Embrace the cold weather and get your body and soul in sync with the seasons, says holistic teacher Sally Maloney
We have all at some time felt out of sorts with the seasons, either emotionally or physically, or both. The expectations of living an endlessly busy lifestyle with our ‘open all hours’ mentality, powered by artificial light and machines, separates us from much of the natural harmony in our physical and mental health. The notions of spring fever, summertime blues, and winter doldrums just take us further away from the natural rhythms of nature. All the traditional and nature based healing methods seek to redress that imbalance, and using a combination of these and understanding how we are affected by the different seasons makes a huge difference to our holistic health and well-being. If we can learn different ways to adjust to the changing seasons, we will be not only much healthier and happier throughout the year, but more in tune with our true selves as well as with nature itself.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the natural element associated with winter is water and the organs related to winter are, unsurprisingly, the bladder and the kidneys. The kidneys store our genetic essence (or jing) which forms our general constitution, our vitality, and our sexual and reproductive energy. This inherited essence is very precious, as it’s difficult to replenish. So one of your main aims during the winter months is to have proper warmth, rest and nourishment and to conserve as much energy as possible, taking time to reflect on the year that has passed,and later, the year ahead.
10 Ways to find your groove
Try these DIY self-help tips and techniques to balance your water element during the winter months.
Conserve your energy. The rest of nature draws its energy within, and it is important that we do too – the colder the weather, the more important this is.
Keep your home warm and comforting, the first stage of allowing the body and its organs and muscles to relax, and keep feet and the kidneyarea cosy.
Nourish yourself with warm, replenishing foods – take time to cook and enjoy your meals.
Drink warming herbal teas, and balance your drinking of water – it should never be drunk ice cold in the winter, but either room temperature or warmer. The kidneys and bladder need pure water to flush the toxins out, but too much water is not good either – no more than about six glasses a day.
Gentle grounding activities are important to strengthen the energy – walking in the countryside, gardening, connecting with the trees. Imagine having roots going down from the soles of your feet into the earth, and draw the strength up through them – feel connected and secure.
Keep other exercise gentle in the winter too – if you can, enjoy a regular swim (in a warm pool!), relish the freedom of the body supported in the water, the muscles stretching.
Make bath times extra special – soaking in a hot bath with a few drops of an appropriate essential oil, and really appreciate them as a nourishing pause in your time. Focus on slowing your breathing and your thoughts. No bath? As you stand in the shower, visualise the water streaming over you cleansing you within as well as externally. Treat yourself to a warm foot bath, again with essential oil(s), and take time to massage your feet.
Make a soft, loose fist with your hands, and massage and gently tap around your kidney area to relax and energise it.
Take time out to pause and list what you have achieved in the year that has passed by. Congratulate yourself on whatever progress you’ve made, and recognise what you need to let go. As the old clears gently away, you are preparing your “earth” and energies to plant the seeds for the year ahead.
Each day, bless water. As you sip a glass of clear water, acknowledge its gift to your body, its ability to cleanse you physically, keeping everything flowing within. your water element, allowing for the cleansing and replenishment of the kidney and bladder energies, so you create the strength and security to withstand all the ebbs and flows in life.
Out of balance?
The following are symptoms of imbalance in the water element:
Moaning and complaining
Feeling ultra sensitive and weepy
Anxiety and tension
Muscular tension in the back,legs and hips
Headaches at the back or top of the head
Bladder and urinary issues
Brittle joints and bones
Sterility and impotence
Fluid retention and bloating
Wrap up warm and tie a scarf around your waist to protect your kidney energy. Keep your feet cosy – socks, sheepskin slippers – chills can be caught standing barefoot on cold floors as the bladder and kidney meridians (or energy channels) go down to the feet!
Therapies to try
Acupressure, acupuncture or reflexology treatments can help to balance the water element by working with the relevant organ points and energy meridians in the body. Relaxing massages do much to restore energy, ease stiff muscles, aid toxin release and create a sense of security.
Scents of self
Essential oils that balance the water element are cedar wood, sandalwood, juniper, geranium and cypress, rosemary and thyme. Lavender and tea tree are useful too – but if the symptoms of imbalance are severe, it is essential to seek the advice of a professional aromatherapist. Never use the oils undiluted on the body or take them internally.
Bach flower remedies that support the water element include:
Olive For exhaustion
Aspen For unknown fears
Mimulus For known fears
Rock rose For extreme fear
Star of Bethlehem For shock and trauma
Rockwater For rigidity
Vine For inflexibility
The simplest yoga stretch for the bladder and kidneys is a sitting forwards bend, stretching out the bladder and kidney meridians running through the back of the thighs. Kidneys are home to the energy of the will, giving us our determination, stamina and endurance. An imbalance left too long can lead to exhaustion or burnout, as fear of failure and insecurity creates a workaholic mindset.
As well as keeping warm and taking plenty of rest, nourishment in the form of appropriate foods is especially important at this time of year
The taste associated with the water element is salty, and keeping the balance right is important for healthy kidneys, as is the acid/alkaline balance in the body – so alkaline-rich vegetables are particularly beneficial – all leafy green vegetables and root vegetables such as swedes, turnips and beetroot. Try to eat lots of celery – it’s high in natural sodium. Sea vegetables are also highly recommended , extremely nutritious and full of minerals, and are easy for the body to assimilate.
The best grains to eat are the alkalising ones such as rice and millet. Buckwheat is also warming to the body, but avoid too much wheat if acid levels are high in the body.
Recommended fruits are dates and apples, blackberries, and cranberries, with cranberry juice being well known to help those suffering from cystitis.
Cold weather is considered to be the best time to eat meat, as it is strengthening and warming to the body, helping energy levels and endurance. Always eat it in small helpings with plenty of fresh vegetables, and organic ones at that if possible.
Cinnamon and ginger are the two spices that are best for the winter months. Fresh ginger root or ground dried ginger are equally useful, as are either cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon. Both are warming to the body, help muscular pains and aiding digestion and energy levels. Try making a warming winter drink with crushed chopped ginger root with a pinch of cinnamon in a big glass of warmed apple juice, or half warmed apple juice and half hot water.