Winter falls upon us so spring can bring new growth, cry the tears! Allow the longing!

Sadness brings surrender and a deep desire to be free.

– Rumi

Winter represents the most inward – Yin (feminine) – phase of the year. The cold and darkness of winter urges us to slow down. This is the time of year to reflect on the past year, rest, replenish and consolidate our Qi energy, to conserve strength. It’s a time to prepare for the new birth of spring energy.

Winter is ruled by the water element, which is associated with the kidneys, bladder, and adrenal glands. The kidneys are considered the source of all energy (Qi) within the body.

They store the Qi reserves in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully. It is important to nourish your kidneys in the winter and this includes keeping your kidneys warm.

We often reduce our physical activity in winter and so it’s wise to also reduce the amount of food you eat too to avoid weight gain.

Raw and cold foods can be depleting in the winter months, so it’s best to reduce these and gently steam foods and add warming herbs like ginger to drinks.

Foods for Winter that support the water element:

  • Soups and Stews
  • Root Vegetables
  • Kidney and Aduki Beans
  • Barley, Buckwheat & Millet
  • Sea Vegetables, Kelp, Miso, Seaweed, Chlorella
  • Garlic and Ginger
  • Jasmine, Green Tea
  • Onions, Turnips
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Horseradish
  • Parsley
  • Alfalfa
  • Dates
  • Blackberries
  • Cranberries
  • Coriander
  • Beetroot
  • Celery
  • Nettles

Here are a few tips to stay healthy this winter:

  • Get plenty of sleep. The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advised people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun’s rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit.
  • Reduce stress with meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, yoga. They are very helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit. Stress, fear and unresolved anger can affect your immune system.
  • Go Inward, reflect on your past year and lives with meditation, journaling, reading and other soul nourishing activities that feed you spiritually.
  • The sense organ associated with the kidneys is the ears, and our ability to hear clearly is related to kidney health. The silence and stillness of Winter allows us to hear more of the world than the buzzing activities of Summer. It’s also important to keep the ears warm as we can lose heat through the ears and this will weaken the kidneys.
  •  The body part associated with the kidneys are the bones, it is important to look after your bones in the winter months. Bone broths are great for the bones, as they are warming, nourishing and a great source of nutrients and collagen. Sun Chlorella is also very good for bone health.
  • Winter is about storing up potential and using our resources (energy, money, abilities, gifts) wisely so it’s a key time for discernment and strengthening boundaries. The classic texts say that to use your Qi wisely is to expend it only on activities that align with your heart – who you are and your reason for being – not to fritter it away or waste it with things that don’t connect to YOU. Such thinking asks us to consider all the ways that we are spending our Qi. A timely question around the holidays, when it feels like our hands are most tied around where our energy goes, who we spend time with and the things that we purchase.