without surrendering to the dark moods. In this way, we will emerge restored and ready to face the inevitable promise of spring. If you are prone to adrenal fatigue (the adrenals actually rest on the kidneys), you might want to: - gear down and avoid the kind of intense work out or activity you do in other seasons, but focus on gentle forms of yoga and Chi Gong, breathwork and hands on self care or massage practices like shiatsu. - take the time to get outside daily in the crisp cold air to boost your metabolism. - keep your mid to low back protected with an extra layer of clothing to protect your kidneys.

The Water element and winter are also obviously associated with the climate of Cold. The Scandinavian cultures have known for hundreds of years about the immune boosting benefits of hot saunas alternated with cold water contrast bathing. You may have heard about those who promote a commitment to extremes, such Wim Hof, also known as “the Iceman,” who practices cold therapy along with breathing techniques. I finally took part in a New Year’s Day Polar Dip in Lake Ontario this year and found it to be a very empowering way to begin the year but appreciate that it is not for everyone. However, even a blast of 30 seconds of cold water at the end of your shower, gradually working your way up to 3 minutes, can help boost your lymphatic system.

To make it extra effective, try: - dry brushing your entire body with a natural bristled brush before you get in the shower, bath or sauna. - rebounding on a mini trampoline. If you find yourself often feeling chilly, now is the time to be eating more restoratively: - broths, soups, cooked meals and avoiding too much raw rood, which is cold in nature and may create an imbalance of cold within our "inner climate." - have your fruit or vegetable smoothies at room temperature or or add warming spices, like ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon. Although the flavour of "salty" or savoury, is specifically supportive to the Kidney/Bladder organ network, you do not want to overdo it by adding extra salt to meals, especially in the form of processed or junk foods. A pinch a day of sea salt is great.

Foods to nourish the kidneys include; - grains such as barley, quinoa - beans like aduki, black beans and kidney beans - fish like salmon and trout - mung beans, black sesame seeds and walnuts - spices including cloves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger - teas like rose hip or dandelion - vegetables include fennel, onions, beets, parsley and celery - fruits like blackberries and blueberries


Finally, as we address the emotional component of Winter and the Water element, we can interpret the state of Fear as having various degrees, both positive and negative - reflecting the possibility of kidney/bladder energy being out of balance. Rather than excessive fear to the point of hyper-vigilance and extreme phobia – or deficient fear, to the point of recklessness or complete withdrawal into a state of fantasy – a healthy degree of fear can manifest as self-awareness or courageousness and good judgement.


In the past two years I have been learning how the Five Element theory of TCM also pertains to the five Facial Archetypes of Facial Intelligence and now integrate this study of holistic human understanding into my shiatsu therapy practice in a number of ways. The element of Water also correlates to our Sage archetype, which pertains to life force, intuition, the energy behind ambition and the cultivation of wisdom. If you are intrigued, for help with understanding your innate energetic footprint and how it can assist you with making the most of this particular year, please reach out to me.

Take some time to explore where you are during these winter months. Allow room for contemplation and the stirrings of creative thought, and you will be ready to plant those seeds in the Spring.


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