I have many clients at the moment coming to see me concerned that they are feeling the need to retreat. This is perfectly normal at this time of year and is nothing to be alarmed about. However, this can create a little fear for some of us. I am certainly feeling it and I encourage you to take some time out and rest and restore in the colder months. Here is why!
Traditionally Winter is a time when nature appears to be dormant. Everything is dark and resting. All appears to be frozen and still. It’s a time where humans traditionally retire indoors and, by nature, are forced to turn their attention inwards. Winter is represented by the water element in TCM as the depth and darkness of the ocean encourages us to explore the depths and darkness of our internal being.
In Chinese medicine the water element is responsible for the kidneys and bladder meridians.
The Kidney Meridian is considered the “Root of Life” because it houses our life force which was given to us from our parents at conception. It is responsible for our vital energy and hence from a Chinese medicine perspective, is crucial to maintain their health. Although this meridian is named after kidneys, it is also responsible for our adrenal glands (which physically sit on top of the kidneys). The kidney system also includes what the Chinese call the ‘external kidneys’; the testicles in men and the ovaries in women, therefore is very important in sexual vitality. It also controls the growth and development of bone and marrow, which the Chinese consider to also include the brain and the spinal cord.
The Urinary Bladder Meridian is considered the “Minister of the Reservoir” because of its ability to excrete waste products. This meridian is associated with the autonomic nervous system as well. Stress and tension play a key part when bladder chi out of balance
What creates imbalances in the water element particularly in winter?
As the Chinese live in accordance with the seasons, they believe that in winter, like nature, we need to retreat and rest. Therefore the water element encourages us to adopt a resting lifestyle in these months. However, the modern busy lifestyle of our western society, sees us continuing the high energy that we adopt in the summer/autumn months. The inability to rest leaves women in particular quite out of balance as they push through, without the needed rest, in these months. This failure to rest, as nature does, results in many women feeling tired, exhausted, emotionally and nutritionally deficient (Vitamin D in particular) and just generally out of sorts.This is why it’s so important in winter to conserve the energy that we have harvested from the busy summer and autumn months and rest!
Symptoms we may experience as a result of an imbalanced water element include:
Lower back pain
Problems with urinary retention/Urinary tract infections
Sexual dysfunction – impotency, lack of excitement, premature ejaculation, vaginal dryness
Anxiety and fear
High blood pressure/headaches in the occiput
How can I support the kidney and bladder meridian during winter?
The following tips can help to ensure that you support the Kidney and Bladder meridians and maintain a health balanced water element in the winter months.
Eating warming foods – cooked foods not raw.
Keeping warm is essential to retain our vital force – Chinese love to keep kidneys warm.
Sitting in morning or afternoon sun without sunglasses to ensure we restore our Vitamin D.
No cold drinks – maintain thermal warmth of our internal organs.
Rising with the sun and resting and retiring early at night.
Warm baths – immersing in the water element.
Performing softer Yin gentle activities like yoga and walks in the sun or meditating.
Spending time resting not being too busy.
Essential oils – Geranium, juniper, and ginger can be extremely warming either massaged on the body or in a bath or through an essential oil burner or vaporiser.
Geranium –- It may also help with healing distrust. Due to its cooling property, may also assist with hot flushes or feeling hot at night.
Juniper berry – promotes warmth and kidney yang energy. It is also a diuretic and thus supports bladder meridian. Juniper Berry benefits chronic tiredness, cold hands/feet lower, back ache and oedema. It also has a fortifying potential and is linked to strengthen the kidney’s will.
Ginger – has tonifying effect on kidney yang energy so it is helpful for backache especially associated with muscle pain. It can also act as a sexual tonic and may support impotence or sexual frigidity. Ginger also effects the will enhancing the vital fire we need to get through life.